The Avid Reader August 2008
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In This Issue:

» Robbers and Mobbers

» White Collar Criminals

» Poor Sportsmanship

» Shelf Talk: Putting ‘No’ back in ‘Notorious’

» July's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Contests


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People have a grim fascination with shocking stories - and the more outrageous, the better. From gambling and gunmen to insider trading and infidelity, we find it difficult to turn away from a spectacle. The publishing industry has always appreciated the value of guilty pleasures, as has the news media. These books about the darker aspects of human life (and death) satisfy morbid curiosity, and many have become collectible.

With that in mind, while attempting to remain within the bounds of good taste, AbeBooks presents books and ephemera showcasing the notorious, infamous and scandalous. Enjoy!

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Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI 1933-34 First, let’s talk about the true, undeniable criminals. Gangsters and bank robbers are romanticized and may bring to mind men with cigars, wearing pinstriped suits and shouting “you’ll never take me alive!”. The reality, however, is less fanciful and much darker, and often leaves lost lives in its wake. Nobody seems to personify that image more than Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, better known as Bonnie and Clyde, the infamous American depression-era outlaws. Their exploits have been told and re-told and hailed as a great love story, even resulting in a popular song, The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde by English R&B singer Georgie Fame. In actuality, Bonnie and Clyde were responsible for the deaths of at least nine people during their spree. We have their wanted poster (with photographs of the duo) available for purchase. It was issued in 1934, two days before the pair were shot and killed by police. Want to learn more about Bonnie and Clyde? You can also find a copy of their biography as told by Bonnie’s mother and Clyde’s sister.

If you’re a fan of mafia lore, and want a collectible piece of mob memorabilia, there’s a cancelled check signed by Meyer Lansky, co-founder of the National Crime Syndicate, or an autograph by Al Capone himself.

More comfortable with fictional crime bosses? This first edition of The Godfather, signed by Mario Puzo, may be right up your alley.

Italy and the United States certainly haven’t cornered the market on outlaws – Australia’s Ned Kelly is celebrated by some folks as a national hero for his disobedience of 19th century colonial rule, and condemned by others as a no-good, illiterate thug and scofflaw. We have a true first of Peter Carey’s interpretation of the Ned Kelly story, signed by the author. See True History of the Kelly Gang.
I, Willie Sutton by Quentin Reynolds After the Big House: The Adventures of a Parole Officer by Fred Berson Shantaram by Gregory Roberts Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
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Richard Nixon by Norman Rockwell WHITE COLLAR CRIMINALS

If you prefer insider trading, impeachment and embezzlement to rat-a-tat-tat and robbery, we have some titillating items to show you. One bookseller is offering a charcoal portrait of Richard Milhous Nixon, drawn and signed by Norman Rockwell (pictured above). For just $60,000, you could have Nixon hanging in your home forever (what a thought!). Nixon enthusiasts rejoice – we also have a limited run 6 volume set of the Works of Richard Nixon, flawless and signed by Tricky Dicky in the flesh.

Speaking of morals and principles, consider becoming the proud owner of the Enron Code of Ethics. The pamphlet includes a foreword by Enron’s former Chairman & CEO Kenneth L. Lay, and reads, in part, “We want to be proud of Enron and to know that it enjoys a reputation for fairness and honesty”. Sure to be a great conversation piece at dinner parties.

Still not your cup of tea? A woman who knows both cups of tea and notoriety is Martha Stewart, who, aside from being renowned as the go-to woman for the domestic arts also served a five-month prison term in 2004-2005 for insider trading. We have a first printing, first edition, of her book The Martha Rules, signed by the exquisite ex-con herself.
Rogue Trader by Nick Leeson Encyclopedia of White-Collar and Corporate Crime by Lawrence M. Salinger Pride and Perjury by Jonathan Aitken Many Are The Crimes: McCarthyism in America by Ellen Schrecker
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The Pete Rose Story: An Autobiography POOR SPORTSMANSHIP

The world of competitive sports is no stranger to scandal, intrigue, deception and drama – even violence. If you’re interested in sport, we have a copy of the report about Pete Rose which, when sent to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, resulted in Rose’s exile from the league, amid allegations he bet against his own team.

Many would rather remember the glorious career of Rose, nicknamed ‘Charlie Hustle’ for his go get ‘em attitude on the diamond, instead of the shame that came later. For you, we have a first edition of The Pete Rose Story: An Autobiography (pictured above).

Rose’s fall from grace wasn’t the first scandal to arise from the ballpark. In 1919, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from the sport for throwing the games, and giving the World Series to the Cincinnati Red Sox. This signed first/first of Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series is Elliot Asinof’s telling of the story.

A more direct approach to sport notoriety would be Mike Tyson. We’ve a first/first of the aptly named Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story, all about the man made famous for boxing, and infamous for abusing his wife, biting, and countless brushes with the law.
Vindicated by Jose Canseco Women on Ice, edited by Cynthia Baughman Boxing's Hall of Shame by Thomas Myler Sports Scandals by Peter Finle, Laura Finley and Jeffrey Fountain
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Catch Me If You Can  by Frank Abagnale Jr. VILLAINY MISCELLANY

And there are a few we’d be remiss to miss who just didn’t fit our pigeonholes. Who could forget James Frey‘s rise to critical acclaim for his debut memoir A Million Little Pieces in April 2003, and the dreadful thud of his fall to earth in 2006 when large parts were revealed to be fabricated? We have a first edition copy that Frey himself signed. Questionable? Possibly. Collectible? Definitely.

Then there’s Frank Abagnale Jr., a con-man and impostor who during the 1960s forged over 2.5 million dollars worth of bad checks and repeatedly eluded his would-be captors. Though he was eventually apprehended in 1969 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for numerous counts of forgery, he served less than five years, eventually being released on the grounds that he assist the American government to understand and detect fraud, without pay. Today he lives in Oklahoma, is the founder of his own fraud-prevention company, and has earned enough legitimately to pay back every penny he stole. He wrote Catch Me If You Can about his experiences, and it was eventually made into a film, as well.

And Abagnale Jr. isn’t alone in making a legitimate living based on his prior criminal knowledge. Kevin Mitnick is a security advisor with his own computer security consultancy. But before that he was controversially convicted for various computer crimes. The allegations even included hacking into the Pentagon and FBI systems. Mitnick has written multiple books on the subject, and is a minor internet celebrity among hackers.
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Putting ‘No’ back in ‘Notorious’

I have little time for books about or written by truly notorious people. I would categorize them as killers, or those responsible for killings. I always find myself asking about the victims and wondering about their suffering.  There seems to be at least 12 books published about Charles Manson and the Manson family murders of 1969. That’s a dozen too many in my opinion – what more can be said after extensive media coverage and a public trial? The odd thing is that publishers have continued to bring out new books about Manson right up until a few years ago. There must be demand.

On the other hand, take Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot – rulers responsible for the deaths of millions. It appears books about their crimes fall into the history section, as their crimes were committed on a national scale over years.  Well, what about books like Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang? I recommend the book, a fictional interpretation of a real killer’s life, but is it OK for me to recommend Carey’s book only because it’s a heavy dose of fiction and the murders took place in the 1870s?

And then there’s Jack the Ripper – this story of murder and mayhem in Victorian London is so well worn that newcomers hearing it for the first time probably assume it’s fiction because it has been incorporated into hundreds of non-fiction and fiction books, and countless movies. At least a dozen women were murdered and mutilated, but unsolved murder mysteries are priceless in publishing terms.

Clearly, levels of notoriety can be blurred by time and scale of the crime, and eventually the question of good taste in reading material comes down to a personal opinion. I recently read a book called Manhunt by James L Swanson about the search for John Wilkes Booth after his murder of Abraham Lincoln. It’s an excellent book but I don’t think anyone would judge me for owning a copy. But would I be judged for owning books about or by Charles Manson, OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Dahmer or the Yorkshire Ripper? Probably.

The dictionary definition of notorious is something or someone who is widely and unfavorably known. It’s a limp definition for a word that is misused and appears far too often in publisher blurbs on book covers. No matter what I say, the bottom line is: notoriety sells.  

Is there one book about a notorious figure that you’d recommend as a must-read? Your contribution could be featured on AbeBooks (don't forget to tell us your name and where you're from).
Manhunt by James L Swanson
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Signed Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie MeyerMove over J.K. Rowling; make way for Stephenie Meyer! Her Twilight series wraps up with the release of the final instalment of the series, Breaking Dawn. (August 16th).

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Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

Books: A MemoirCelebrate the 88th birthday of a science fiction legend – search for signed books or learn more about the master.

Visit the Rare Book Room

Visit the Rare Book RoomThe (newly redesigned!) Rare Book Room is your window into a remarkable collection of books, regularly featuring a selection of our booksellers' most precious items.

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Bestsellers for July
  1. Acheron
    Sherrilyn Kenyon
  2. The Bourne Sanction
    Eric Van Lustbader
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    Mary Ann Shaffer
  4. Moscow Rules
    Daniel Silva
  5. The Host
    Stephenie Meyer
Most Expensive Books Sold in July
  1. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia
    David Roberts - $12,360
  2. On the Road
    Jack Kerouac - $6,000
  3. Steganographia
  4. L’Art de Tourner, ou de faire en Perfection Toutes
    Charles Plumier - $5,500
  5. Despacho Confirmatorio de los Blasones de Armas
    Various - $5,000
See the whole list
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Current AbeBooks Contests

Win a Bundle of Books

Our Bundle of Books Contest continues and as an Avid Reader subscriber, you are already entered. This month's bundle gives a glimpse into the dangerous and intriguing lives and activities of some of history’s notorious characters.

See August's Bundle of Books

Win a Signed Dean Koontz Book

Enter to win a signed copy of Odd Hours, the latest suspense thriller from chillmaster Dean Koontz. Hurry, contest closes August 31, 2008.

Enter to Win Odd Hours
Current Promotions

August's featured best buy is The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life – His Own by David Carr. The story chronicles Carr’s journey from crack-house regular to regular columnist for The New York Times.

Brand new copies of the hardcover are available at tremendous savings! Visit our Best Buys page.

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Notes from Avid Readers
Thank you for all the great comments and cookbook recommendations. Once again our readers proved how avid they are, and we received a veritable cornucopia of suggestions. We love to hear from our readers about our hits, our misses, and your experience, so please keep writing – and of course reading!

Totally Hot! The Ultimate Hot Pepper Cookbook by Goodwin, Perry, and Wise
“This is way more than just spicy as anyone can make it so hot you only taste pepper. These are very well balanced, foolproof recipes from all over the map, even West Africa, and a great Indian section. People have always loved the dishes we have made from this book. I just wish we had a hardback copy, as the paperback is really disintegrating at this point. I don't have a single other cookbook, except Moosewood, from which I have more repeat recipes.”

- Anne from the US
1000 Recipe Cook Book by Isabelle Barrett and Jane Harrop
“Apart from Delia, if you just wanted one all-round, simple cookery book with a range of simplified recipes, go for 1000 Recipe Cook Book edited by Isabelle Barrett and Jane Harrop. It varies from standard 'English' stuff to world flavours, but with shortcuts on some of the more hard to get ingredients.” - Paddy from UK

Recommend some CookbooksWe received too many recommendations and suggestions to include, but they were so great we created a place to put them.

See More Cookbook Recommendations from Avid Readers

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