Thursday, July 29, 2010

word from Ramble House

Emailing from Fender Tucker:
The Ramble House Rambler #76
July 28, 2010

Newsletter of Ramble House, publisher of Harry Stephen Keeler and other loons, produced by Fender Tucker ( ), mailed whenever something happens. To be removed from this list, please respond to this message and ask, or go to the RH website and unsubscribe. Fender Tucker, 10329 Sheephead Drive, Vancleave MS 39565, 318-455-6847 (cell) or 228-826-1783 (better).

The headlines:

~ Bouchercon 2010 in San Francisco

~ Hardcovers and the Death of Ramble House

~ Kindle and e-books

~ New Titles

~ Coming Up

And now, the details:

~ Bouchercon 2010

When I heard that the Bouchercon in 2010 was to be held in San Francisco in mid-October I looked into taking our annual trip to see my daughter and family at that time, instead of in the spring as we usually do. Then I talked Gavin O’Keefe into flying up from Australia for the show. So it’s arranged: Gavin, Dick and Pat Lupoff and I will be at the Bouchercon in the bookroom on October 14, 15 and 16. It’s at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center.

What sort of people go to book conventions? Let me tell you a little anecdote about a book show I went to in Austin a few years back. I was sitting in the book room and noticed, in a seizure of abject egotism, that I was probably the most fit male in the room, even though I weigh 200 pounds with little of it being muscle. I was also perhaps the most attractive male in the room, even though I have only a fringe of hair, a gray beard and thick glasses. I decided to throw in the females in the room and still, in my feeble opinion, I rated near the top. My thought: what is it about books that attracts the least attractive people around? Including me?

Then on the last day of the show I spotted a winsome 20-something blonde beauty walking into the room. Before long she was joined by a couple of more babes, with long black hair and come-hither widespread eyes. Then came the redhead, with a body like Buffy’s and a dazzling smile. What the ??? Had the whole universe of bookdom changed?

Well, no. I did a little reconnoitering and found that another convention had just started in the same hotel and the babes were all from that convention. A district attorneys convention.

So when you see a good-looking woman approaching your table at a book convention, she’s probably not going to buy any of your books, and you might want keep your stash well hidden while she’s around.

Kids, if you want to meet good-luckin’ people when you grow up, stop reading and get into law enforcement – or crime. I bet those district attorney babes are suckers for a well-pecced felon.

~ Hardcovers and the Death of Ramble House

Each stage of my working life has followed a pattern: exuberant start, triumphant success, diminishing results, and then a long drawn-out period of hanging on while everything turns to crap. It happened when I was a musician, at every bar I worked at. I worked at the Las Cruces Inn for 6 years and the first 4 were terrific. Then it went bad and instead of getting out at the diminishing results stage, I held on for another 2 years of abysmal music played to five or six drunks who wished we’d turn down the damn music. I learned to dislike music and all that it stood for.

In 1987 I quit music and became a software magazine editor. I had a wonderful time for about 5 years then the Commodore world became stagnant. Instead of getting into the PC where the money and progress was I kept on with the Commodore for another 6 years, each year worse than the last.

Then in 1999 I gave up computing and started making books and it was great fun for several years. But I have to admit that for the past three years – ever since I moved to the gawdawful state of Mississippi – I haven’t had any fun with books. I can’t enjoy reading a book anymore.

But I’m happy to keep on with Ramble House as long as I don’t run into too many snags. And with trade paperbacks and my handmade editions, there are very few snags. Not so with hardcovers. Lulu does hardcovers fine but they overcharge for them. A 300-page hardcover from Lulu will cost ME $30. I hate selling books for outrageous prices and Lulu forces me to overcharge. Even so, I make maybe $3 for every hardcover I sell. After paying a royalty to the author I end up making $1 for the 15 minutes it takes for me to place a hardcover order.

Along comes Lightning Source, offering hardcovers that are better than Lulu’s and I can get them for $13 or so. You’d think that all I have to do is switch from Lulu to LS. But LS is full of snags. Their art department hates Gavin’s covers and keeps sending them back, telling us we have to redo them. The text department doesn’t like the fact that I don’t have a current copy of Acrobat ($500) and won’t allow the texts that worked quite well at Lulu to pass. I’m having to spend hours every week getting our files to a state where LS will deign to print them.

In other words, with Lightning Source and hardcovers I have reached beyond the diminishing results stage and I’m in the “hanging on while everything turns to crap” stage.

There’s no reason why the books already done can’t be available forever – or as long as Lulu, Create Space and Lightning Source remain in business. But I think the coming years are going to see me move away from the bookmaking business into general decrepitude. And Mississippi is a perfect state for decrepitude. I’m hoping that once my wife’s obligations are deceased we can move to New Mexico where I will try to feel good about myself again. And maybe revive the robustness and good cheer that Ramble House had back when I was making all my books by hand.

~ Kindle and e-books

I can’t get excited about e-books even though they will probably take over one of these days. I’d like to be able to supply everyone with cheap, paperless copies of the RH titles but the industry can’t seem to decide what format to use. My complaint is that they aren’t choosing the same standard that the paper world uses, the PDF.

Gavin and I have spent hundreds of hours getting the 350+ RH titles into a format suitable for printing on paper and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life converting those books into the 5 or 6 different e-book formats. When I finish a book I want to forget about it until I get nostalgic about it 10 years later.

I recently sent someone a PDF of a Keeler book and he thought it looked great on his e-reader. But PDF isn’t what the places like Amazon want. They want me to format my files so they look good on their reader.

I don’t think it’s going to happen. But stay tuned and maybe something will change. Feel free to tell me what you’d like from RH in the way of e-books. If it doesn’t require much of my time, I’ll look into it.

~ New Titles!

TRAIL OF THE CLOVEN HOOF by Arlton Eadie. Written in 1935, this is #7 in the DTP series of supernatural revivals from the past. This is the complete novel, as it was written, not the bowdlerized version that was previously published in the pulps.

ULTRA-BOILED by Gary Lovisi. Over 20 short stories about the underside of crime from our man in Brooklyn. $20 trade paperback; $35 hardcover with jacket.

SAVAGE HIGHWAY by Jack Moskovitz. His latest novel of the road and its denizens. Like his previous book, HELL FIRE, you are subjected to the sights, sounds and, most particularly, smells of modern noir as you follow the anti-heroes from truckstop to barroom to abbatoir, each more disgusting than the last. No one writes like Jack Moskovitz.

SAND’S GAME by Ennis Willie. Back in the 60s and 70s he was one of the most hard-boiled writers going and here’s the first of what we hope will become a complete revival of his epics. It has two novels, three short stories, an interview, and several articles about Ennis by the likes of Max Allan Collins, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Bill Pronzini, James Reasoner, Lynn Myers and Steve Mertz. $20 trade paperback; $32 hardcover with jacket.

THE BORDER LINE by Walter S. Masterman. #6 in the Dancing Tuatara Press collection from Ramble House, this is one of Masterman’s almost-supernatural novels. John Pelan’s excellent introduction tells the story of Masterman and his place in the world of supernatural fiction.

BTW, the hardcovers mentioned above have passed Lightning Source’s censors and are actually available to buy.

~ Coming Up

THE DAY KEENE in the DETECTIVE PULPS Series. We don’t know yet how many volumes in this series we will have, but Day Keene wrote a LOT of short stories and novellas that were published in the pulps like Detective Tales and Dime Mystery Magazine. John Pelan has collected them and will introduce each of the volumes, except for the ones introduced by Ed Gorman and other pulp experts. The first two volumes, LEAGUE OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD And Other Stories, and WE ARE THE DEAD And Other Stories, are soon to be released, followed by DEATH MARCH OF THE DANCING DOLLS And Other Stories.

REUNION IN HELL by Arlton Eadie and THE TONGUELESS HORROR by Wyatt Blassingame are next in line from John Pelan. Each is a collection 6 or 7 of long short stories, taken from the pulps.

THE WHITE OWL by Edmund Snell. There’s always time for an old lost race novel from 1930. They just don’t write ’em anymore. Where are the racist authors of yesteryear? At Ramble House.

And here the Ramble House Rambler mercifully ends.

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