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[personal profile] smtx030
It's easier to get books than ever before, thanks to Amazon, eBay, ABEbooks, Powells, and other online retailers. Add ebooks and Print on Demand to the mix and there's probably way more stuff, old and new, being published than ever before, in one form or another. 

But there are books I still can't get without spending several hundred dollars for an old print edition.

When I discover a new favourite author, I don't want to read just the handful of most popular or critically acclaimed books; I want everything. I'm finally pretty much there with Philip K. Dick, for instance, thanks to the recent reprint of Gather Yourselves Together, which was only previously published as a small press edition in 1994 that I somehow missed. Just pre-Amazon, probably. Anyway, I have every novel of his that's been published. The ones that aren't science fiction still reveal a lot about who Dick was as a person. And they're often better than some of his weaker SF novels. The thing is, all of it is the product of a unique voice and it makes sense to me to get everything I can from that voice.

And yet. I don't have every Thorne Smith novel. His humourous fantasies, like Topper, have been reprinted often and aren't hard to find. But his novel Dream's End, a more serious work? It bombed back in 1927 and hasn't been reprinted. Cheapest copy on ABE is $175. Can't find an ebook version, legal or otherwise.

I don't have every Cornell Woolrich novel. Before basically inventing noir he wrote a few F. Scott Fitzgerald-influenced novels. Only one or two have been reprinted in the last 50 years. He's got three long-gone novels I don't have that generally go for a couple of hundred bucks each.

And then there's Pepe le Moko, written by Henri La Barthe under the pseudonym Detective Ashelbe. It's a genuine pop culture phenomenon, being the basis for a classic French film, Pepe le Moko, a solid American remake, Algiers, and a later musical version, Casbah. The cartoon character Pepe le Pew was inspired by Charles Boyer's performance in Algiers. Casablanca -- on pretty much anyone's list of classic Hollywood movies -- owes a lot to Pepe le Moko. And yet the book has never been translated into English, as far as I can tell, nor is the French version -- which I'd be happy with -- anywhere to be found.

Lots of stuff shows up everywhere once it's in the public domain... but what if no one has a copy to work with? What if the only copies are in the hands of a few collectors who don't want to share?  


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