Saturday, September 2, 2023

Assorted book advertisements at the back of old paperbacks

One of the many enjoyable things about vintage paperbacks is perusing the advertisements on the  back pages for the publisher's other books. Depending on the year, you could get a bundle of books delivered to you through the mail for very reasonable prices. 

First up is this page from 1981's How to Master the Video Games (covered in this post). It's fascinating roundup of many of the greatest hits from late 1970s/early 1980s nonfiction. True crime; alarmism; fundamentalism; books of lists, records and predictions; medical guides and, of course, Rubik's Cube. Notice that Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave is listed on there twice! Toffler's books sold millions and millions of copies. 
This page is from 1976's The Best of Judith Merril (covered in this post). Warner Books figured its readers might be interested in modern riffs on Frankenstein and Dracula. Those readers may have been disappointed. The Frankenstein Factory (1975) has an underwhelming 3.39 (out of 5) rating on Goodreads, and one Amazon reviewer describes it as "Agatha Christie on a controlled substance." The Dracula Tape, described in this advertisement as being "fang-in-cheek," fares somewhat better, with a 3.78 on Goodreads, but one reviewer quips, "Not as good as the Nixon tapes, however."
This page is from the 1989 printing of W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, which was first published in 1982 and was, of course, adapted into the wonderful 1989 film Field of Dreams. (Joan, Kaitlyn and I were talking about that film this week, and I was trying to figure out how it was nominated for Best Picture but received no acting nominations. Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan and, especially, James Earl Jones were robbed, I say!) Anyway, any advertisement that touts the writing of Kinsella and Roger Angell is a good one.
This alarmist book advertisement is from the back pages of the July 1971 printing of Ray Bradbury's The October Country, which was first published in 1955 and contains Bradbury stories dating back to the early 1940s. I may need to track down a copy of 1971's How to Be a Survivor, to see how much of it was ridiculous and how much of it was on-point about known threats to the environment that were shrugged off for a half-century and are now our human-made climate-crisis reality. Stay tuned.
Finally, these two pages of advertisements are from the back of Hans Holzer's obscure Charismatics, which I just wrote about in July. Unsurprisingly, the first page has a lot of books about the occult, devils, witches, psychics and more. Tucked in there is Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned, which I wrote about in 2019. The second page does contain some more notable books, including Ursula K. Le Guin's classic, The Left Hand of Darkness.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Hans Holzer's "Window to the Past: Exploring History Through ESP"

Here's another in an occasional series about the more obscure paperbacks penned by parapsychologist and ghost hunter Hans Holzer. The most recent post before this looked at Charismatics.

  • Title: Window to the Past: Exploring History Through ESP
  • Additional cover text: Psychic "conversations" with some of the great figures of the past (at least they put "conversations" in quotation marks)
  • Author: Hans Holzer (1920-2009)
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Cover model: Unknown
  • Interior illustrations: Catherine Buxhoeveden (born 1939). Holzer and Buxhoeveden were married in 1962 and later divorced. She provided illustrations for several of his books, including this one. (One of her illustrations is below.) The Internet Speculative Fiction Database states: "A sixth generation descendant of Catherine the Great, Countess Catherine Geneviève Buxhoeveden's family were Russian royalty in exile, living in France until the beginning of World War II, when they settled in Italy (1935). Catherine was born shortly thereafter in Castle Rovina. ... Catherine, sometimes referred to as 'The Haunted Countess,' believed that the castle in which she was born had been haunted." Alexandra Holzer, the daughter of Hans and Catherine, penned the 2008 book Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir.
  • Questions posed on the back cover: Who really planned Lincoln's murder, carried out by John Wilkes Booth? ... Where did the Vikings land in America 500 years before Columbus? ... Did Camelot really exist? ... What is the truth behind the Mayerling tragedy? ... Was Aaron Burr really the villain history has made him out to be? ... Why was Nell Gwyn dropped by her royal lover Charles II?
  • Publication date: May 1970
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Original publication: January 1969, by Doubleday & Company
  • Alternate title: This book has also been released as Window to the Past: How Psychic Time Travel Reveals the Secrets of History.
  • Pages: 232
  • Cover price: 95 cents
  • Provenance: "Michael Faulkner from Bill McNeese"
  • First sentences:  "Goodness," Ethel Johnson Meyers said, and looked at me with a big frown that turned matriarchal face into a question mark, "What on earth is that fat fellow doing with all those dancing girls in harem costumes?" Ethel wasn't watching the Late Late Show. She was holding a cigarette case I had handed her for the purpose of psychometrizing it."
  • Last sentence: It is as if we are privileged to be present at the events themselves, catapulted back in time, eavesdropping and observing without being seen, but recording for our time that which is of another time.
  • Random excerpt #1: If Edwin Booth came through Sybil Leek to tell us what he knew of his brother's involvement in Lincoln's death, perhaps he did so because John Wilkes never got around to clear his name himself.
  • Random excerpt #2: All this correspondence came to a sudden climax when Johnstone informed me that new digs were going on at what might or might not be the true site of Camelot.
  • Random excerpt #3: I thanked Alice and decided to hold another investigation at the site of Café Bizarre1, since the restless spirit of the late Vice-President of the United States had evidently decided to be heard once more.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.65 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2012, Mike S wrote, "author writes very clearly and I found him to be quite likeable from the book. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in esp or remote viewing."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.8 stars (out of 5) 
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2019, J.H. Clemson wrote, "My grandfather was with Hans Holzer and Sybil Leek on the Constellation in Baltimore. My grandfather was involved in the restoration of the ship as part of the Maryland Naval Militia and was invited along. He attested to all that went on! So I can say that at least that part of the book is accurate!"
1. According to Rock & Roll Roadmaps, Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village was the club were Andy Warhol discovered The Velvet Underground; Warhol soon became their manager. And, according to a 2013 comment on Rock & Roll Roadmaps, the site of Café Bizarre was said to be "the former stable of Aaron Burr, who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Still the wodden [sic] loft which looked very much like the hayloft of a barn." Café Bizarre as razed around 1984 and the site is now part of the NYU's law school dormitories.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Horst Schönwalter illustrations of Ruth Manning-Sanders' dwarfs

Das Buch von den Zwergen
is the 1972 German-language edition of Ruth Manning-Sanders' A Book of Dwarfs, which was published in 1963. While English-language readers fell in love with the illustrations that Robin Jacques provided for that edition, German readers were treated to the delightful illustrations by Horst Schönwalter (1917-1996).

The illustration at the top of the post goes with "The Girl Who Picked Strawberries" ("Das Mädchen, das Erdbeeren pflücken wollte"). It's about a girl who uses her ingenuity and takes advantage of these particular dwarfs' dimwittedness to escape a difficult situation. 

There's another tale in the book about a trio of dwarfs who live in the forest — I guess that was trendy in those days. In "The Three Little Men in the Wood," the dwarfs reward kindness and punish greed, leading to a nicely satisfying ending. Oddly, that one also involves strawberries.

Here are some of Schönwalter's other illustrations from Das Buch von den Zwergen...