Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Economics and the Future II

[Editor's Note: I have massaged this piece for longer than I care to admit. One should never openly denigrate ones work, but in wondering why this has taking me so long to finish I confront two options. One, I was trying to get it 'right,' and that is true up to a point. I am driving at something with this post that I am never quite able to quantify, hence the endless editing. Which then leads me into the second reason, that it just doesn't make any sense. The post starts by making a point then goes about proving it...or not proving it in this case..in the least effective way possible.] 

I wish my ennui with Amazon had something to do with any one of the corporate messes that they have found themselves in over the last ten years, but that is not the reason. In a previous post I figured, through some suspect math, that I spend $700 a year on new Crime Fiction. While this number does not account for used, and rather expensive back catalog books, it is a useful number to understand the Crime Fiction I do buy as a recurring expenditure. $700 is not an insignificant number, and leaving behind Amazon will cost me more money. However, it is an expense I can absorb. [Editor's Note: Full disclosure, Amazon will be necessary for a handful of items. Are those Thomas Mercer books available elsewhere?] 

This brings me around to the reason why I am doing this. Condition. During the bulk of my book buying/collecting I was rabid about condition, going so far as to buy the book and read a library copy. Eventually I abandoned that practice primarily for it being overly precious. Reading the books became very much at the core of the whole process of buying and collecting Crime Fiction.

Then two years ago I went to a signing in Los Angeles. It was for the release of SUSPECT by Robert Crais. I got to the store early enough to look over the stack of books to find one in good condition because there was no reason not too. I presented the book to the cashier who gave the book the once over for reasons I can not fathom. She was not checking the price because everyone was there to buy one book, the same book, and I was hardly the first person to do so. After she does this, she rings it up and then sets the book down and grabs another book from the large pile on the shelf behind her and hands me that book.Which of course was dinged on a corner. It marked the bookstore as I have never been back since that night. [Editor's Note: I went to another signing last week actually...it has been a long editing process....] The casualness of the cashier's decision is something I never forgot. Even more mystifying was my acceptance of the situation when I wanted to simply point and say 'Look you clearly don't give damn, but can I have the book I gave you' [Editors Note: If it makes you feel any better this circumstance happened once before and you did ask for the book you picked out...although I think you were slightly calmer about the whole thing than your imagined rejoinder here indicates]. I was reminded instantaneously that the words and the book carry equal weight for me, and that there is no reason to have to choose one over the other. There is nothing wrong with wanting both. It was this realization that forced me to look at 'why' I was doing all of this. Yes it is about about my passion for Crime Fiction, but it is also about my passion for an object.

I could save money going with Amazon, but honestly, the extra money would only finds it way to other books. The secondary outcome here is that buying local will help support the independent bookstore community, so if they benefit from my clearly unstable behavior on this matter then it is a win-win for everyone.

[Editor's Note: See what I mean....]

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Economics and the Future.

I was thinking about the economics of my Crime Fiction buying. What are they exactly? How many and how much? My Amazon purchases over the last few years would be an accurate reflection of that number. I feel like that leaves out a great deal, and for the purposes of this exercise I want to know what the amount is without it reflecting Amazon's typical 30-50% discount.

The goal here is to produce a number that I can craft a budget around. If I spend 'X' on new books and 'Y' on used books I can plan better. Plan mainly for the 'Y' because the 'Y' figure for used books is unknowable to an extent. I could get HEAVEN'S PRISONERS by James Lee Burke for $200 or $300 depending on the circumstances. The latest Michael Connelly is going to be $27.95, and the one next year is going to be the same price or a dollar or two more. I can plan for the incremental movements of that situation more than I can in the used market where the price can move in one direction...usually up...significantly and quickly.

The first useful objective is to define The Hungry Detective Core Collection. What authors do I buy?

Ace Atkins, Mark Billingham, Stephen Booth, James Lee Burke, Sean Chercover, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Clive Cussler, Sean Doolittle, James Ellroy, Alan Furst, Chris Grabenstein, Steven Hockensmith, Maureen Jennings, Craig Johnson, Laurie R. King, Michael Koryta, Dennis Lehane, Michael McGarrity, Adrian McKinty, Edward Marston, Walter Mosley, Marcus Sakey, George Pelecanos, Olen Steinhauer, Troy Soos, Duane Swierczynski, and Fred Vargas.

This sausage fest is twenty-seven authors, about ten more than I thought it would be. It is daunting to consider that I buy this many books year in and year out. Couple this with a desire to add more authors to the core....and you know... daunting. I can whittle that number down a little. A few authors listed here no longer seem to write books or have switched genres to ones that do not interest me. There are also a couple authors on this list for sentimental reasons, and while they continue to write Crime Fiction I no long read them for any number of reasons.

The list can further be cut by another eight to ten authors because they just don't release on a yearly bases. [Editor's Note: Thank you very much...] Most are every other year, but someone like James Ellroy is every four to five. I'll have to figure another metric for these authors.

Then the number can be further parsed by the fact that some authors do paperback originals which shaves the down the cost a bit.

The big intangible here is that I will always pick up a book...or many new books in case of a Bouchercon... for which I never knew I would be interested in. I am not sure what to do here. I have spent that last three years or so being very careful about this kind of purchase. No new books that did directly go to the yearly maintenance of the authors I collect. Still I should account for some number. To that end I'll add back five books to the estimated yearly total.

So the number is twenty. I buy twenty authors year in and year out. Sixteen of those authors produce hardcovers. Four will produce trade paperbacks.  Hardback range in price but I averaged it to 26.95. I added California sales tax to that and come up with $29.11 per book. [Editor's Note: Sales tax? Really?]

$29.11 x 16 = $465.76
Trade paperbacks I valued at $14.95, plus the tax of $1.20 is $16.15 per book

$16.15 x 4 = $64.60

As for the eight to ten authors that I will buy every other year, I decided that I will purchase six of those authors in any given year. To account for the variation of buying more some years and less in other,  I'll budget the full hard cover price, although some of these purchases will be at trade paper cost. The dual advantage of this likely high estimate is that I will also be purchasing UK only releases which cost north of thirty dollars a book. The overage of these six books will be another contingency factor.

$29.11 x 6 =  $161.70

Total - $692.06

Rounding up I am surprised that the amount is only $700. I figured it was at least $1000. [Editor's Note: Well if you add in the used books you are well over $1000 so congratulations.] The fact that it is only $700, means I can do something I have kind of wanted to do for awhile.

I'm breaking up with Amazon....next time on Serial....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Haul - Bouchercon

I have spent more time then I care to admit watching 'Book Haul' videos on YouTube recently. If you don't know these are videos that almost exclusively feature young women who display recent purchases that focus heavily on YA fiction. Fascinating. I'm not going to do a video because I just don't have that kind of energy.

But I do like talking about books, so here is what I bought at Bouchercon 2014.

Justice Hall - Laurie R. King - Bantam
I lost this book when The Hungry Detective moved Headquarters. The book got inexplicably crushed. This is the first book I have had to repurchase. Let it be the last.... [Editor's Note: Maybe you should wait until the end of this post before you make this claim].

Japantown - Barry Lancet - Simon and Schuster
A book and author I identified for purchase before I went to the show. It is a thriller which gives me a bit of a pause. I've burned out on thrillers over the last couple years. On the plus side, the book was nominated for a Barry Award and is set in San Francisco. I held off the purchase of his next book, Tokyo Kill, in a herculean feat of consumer restraint. The book was signed by the author with a Japanese character stamp. With the second book already out this will be high on the TBR pile.

Rage Against the Dying - Becky Masterman - Minotaur Books
Another book I flagged before the show. I found only one first edition hard cover in the book room. Not surprising I guess as the book debuted almost two years ago. Still I was hopeful. In any case that book was a mess. I picked up the first trade paperback because I wanted a signed book. The book follows a recently retired FBI agent as she confronts the one case that got away. Her second book is imminent, so that is why this is the book I am currently reading. If the great start holds I'll track down a first edition and buy again.....................dang it!!!!

The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens - Seventh Street Books
The cover of this book caught the corner of my eye a number of times as I wandered around the book room. Mr. Eskens was on the 8:30 am Sunday panel with Ms. Masterman. I attended a number of panels with authors unknown to me and he was the one to get the hook in me. I like books about the past which ostensibly set out to prove that the past is never past. The Life We Bury follows a young guy as he interacts with an elderly murderer who has been released from prison.

The Poacher's Son - Paul Doiron - Minotaur Books
First book in this series, and one of the authors I was excited to meet. Although listed, Mr. Doiron was unable to attended which was a disappointment except for my wallet. I would have walked out with at least this and his last two works, Massacre Falls and The Bone Orchard. Mr. Doiron is an author that I would love to add to the stable of authors I read. Having enjoyed his first two books, this will happen soon I think.

Murder in Perspective - Keith Miles - Walker and Co.
First of the 'Edward Marston' purchases. Read this book several years ago and probably would have purchased this book anyway as it has a tie in to another interest of mine, Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a nostalgia buy, but at $20 dollars an easy one.

Five Dead Canaries - Edward Marston - Allison & Busby
This was the first book I saw in the room, more accurately this was the first book I remember seeing in the book room. The striking orange cover jumped out at me. The cover plus the WWI setting meant that the book was coming home with me. And then it disappeared. Scene of the Crimes Books was the only dealer for this book, and suddenly they didn't have it. My body started to vibrate. It was a UK only edition so shipping from Amazon UK it was going to cost a fortune. Why I didn't just ask the nice dealers behind the table where it went speaks volumes about my nature. Thankfully, for my fragile psyche, the book reappeared and went directly into my bag. The enduring mystery of the weekend is how the latest in this series, Deeds of Darkness, also did not end up going home with me.

Doomsday Series - Edward Marston - Minotaur Books
The Ravens of Blackwater
The Dragons of Archenfield
The Serpents of Harbledown
The Stallions of Woodstock
The Wildcats of Exeter

Respectively these are Books 2,3,5,6,8 in the Doomsday series. This is where I happily fell off the book buying wagon. I had allotted myself $120 for all book purchases for the weekend. I burned that down on Thursday. So early Saturday morning  I hit a slot machine in the hotel lobby called the ATM and won $160!!! I was hot. I should have doubled down, but the house got me back as a few book dealers took back the money just minutes later. I'm terrible at gambling... [Editors Note: You don't understanding gambling.] Thursday night in the hotel room I crammed on Edward Marston. Looked at his website, the different series, where I could buy his books. I was in. I shelved and re-shelved the Doomsday books at a couple dealers before I pulled the trigger with two separate purchases on Saturday and Sunday. In all of this I know very little about the books, except that they take place in the 11th century. [Editors Note: I also don't think you understand your own book moratorium, but whatever...]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 Long Beach Bouchercon - Report

It is late on Sunday. A long, fun weekend and honestly I am exhausted. My recap of the 2014 Long Beach Bouchercon could wait until tomorrow. But why put off today what you will probably have to complete tomorrow or the next day. [Editor's Note: Probably?]

I had good luck with the panels this year. It amazes me that you throw a bunch of authors in a room and more often then not the panel works. I found myself in a number of panels this year where I either knew nothing of the author or only what I could glean while doing Amazon searchers for their books in the five minutes before the panel started. It works when it feels like it should fail more often. I do know that I have become selective in the panels I choose to attend. There was at least one panel session on Thursday and Friday I did not attend. There was only one panel that was a bust from the get go. For those little traumas I have long learned to follow the adage of life being too short. A quick, quiet exit is smart for all involved.

My biggest disappointment was Adrian McKinty's inability to attend the Conference. Author-wise many of the authors I read do not attend the conference. I was MIA when Michael Connelly put in his late Saturday appearance. I pinned a few hopes on Robert Crais being a last minute addition. No Dennis Lehane. [Editor's Note: Did he ever?] No Stephen Booth. No Sean Chercover, No Marcus Sakey, No James Lee Burke, No Craig Johnson. Mr. McKinty's absence was unavoidable . Long story short I was going no matter what. The drive from Hungry Detective headquarters to hotel lobby was 45 minutes. Seeing his name pop up on the list of attendees was a big highlight for me. Alas.... Get well soon Adrian.

Last week I devoted a few moments to make a list of books I would like to acquire. My moratorium on buying books that strayed outside the The Hungry Detective canon was set aside because it was unrealistic not too. This was my first Bouchercon in four years and my next will likely be Toronto in 2017. With all those books in one place I knew that at some point I would walk into the book room and break, to think otherwise would be...and was... foolish. Half the reason for me to sit in a panel is to be persuaded to immediately buy their book. I count it as a victory of self control that I only did that once with Allen Eskens' book THE LIFE WE BURY. Otherwise the book buying went, unexpectedly, to the purchase of seven books by Edward Marston. There is a longer story here that I might expand upon in another post. But without being too reductive, I got sucked into the spectacular dust jacket art for his books. His Doomsday Books are fantastic hence the reason I bought five. His International Guest of Honor panel was a highlight and in fact reinforced the decision to buy a number of books from an author I did not even know existed until last Thursday morning. That is the magic of Bouchercon right there. The discovery of an unknown author is a lovely secret when it reveals its self to you. The sun shines brighter on days when that happens.

So the book room. First I appreciate everything the booksellers do to get books to the show. They are good people and I am thankful for them all. There were two large dealers, Mysterious Galaxy from San Diego and Scene of the Crime Books from St. Catharines, Ontario that more or less supplied 80% of the books from attending authors. Mysterious Galaxy had more books, but Scene of the Crime had attractive UK editions. Of the twelve books I bought, five books came from those dealers. Scene of the Crime had a number of Edward Marston Railway series that tempted me, but at some point I went with Marston's Doomday series and that lead me to Mystery Mike. Mystery Mike has been my go to for books at Bouchercon for awhile. He supplies a curated selection of popular new books as well as an authors back catalog. He certainly helped me out on the Marston Doomsday books and had I wanted to lose all sense of propriety I could have made serious inroads on Marston's other series. My one mild surprise was that Book Carnival from just around the corner in Tustin did not have more of a presence in the room. They had a respectable but small table of exclusively new books. I just went to their store. I know they had the stock to be another back catalog dealer. It seemed like a missed opportunity, but maybe only to me.

Probably no secret that the book room is a big part of my Bouchercon experience. It is with this in mind that one of the more intriguing panels I attended was the Collecting 101 panel on Saturday Morning. While not being exactly what I wanted I could have listened to those guys talk about collecting for another hour and not even batted an eyelash. I hope future Conference organizers will consider this a viable stream for future Conferences in the way that Publisher/Editor/Agent panels serve an important function. If there was a panel a day that focused on the topic of collecting Crime Fiction you could have panels for years. I don't think this is my bias either.

Right. So it is Wednesday now. I will hit the publish button...so that I can further tweak the typos I find.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Hungry Detective Panel Picks - Bouchercon 2014

Hello and welcome to The Hungry Detective panel picks for the 2014 Long Beach Bouchercon. In years past I would pick one panel for each session. This time around I'm going to pick 2-3 for each day. Some of these I will make, and some of these I will be in a line to get books signed. It has been a few years since my last Bouchercon, and I am excited to return.

Safe travels if you are making the journey to Southern California.

The Hungry Detective is now based in the greater Los Angles area. A scheduling error will cause me to miss most of Saturday. However, I will be there for all of Thursday, and I am thankful for the 11:30 am start because I am going to have to take the subway to Long Beach.

11:30-12:30 Regency C
No More Badge: Crime Solvers Who've Left the Badge Behind
George Easter (Moderator), Paul Doiron, David Housewright, John Lutz, Sean Lynch

I like cops. I like detectives. I like detectives that used to be cops because something horrible happened when the were cops. More importantly I like what I have read from Paul Doiron so far.

1:00-2:00 Regency A
Al Abramson Fan Guest of Honor
Interviewed by SJ Rozan & William Kent Kruger

How about we support one of our own? Come on! Lets do it!

Honorable Mention: Murder in the Locked Room: Solving the 'Perfect' Crime; Where Do You Like Your Violence? Spilling Blood on Page and Off.

I'll be staying at the Conference hotel tonight and tomorrow. Good times. I will be drinking brown liquor at many points today. Friday is a big day, lots of panels, and lots of tough choices.

8:30-9:30 Regency D
Collecting 101: Tips and Tricks from the Experts on Building Your Collection
Otto Penzler (Moderator) Al Abramson, Les Blatt, Bill Gottfried Tom O'Day, Donus Roberts

Like I need an excuse to buy more books. I'll be interested to see how the panel plays out. In the past this type of panel just turns into common sense advice about collecting what you like, etc. Hoping for actual secrets and insights.

10:00-11:00 Promenade 104B
Masters of Suspense in Conversation
Otto Penzler (Moderator), Mark Billingham, C.J. Box, David Morrell, Kate White

Suspense is the topic but I'm guessing Mark Billingham will be pretty funny. No pressure Mr. Billingham.

11:30-12:30 Regency B

Belfast Noir: stories of Mayhem and Murder in Northern Ireland
Peter Rozovsky (Moderator), Gerard Brennan, Paul Charles, Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville

This is the panel I am looking forward to most, without a doubt. I hope the panel comes with subtitles.

1:30-2:30 Promenade 104C
Cadaver Dog Demonstration
with Catt Warren, Jan Frazee, Sandy Peavey

There is only one thing I like more than dogs and that is petting dogs. There better be a dog available for the previously mentioned petting.

Honorable Mention: Been There Wrote That: How Well Do They Know Their Own Work;  The Mean Streets of Los Angeles Crime through the Ages, Murder in the Great Outdoors.

I'll miss all of the afternoon and evening due to work related issues. Mrs. Hungry Detective and I will run into Beverly Hills around 2 pm and be there until about 10 pm before we head back to Long Beach for a quick nightcap. Gutted to miss the Michael Connelly event. Not too sad to miss the hour long line to get books signed though.

11:30-12:30 Regency B
In the Wars: Mysteries Set in or Between the World Wars
David Magayna (Moderator) Aileen Baron, Carola Dunn, J Robert Janes, John Sandrolini, Charles Todd

11:30-12:30 Regency D
Small Town Murder: Bug Problems
Robin Burcell (Moderator), Deborah Atkinson, Mette Harrison, Frank Hayes, Karin Salvalaggio, Terry Shames

This will be a difficult choice as I am also interested in the Sherlock Holmes panel as well during this slot. I'm a fan both of these sub-genres. Game time decision.

Honorable Mention: Make Ours Noir: Why We Love the Genre.

Recovery! Breakfast! I'll check the final Uber Guest of Honor panel at 11:30a, and maybe the Do You Write What You Know panel at 10a. However you are more likely to find me running around Long Beach for a donut and checking out the Queen Mary. In the afternoon I'll be waiting in line for a handful of rides at Disneyland. 

I hope everyone has a great Long Beach Bouchercon!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

UPDATE: The Big 4 plus a Gorey

This list has actually changed a lot more than I thought it would in first year of existence. The small mysteries of life...

1. Heaven's Prisoners - James Lee Burke
Still on top. When I first created this list I strongly considered Robert Crais's LULLABY TOWN for the head of the list, primarily under the assumption that the cost would prohibit me from buying it. It was not and now HEAVEN'S PRISONERS has been here since the beginning. Soon, I'll head to the same Pasadena Book show where I was tripping over copies last year, and with the express purpose is to land a copy there. Writing that dooms the whole enterprise. [Editor's Note: B'ah it totally did...]

2. The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King
Previously I have written that my hopes are pinned the acquisition of this book at the Long Beach B'Con in a few months time. That plan has not changed. [Editor's Note: I can no longer state with any certainty if this assertion or the one above is true any more. I suppose neither book will be available at the shows and then this whole thing is moot. Working under the assumption that the books will be available I am no longer certain that I should purchase them...now. The reason being strictly financial. Whether that is an actual issue is a concern that shifts daily for no actual reason other than the my occasionally conflicted views about this hobby]

3. A Morning For Flamingos - James Lee Burke
I walked into a book shop recently and was brusquely treated by the owner. He assumed, incorrectly, that I had wandered off the street into the wrong the shop. He quickly mentioned that this was not a browsing shop...whatever that means...and that he only had first editions for sale. He then pointed to a photo of him and Johnny Depp. It was an odd experience. Perhaps his manner related to something unseen by myself.  Perhaps another customer in the back of the store? As a Midwesterner my default is that it must be me, then I picked up a copy of NICK'S TRIP by George Pelecanos. He was charging $1,750 for a book in lesser condition than the one I bought in the Spring for a quarter of the price...and decided the guy was a douche. Long story short...he also had a copy of A MORNING FOR FLAMINGOS that you could not pay me to buy from this jackass.

4. The Tourist - Olen Steinhauer
This books has popped up in a couple places. I was in NYC and saw a few dinged up copies at The Strand. I hate to think this would be a difficult book to acquire.

The Fatal Lozenge - Edward Gorey
First of the Alphabet books from Gorey. I need a greater plan for this author as I have roughly 63 books to collect with a sizable portion of the collection being expensive privately pressed small editions. Perhaps collecting all of the Alphabet books is a good first objective. In any case it is unlikely that The Fatal Lozenge will be the next Gorey book I buy. With so much to collect it is just nice to have examples in my collection. Maybe it could more accurate of my designs on THE FATAL LOZENGE that I'll try and find a copy in better shape than I normally would for my Edward Gorey collection. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lawrence Block - Grantland Podcast

Here is another Grantland podcast featuring the great Lawrence Block. This comes from Brian Koppleman on his podcast The Moment. Now unlike the Dennis Lehane podcast from a couple weeks ago I have not listened to this and unlike Dennis Lehane I have not read very much Lawrence Block. In fact the correct answer is one. I have read one book by Lawrence Block. That does not mean you shouldn't and that doesn't mean you shouldn't listen this podcast. Enjoy!