Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Jack London, born John Griffith Chaney, did not have an easy childhood.  The lack of ease started early.  His mother was embarrassed by his illegitimate conception, irritated that Jack's father left, and overwhelmed at Jack's birth.

London's parents lived in San Francisco where they plied their trades.  William Chaney was an astrologer.  Flora Wellman was a spiritualist.  She channeled the spirit of Black Hawk. This notable American Indian was born a century before as Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kis-kiak of the Thunder Clan.  He aligned himself with other Sauk Indians who were hostile to the settlers and wanted to return to the old ways.  Black Hawk became a leader of the Sauk and Fox Indians.

 It is unclear just how he presented his spirit through Jack London's mother.

Though from a wealthy family, Flora Wellman did not have an easy childhood herself.  She had various troubles.  One was an illness that left her physically deformed and perhaps mentally unbalanced.

Flora gave over the care of infant Jack to Virginia Prentiss, an ex-slave.  Mrs. Prentiss had just lost her own baby in childbirth.  She nursed Jack.  They remained strongly connected for life.  Through the Prentisses, Flora met John London.  He was a widowed veteran of the Civil War with many children of his own - several grown and one recently deceased  Eight months after Jack was born, Flora and John London married.  Their household included baby Jack and John London's youngest three children.  Flora drew on her training as a privileged young girl, and taught piano.

Everyone worked hard.  Jack shoveled coal, cut wood, and went to hunt seals in the Pacific.  As a teenager, London went to the Yukon to search for gold at Klondike.  He suffered a term in jail, pirated oysters, and rode trains.  In his spare time, he read.

The letters that Jack London wrote home convinced his mother he should be a writer.

He became one.  His colorful descriptions of the sea and the frozen north fascinated readers all over the world.  He wrote novels, short stories, essays, magazine articles and newspaper columns.  He was enormously popular in his (short) lifetime.  He used his influence to promote socialism and to speak about justice and beauty.

NOTE:  Moon-face is not his most famous novel, but the above pictured first edition recently found its way into riverrun.  It has that letter, featured in the earlier post, tucked in. 


This Jack London World is a trove of information, photographs, writing and anecdotes.  The list of links to additional sources is a trove within a trove

Project Gutenberg's free online Call of the Wild

It's fascinating to see these many images for Call of the Wild from google images.  Most of them are book covers but there are also cartoons and movie stills and sculpture.
the call of the wild

Black Hawk biography

google images of the Klondike Gold Rush

Jack London Writes Out Some Thoughts

a few quotes from the letter:

"But I am learning, slowly.  The great difficulty is to get the proper co-ordination of the various parts so essential to good photography..."
"Of course I like beautiful things..."
"...the aesthetic should simply be of the many things for  the raising of the human."

That last paragraph pulls at the heart.  So many great things to do - such limited time.  Jack London died in 1916 at the age of 40.  Look at that handwritten last line.

"Only a little while and I am not."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

More Detective Tales

All 12.  Each 2.75 x 4.25 inches, 64 excitement filled pages.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Detective Tales

Midway in the Golden Age of Pulp Magazines, Detective Tales put out 12 tiny book supplements to the magazine.  These books were only 2¾ x 4¼ inches, printed on poor paper, and bound with double staples.  

So flimsy, they were as ephemeral as butterfly wings.  How could a full dozen have lasted through more than 90 years and found their way to riverrrun?  Perhaps it was the tough guy writing that kept them intact.

Each little book has a dramatically illustrated cover and contains a hot-action novelette or condensed novel.  Each is 64 thin pages of text with slightly heavier covers.  Just holding one of these gems brings you back in time.  They were published 1922 - 1924.  Prohibition.  Rampant crime.  Women gone mad with suffrage, smoking on street corners and whatnot.  Corruption.  Betrayal.  Homicide.  Irresistible reading pleasure!

The tiny book supplements to Detective Tales were published by Rural Publishing Company, founded by Jacob Clark Henneberg and J.M. Lansinger.  Rural published other pulp magazines as well, including the more enduring Weird Tales.  When the publishing company hit difficulties, the founding partners divided assets.  Lansinger kept Detective Tales and retained Edwin Baird as editor.  The magazine went through several name changes, but didn’t print little book supplements after 1924.

It is not only the action packed covers and swiftly moving stories that bring you right into the pulp world.  The advertisements do too.  Each little book has the same three ads.  On the inside front cover, you are invited - urged - to attend the University of Applied Sciences in Chicago to learn the skills for the fast-expanding field of the fingerprint expert.  As the ad says, it’s an uncrowded field and a wonderful opportunity.

On the back cover a 21 jewel Burlington watch beckons.  You can get this watch, plus a free book about watches, for only $1 down and an unspecified monthly payment for an unspecified number of months.

Sure.  Anyone would like a great fingerprinting career and who wouldn’t want a  classy 21 jewel watch?  My favorite advertisement, though, is on the inside back cover.  This ad explains that science has uncovered the secrets of Enrico Caruso’s beautiful singing voice.  For a fee, and no matter what your natural voice sounds like now, Prof. Feuchtinger of the Perfect Voice Institute can train you to sing like Caruso.

I’m sold.  These little books pack lots and lots of fast action, new career possibilities, a splendid watch, and a velvet Caruso-like singing voice. 


related links:
Interesting article featuring Vincent Starret, Edwin Baird, & Sherlock Holmes - brief mention of Detective Tales and subsequent iterations of the magazine

pulp magazine notes - includes an entry for Detective Tales

fascinating history of the long-lived and much sought after magazine, Weird Tales, which was also a Rural Publications magazine and also first edited by Edwin Baird

Pulp Magazine Project: “The Project is dedicated to fostering ties between communities of collectors, fans, and academics devoted to pulp magazines, and will offer opportunities for research and collaboration to both scholars and enthusiasts alike. “

google books: Caruso