I went to a friend’s lecture last night, hosted in the wonderful hall of the local historical society – a former church, now holding an impressive collection of baroque paintings.
We were there early, and we noticed a big 19th century-style cart, in the back, loaded with books.
We found our places, saw some old friends, started chatting.
At this point, the spokesman for the society taps the mike and explains that,while we are waiting, we might like to take a look at the books on the cart.
These are used books.
They come from the local library, and they were retired.
If anyone feels like taking a few home, you are welcome- help yourself.
Me and my friend Marco traded a glance.
So we went to the piled books, and we started rummaging, commenting on the titles.
“I’ve got this…”
“Me too, great book.”
“Hey, my mother loved this one!”
“Look what I found!”
Ten minutes later, we retreated to our seats.
Absolutely loaded in books.
- two hardback omnibus edition of Agatha Christie Poirot novels (twelve novels in total)
- one hardback omnibus edition of Rex Stout Nero Wolfe novels (six novels in total)
- a very strange hardback, faux-leather-bound, of something called The Curse of the Pharaos, by Philipp Vanderberg.
Back home, I did some research.
Turns out this Vanderberg chap, a very popular German writer, made the best seller list in 1973 with this book, his first novel, that was translated in 33 languages. The novel is a fictionalized account of the aftermath of the Carter/Caernarvon expedition, and was instrumental in popularizing the idea that Tutankhamen’s tomb was somehow cursed, back during the Egyptian-obsessed mid ’70s.
So, nice catch – and now I’ll be reading happily for the rest of the summer.
But back to the lecture and the cartload of books…
Now, we were discussing our finds, when a third friend came along.
“Damn, men, you’re here to listen to the lecture… what’s up with the books?”
We explained that, you know, a cartload of free books, help yourselves the gentleman said, and so…
“Free books? Hold my place please.”
He came back after a few minutes with his plunder, including another big volume of Nero Wolfe stories I had missed (curses!)
A few of the very elegant ladies that were there for the lecture looked at us like we were beggars.
But it’s nice sometimes to hang out with our own tribe, isn’t it?