Thursday, December 27, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

I collect books. I read them, too. If you've read my previous postings, you've probably surmised as much.

I collect books by certain authors (Fredric Brown, Jacques Futrelle, R. Austin Freeman, Lawrence Block, etc.) and books of certain publishers' imprints (Doubleday Crime Club, Dell Mapbacks).

There is also one quirky thematic collection in my library: mystery and detective novels with Lewis Carroll motifs. Often these are books that derive their titles from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through The Looking Glass. Occasionally the connection goes deeper. I wrote about the books I've found, and provide a long list on Criminal Brief, a mystery short story blog for which I write a column every Friday. Read the column here. (Scroll down about 6 paragraphs to get to the Alice stuff).

After hunting off and on for a couple years, I finally found a copy of Murder Through the Looking Glass by Craig Rice (writing as Michael Venning). This is a brilliant story involving a guy who, after an alcoholic bender (it is Craig Rice, after all), learns that he's wanted for a murder he might have committed while suffering multiple personality disorder. It's a scarce book, and very pricey in good condition. (I have a Japanese copy, translated by Hidetoshi Mori. But my Japanese isn't quite up to par). The copy I found has no jacket, but it's a First, and is in reasonably good shape. (Here's a scan of the title page).

Imagine my surprise when I opened the book for the first time and saw the library stamp on the front loose endpaper:

If you recall the poem Alice tried to read that was only legible in a looking glass, it contains the nonsensical line:

All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

Mome raths? Womraths? Had I stepped through the looking glass?

I did a search and learned that Womrath is a real place, and I presume my book was once on the shelves of its popular library.

I guess you can add serendipitous findings to my list of collections.