Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 192: I bought a stack of Ed Wood books. So how did I do?

Yes, I bought this stack of books. Did I overpay? Underpay? Let's find out together.

Way back in the spring of 2015, there was a massive auction of Ed Wood memorabilia in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I knew I couldn't afford anything pricy, like Eddie's actual suitcase, but I felt like I wanted to get something. I settled for a poster advertising Glen or Glenda (1953) under one of its many alternate titles, I Led 2 Lives, and a collection of Mexican lobby cards for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) aka Espectros del espacio. The poster I had framed; it now hangs in my kitchen and greets me every morning. The lobby cards I keep in a binder and rarely look at. 

All in all, this set me back about $400—then and now a huge sum of money for me. When things got particularly lean a few years ago, I even considered selling these items at a loss before deciding that it was more trouble than it was worth. Not to mention depressing. So I kept them as stern reminders of what not to do with my money.

Because of that experience, I vowed I would never make another major and totally unnecessary Ed Wood-related purchase again.  I also knew that, someday, I would more than likely do it again. I bravely (?) held out for nearly a decade. Then, in the spring of 2024, I saw on Facebook that a fan was selling off some of his collection, including a stack of Wood (and Wood-adjacent) books. Since I rely mostly on e-books and PDF files in my research for this series, I own very few paperback and hardcover editions of Ed's work. So I was tempted.

After a couple of weeks of hemming and hawing and exchanging a few direct messages with the seller, we eventually settled on a deal: nine books for $350, including shipping. For you non-mathematicians out there, that's about $38 or $39 a book. Was I cheated? Did I do pretty okay for myself? Let's break it down, book by book, and find out.

Revisiting an old friend.
We'll start with a copy of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Bear Manor Bare, 2019). Now, I already own a paperback copy of this indispensable book, but the one I purchased from the Facebook seller was an improvement over mine in two ways: it was a hardcover and it had page numbers. (Yeah, those were left out of the original print run. Whoops.) It looks like a used hardcover edition of this book will run you about $25 on Amazon.

Up next is a paperback edition of Rob Craig's Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films (McFarland, 2009). This was one of the first books I consulted in the very earliest days of writing and researching this series, so it still carries a fair amount of nostalgia for me. I can remember reading a library copy on the Metra train while commuting to and from work in Chicago every day. Funnily enough, I've never owned a physical copy of it, only an e-book,  and I was happy to get this one. Value? About $35 used on Amazon.

For some reason, the Facebook seller included a copy of D.G. Bettison's What Every Woman Should Know About Men (Sexually) (Academy Press, 1970). Virtually forgotten today, it's your typical, dubious early '70s sex manual and exists mainly as an excuse to include lots of pornographic pictures, some of which are in color. Ed Wood wrote numerous books like this, formatted and illustrated in much the same way, but I've never seen this particular one attributed to him. Scanning through the text, it doesn't seem particularly Woodian at first glance. Altogether too businesslike. Prices on this one vary. Amazon has used copies for just $7.50 but it can go for around $20 on other sites.

A Woodpile reproduction.
The lot also included three of the Woodpile Press reproductions that were very briefly available from Ramble House in 2009 before being cease-and-desisted into oblivion. I'd never actually owned physical copies of any of these, so again my enthusiasm was quite high. The three reprint volumes included were: 
  • Side-Show Siren/Hell Chicks: These are two Ed Wood pulp crime novels from 1966 and 1968, respectively. It looks like this same twofer was also published by Ramble House under the umbrella title Wood Chicks, but my copy does not include this added name. The cover art is the same.
  • The Horrors of Sex/Black Sex: The first half of this book is a compilation of Ed Wood's short stories, written for various magazines between 1966 and 1971. The second is one of Eddie's pseudo-educational sex books written for SECS Press in 1970. The Ramble House Edition retains the text and includes the photo captions but leaves out the pictures.
  • Wood on Screen: Another two-for-one book, this includes reproductions of Eddie's novels The Sexecutives (1968) and The Only House (1972).
When speculating about the monetary value of these books, I should emphasize that these aren't original editions from the 1960s and '70s. Instead, they are all reprints from 2009. Since the Ramble House editions lasted such a short time on the market, they turn up very rarely on Amazon and online auction sites these days. It's almost like they never existed at all. I don't really know what the fair market value for these is. It looks like other Ed Wood reprints go for about $25 apiece, so let's say $75 for the three of them.

I was psyched for this one.
Now we get to the fun stuff. The book I was most excited to receive was Dick Trent's A Study of the Sons and Daughters of Erotica (SECS Press, 1971). I'd never even seen a PDF, reprint, or e-book of this one. It's mentioned by name in such handy Wood reference guides as Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), Muddled Mind (2001), and Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks (2013), so its authenticity is not in question. This is yet another sex ed manual that alternates pages of text and full-page pornographic photos. Again, a few are in color. Amazon says they can get you a copy of this book for $69, though other sites charge as much as $100.

I was also glad to receive a copy of the Edusex title A Study in the Motivation of Censorship, Sex & the Movies, Book I (Gallery Press, 1973). Of all the books included in the lot, this was the only one that was an original 1970s paperback published with Ed Wood's own name on the cover. This is as canonical as it gets, folks. Like many of the books I've mentioned so far, Censorship is one of those "educational stuff on one page, porn on the facing page" books. Unfortunately, I could not find any online records of this book being sold online, so I can only guess at its value. Maybe $75, especially since Eddie's name is on the front cover? I'm probably being optimistic.

The final paperback included in the lot was yet another vintage sex manual, A Study of Sexual Practices in Witchcraft and Black Magic, Book 2 (SECS Press 1971), credited to Frank Lennon with Dr. T.K. Peters. I do not own the first book in this strange duology, and that might be for the best. Back in 2016, my colleague Greg Dziawer declared that Book 1 "reads nothing like Ed" due to its "truly factual research" and was likely penned solely by Eddie's more studious colleague, Leo Eaton. According to Greg, Eddie's involvement in Book 1 was limited to writing the captions for the many, many sexually explicit photos it contains.

I believe Ed wrote Book 2.
Okay, but that's Book 1. What about Book 2? I am pleased to report to you that it contains little to no factual research that I can see, is not scholarly or serious in the least, and contains a great many of Ed Wood's writerly obsessions and quirks, including random capitalization and abuse of ellipses. While I cannot vouch for the authenticity of Book 1, I would testify in court that Book 2 is Eddie's work. Yet again, I could find no prices for this specific volume. Until I'm told otherwise, I will estimate the value of this paperback at about $50.

Altogether, that's maybe about $336.50 worth of merchandise, not including shipping. Did I make a great deal? A horrible deal? Several of the books in this lot were not available online at any price, at least not currently or recently, so it would not have been possible to buy these books individually. Look, I'll admit that I know nothing of the vintage book market. I'm strictly an amateur here, a tourist feeding quarters into a slot machine and hoping to hit the jackpot. The experts—and I know they're out there—can school me on whether I did well or not.

What I can tell you is that getting this shipment of books has been one of the milestones in my experience as a fan of Edward D. Wood, Jr. I really don't have much room in my budget or my apartment for physical media these days, but holding some vintage 1970s paperbacks transported me back to the era when Eddie was still alive and writing. Even though these were books that husbands hid from their wives and that kids hid from their parents, I am proud to have them in my home. Is that worth $350? Probably.