Reverting to Type

As a historical journalist and biographer, my life is populated with dusty, out-of-print tomes; when I moved last year from New York City to Los Angeles, I carted along with me over 3,000 books. And I still want more.

But, as a shallow-pocketed writer, I am a nuisance presence in Los Angeles’s elite antiquarian bookstores. This doesn’t mean that I don’t covet their wares anyway.  (One Mystery Pier Books item that tempts me to the precipice of theft: Cecil B. DeMille’s personal copy of “The Great Gatsby,” complete with linen box and DeMille bookplate — a bargain at $7,500.)

Within weeks of my arrival in Los Angeles last year, I had already hunted down a passel of the most eccentric rare and vintage bookstores in town.  To my great pleasure, these stores offered a highly specific and often amusing glimpse into the soul and workings of my adopted city. Despite its richly deserved reputation for superficiality, Los Angeles is indeed a reading town, but with a uniquely transactional relationship to books, especially those that are remnants of bygone eras (Dynamite, anyone?).

Read on to become acquainted with this world and its characters, many of whom are as colorful as those in the books they sell.

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