Rediscovered: Solar Pons

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Dove back into one of my favorite hobbies recently, when I landed a ten item trove of Arkham House ephemera. Ordered them mostly blind, though I had the sense that an item I needed might possibly be in the lot.

Sure enough, my gamble paid off and I got a copy of Item 87 from the collector’s checklist I did for Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine back in October 2002. I’ll presume anyone interested in assembling the ephemera has that issue, since I do a history of the items along with the list. One hundred items in total, although since then I think we have scouted out another ten to twenty items not on that list (and from the Classic Era only — I’m not interested once you get past the years when August Derleth was both Arkham publisher and Arkham promoter, turning out these little gems of sales propaganda wizardry).

Item 87 was reported in Firsts as “Unseen at this time.” It had been described in a sales list from L.W. Currey, that’s how I knew about it. New and Forthcoming Books by August Derleth was the title. I figured it was separate from other pieces of ephemera because it was only eight pages — same exact title as Item 88, but 88 was 12 pages.

Yep, that’s the level of arcane detail you get into in the ephemera game.

Also got another item I didn’t know about — an Order Blank on orange paper — but it turned out my ephemera-collecting bud John D. Haefele had it already, so it was not completely new to us. Just to me.

The rest of the stuff I had in hand. Dupes. Lucky for Haefele, he needed three of those items, so the score really paid off, item for item.

Even if all the items turned out to be dupes, the risk was balanced by the main offering, a TLS from Derleth to the arch-collector Adrian Homer Goldstone. Given added poignancy by the date, March 2, 1971 — Derleth would die July 4 of that year.

Typed on a greeting card Derleth had printed up, with an image by artist Roy Hunt of Solar Pons and his associate Parker in the doorway of 7 Praed Street.

Pons is Derleth’s knockoff of Sherlock Holmes, Parker his Watson, Praed Street an echo of 221B. . . .

While I’m not sure the greeting card quite fits into a list of Arkham ephemera — though it might, I guess — it was worth having, plus the fitted envelope it came in with the Mycroft & Moran logo (M&M was the mystery fiction arm of Arkham House).

And personally, I also liked the Goldstone connection. Bay Area guy, huge collector and bibliographer of John Steinbeck and Arthur Machen, in his last years he began assembling a collection of mystery and detective fiction. When it went to auction after his death in 1977, it broke sales records — propelled writers like Dashiell Hammett from the $800ish range for a first edition such as The Maltese Falcon more toward $5000 — soon to be $10,000, and beyond.

Goldstone died a hero’s death, trying to stop a runaway car on one of San Francisco’s hills that had pulled loose from the brake.

(And just the other day Brian Leno popped in a note about how he “was dinking around on ABEbooks and came across the information that Adrian Homer Goldstone’s brother, M.B. Goldstone, had a copy of The Great Gatsby that sold at auction for over $100,000. That t’ain’t bad, McGee.” I told Leno that when it came to the world of books, those Goldstones were serious babies, they didn’t mess around.)

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