250 Inches of Spines


I have bookcases lining just about all of the available walls in my 1200 sq. ft. double-wide, mostly the $29.99 put-it-together-yourself variety from Big Lots. Two of them, each with six 23.5 inch shelves, are dedicated to the Ramble House trade paperbacks. I just counted, and there are 372 books on those two bookshelves. The bottom shelf of one bookcase is empty, reserved for future books. There are approximately 250 inches of Ramble House spines staring back at me and I must say they look exceedingly good.

 From across the room they look like a Jackson Pollack, except for certain monochromatic regions scattered throughout. The Bs are particularly dark, with Gelett Burgessí fuliginous spines clustered together next to Miles Burtonís. Darker still is the landscape from Lupoff to Masterman, a full foot and a half of shadowy mystery at the top of bookcase two. Contrast that with the splash of yellow marking Jim Harmonís territory on a middle shelf, or the blood red of John H. Knoxís pulp spines that support the shelf and a half of Harry Stephen Keelerís webwork of phantasmagorical spines.

 I have spine patterns all over every wall in the house but thereís something personal and especially rousing about the spines of the two bookcases of Ramble House books: they are attached to covers by Gavin OíKeefe. Over 350 of them. Can you imagine the Pollack that would be produced if I had a wall big enough to display the FRONT COVERS of all 372 of those books?

 Where did Gavin find the time to create all those covers? I edited the text of most of the Ramble House books but because of advances in scanning and OCRing the interior of books is actually easier to do than the exterior. And besides, Iím a lazy, retired guitar picker with no cares for anyone else in the world but myself, and Gavin, on the other hand, has a day job, in a bookstore yet.

 Which is why I was so astounded when I first saw the PDF of this Oz book. Where did he find the time to make all those drawings? Does he have an access to Adderall that I can only dream about? Is the story so compelling that it inspires a picture on practically every page?

 I guess the reader expects an introduction to answer such questions, but research is not my strong suit. I have never read any books by Frank Baum and at age 66 donít plan to add the Oz books to my queue. But the pictures are fantastic and I expect Iíll thumb through this book a few more times before I ease on down the road to see the Wizard.

 Here at Ramble House we mainly try to keep old forgotten books from disappearing altogether. Iím not worried about Frank L. Baumís books. Some big publisher with a budget should keep them in print for as long as people want to read them. But the artwork, which, in my opinion, is the best part of this book, is only going to be saved by print-on-demand publishers like Ramble House. Weíre going to put the data up in the cloud and hope the power grid lasts for another decade or two, but the best way to preserve pictures is in a real book on a real bookshelf.

 Iím sending copies of this book to every family I know with small children hoping they like the words and pictures and donít end up a curmudgeon like me. The spine may not look all that impressive by itself on a shelf, but once this book is open, youíre not in Kansas anymore, thanks to Gavin L. OíKeefe.

 Fender Tucker

Vancleave MS

St. Swithins' Day