Friday, July 20, 2012

Missing Persons

. . . brrrringgg, brrrringgg . . .

"Police Department, Sergeant O'Hara speaking."

"Sergeant, I'd like to report a missing person; actually, several missing persons."

"Tell me what happened, ma'am."

"I was at the library, looking for some of my old friends. I went to the stacks where they always are, but they were gone and nobody seems to know where or when they were last seen."

"Before we go any further, just let me take down their names."

Edmund Crispin
"Let's see . . . . The two Mikes; that would be Michael Gilbert and Michael Innes, then Robert Barnard, Edmund Crispin, Leo Bruce, Georges Simenon, Delano Ames, Raymond Chandler, John Creasey, Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, E. X. Ferrars . . . ."

"All men, then?"

"Oh, no. Dorothy was gone, too. That's Dorothy L. Sayers. Also Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey and Margaret Yorke."

After I gave the Sergeant my complete statement, he promised to get right on the case and let me know as soon as he had any leads. A couple of days later, he called me.

"Ma'am, one of our officers just called in to say she's found your friends. She's at the library's annual book sale and everybody on your list is there too."

"Oh, Sergeant, what a relief! I was so worried about them. They're quite old, you know, and I wanted to be sure they're safe. But now you've found them, they can go back home to the library."

"Er, I'm afraid not, ma'am. The library doesn't want them back. All your friends have been, um, de-accessioned."

"De-accessioned? What does that mean?"

"They're all discards. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but they're homeless now."

"Oh no, they're not! I'm getting in my car right now to pick them up!"

And this is how I ended up buying these books at last week's annual book sale:

Michael Gilbert: The Family Tomb, Operation Pax, Trouble

Michael Innes: Lord Mullion's Secret, Death by Water, The Open House

Georges Simenon: Maigret at the Coroner's, Maigret and the Wine Merchant, Maigret Afraid, Maigret Sets a Trap, Maigret's Revolver

Delano Ames: Murder, Maestro, Please

Robert Barnard: A Scandal in Belgravia, Death of a Mystery Writer

Leo Bruce: Case with No Conclusion

E. X. Ferrars: Smoke Without Fire, Beware of the Dog

Dorothy L. Sayers: Murder Must Advertise, The Omnibus of Crime (ed.)

J. J. Marric: Gideon's Ride

Margaret Yorke: Serious Intent

Anthony Price: The Alamut Ambush

Edmund Crispin: Glimpses of the Moon

Last year was a similar experience (lots of Inneses, a Marsh, a Tey, a couple of Simenons and a couple of Sayerses) and I assume next year there will be even more classics for me to rescue. Can you believe it? Libraries are discarding classic crime fiction volumes in droves. Not a one of these books was in bad shape. Almost every one was a hardcover, and they were printed on good, heavy, acid-free paper. And not a cracked spine in the lot of them.

What's going to happen now when an old crime fiction reader––or a reader just becoming acquainted with crime fiction––wants to read the classics or is looking for a good, old-style story? No more wandering the stacks at the library and finding a wall of treasures in the mystery section. If readers know what they're looking for and they're lucky, maybe interlibrary loan will be able to find the books in some other library, probably in storage.

It looks like I'm now starting my own classic mystery bookstore. At this rate, I'm going to need a storefront soon.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sister! Rescuing unloved books can become a disease. You will need a storefront before long unless you avoid library sales.