“Booked to Die” Revisited

Booked to Die, first edition
Booked to Die, first edition

When I first started working in a used bookstore, the shop keeper assigned me two books to read before starting. The first, ABC for Book Collectors, was a thorough encyclopedia of the terminology of the trade.  It supplied me with a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge of used and rare books. The second book I was given was John Dunning’s Booked to Die.  That little page-turner mystery gave material to construct spires on that original foundation.

For those who haven’t read Dunning’s Bookman series, you should get a copy of Booked to Die as soon as possible. John Dunning managed to draw on his real life experience running a bookshop in Denver to create a detailed portrayal of the strange and sometimes seedy world of used and rare books. Booked to Die introduces police detective and book-collector Cliff Janeway working a murder case revolving around rare books.

Booked to Die has always been praised for its accuracy in portrayal of the culture and cast of the book collecting world, and for its detailed descriptions of some of the high-points in collectible books including prices, but the novel was published in 1992 before the internet was quite as ubiquitous and e-books were unknown.

The world of internet bookselling started to emerge just a year or so after Booked to Die was published. The intervening 22 years since the release of that book have seen the nature of selling books, and even reading, utterly transformed. I’ve witnessed the changes in book shops as the years have gone by,  but I’ve always held a personal curiosity to see how the prices that Dunning provided in 1992 have changed.

I took the books that had specific values mentioned in Booked to Die and looked up their current value on Biblio for a similar copy in collectible condition. Below is the results of my research. This list is based on glossing Booked to Die for the specific books and prices that Dunning mentioned, my apologies in advance for any titles that I may have missed in the process.

Booked to Die

Mr. President, signed first edition, presentation copy. Mr President by Harry Truman, signed and inscribed

Booked to Die price: $800
Current price: $6,250

The Recognitions, first edition The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Booked to Die price: $400
Current price: $325-600 or so, so largely unchanged in value.

 

 

 

The Magus, first UK edition
The Magus by John Fowles – 1st UK
Booked to Die price: $300
Current price: $190-$1000 with a few copies for less than the $300 mark Mr. Dunning mentioned.

The Lady in the Lake, first edition

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
Booked to Die price: $1000
Current price: $2,000 and up.

     tamerlane

    Tamerlane by a Bostonian (pseudonymous first book by Edgar Allen Poe with an estimated 12 copies in existence)

Booked to Die price: $250,000
While this book is too scarce to find an easy example currently on the open market, Christie’s auction sold a copy in 2009 for $662,500

Salem's Lot, First Edition Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

 Booked to Die price: $1000
 Current price: starting at around $675

The Grapes of Wrath, signed first editionGrapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, signed and with a unique, risque sketch by the author:

Booked to Die price: $2,000
Current price:  This copy is the closest to the amazing, fictional one described in Booked to Die   $20,577.50

 

Old Old Man and the Sea, first edition, first stateMan and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: at least $500 for 1st state in dust jacket

 

Of Time and the River, first editionOf Time and The River by Thomas Wolfe
Booked to Die price: around $160
Current Price: I found a copy in very good dust jacket for $125, with the average collectible copy going up through $350-$500 or so.

  

Firestarter, signed limited editionFirestarter by Stephen King, signed limited edition
Booked to Die price: $3,000

Current price: $1,350.00 and up, but all the copies I found were less than the $3,000 mark set by Booked to Die.

The Milagro Beanfield War, first editionMilagro Beanfield War by John Nichols

The protagonist in Booked to Die had invested in a small stack of this novel, so Dunning gave prices for it both signed and unsigned.
Booked to Die price:  around $100 unsigned.
Current price: $200 and up on average.

Booked to Die price:  $150 signed
Current price signed: around $500 depending on condition.

 

This Earth, a Poem first editionThis Earth, a Poem by William Faulkner (described in the novel as :fine little Faulkner poem, original 1932 issue, paper wraps”)
Booked to Die price: $250
Current price: $200-$300 still, these many years later.

The Case of the Dangerous Dowager first editionCase of Dangerous Dowager by Earl Stanley Gardner
Booked to Die price: $200

Current price: about $400

 

Time and Again, first editionTime & Again by Jack Finney
Booked to Die price: $150

Current price: $500-800

 

Battle Cry, first editionBattle Cry by Leon Uris

Booked to Die price: $150
Current price: $300 or so and up.

The Ink Truck, first editionThe Ink Truck by William Kennedy

Booked to Die price: $200-$250
Current price: about the same, more or less, $150 and up.

 

The Last Picture Show, first editionThe Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: about the same. A quite nice 1st edition is currently offered on sale for just over $200.

 

The Postman Always Rings Twice, first editionThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain

Booked to Die price: $1,000
Current price: A really nice copy will go for $10,000 and up, but it is possible to get one with some flaws for more around $1,000.

Adventures of Augie March, first editionAdventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Booked to Die price: $150
Current price: starts at around $300.

 

The Lottery, first editionThe Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Booked to Die price: $150
Current price:  a first state copy is around $350 or so.

 

The Illustrated Man, first editionIllustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: more like $800 and up.

 

Berlin Stories, first editionBerlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, signed by the author.
Booked to Die price: $150
Current price: $750

 

158-Pound Miarrage, first edition158-Pound Marriage by John Irving

Booked to Die price:  $200
Current price: about the same, starting at $150 or so.

 

Psycho, first editionPsycho by Robert Bloch

Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: $850

 

The Yearling, first editionThe Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings

Booked to Die price: $150
Current price: starting at $250-$300

 

The Naked and the Dead, first editionThe Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Booked to Die price: $250
Current price: around $1,000.

 

Lord of the Flies, first American editionLord of the Flies by William Golding, First American Edition

Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: more than $600

 

A is for Alibi, first editionA is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Booked to Die Price: $300-$400
Current price: you would be hard pressed to find a nice copy for less than $1,000.

 

Black Sunday, first editionBlack Sunday by Thomas Harris

Booked to Die price: $100
Current price: $700 and up.

 

Dangling Man, first editionDangling Man by Saul Bellow
Booked to Die price: $400
Current price: around $400.

 

The Victim, first editionThe Victim by Saul Bellow
Booked to Die price: $250
Current price: $400

 

Blessing Way, first editionBlessing Way by Tony Hillerman

Booked to Die price: $200-$300
Current price: none less than $600

 

Dance Hall of the Dead, first editionDance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
Booked to Die price: $200-$300
Current price: $500 and up.

 

 

Fly on the Wall, first edition

Fly on the Wall by Tony Hillerman
Booked to Die price: $200-$300

Current price: at least $600

 

Bluest Eye, first editionBluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Booked to Die price: $500
Current price: well over $2,000

 

Crazy in Berlin, first editionCrazy in Berlin by Thomas Berger
Booked to Die price: $200
Current price: maybe $50



This entry was written by and posted on April 24, 2014 at 9:04 pm, filed under Book Reviews, Book Value, For Booksellers, Top 10 Lists and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink

One Response to ““Booked to Die” Revisited”

  1. trav

    I love these books! Well, up until Janeway became more interested in horses… but, anyway… this is a great post. I was surprised to see that not all of them increased in value.

    Reply

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