Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2007 Issue

Goin' Farther South


The Mesilla, New Mexico bookstore on the plaza.

The people were very nice. Mr. Lambert was the man who made the prices and his wife watched the store when he was out. When one of them was in the store the other either had to stand up or leave, because there was only one uncluttered chair. Because they are not computer literate, nor have they ever considered being, their prices are extraordinarily high for the quality, which was extraordinarily low. It took us two hours to wander around, because in order to get to the bookcases, one had to move boxes and bags of paperbacks and assorted junk. You know how you always think that if you just could get to the back of that shelf, there would be a jewel? Well, I don't think that this would be the case at Lamberts. I hate to say anything negative about independent book dealers, so let me just say nothing more.

We left for Biloxi a day later and were there for a month. I was struck dumb by the damage from Katrina. Our friends who live in Biloxi said the town from the waterfront in about four blocks is about 58% gone and there are huge chunks of flat lots that were once covered with homes, out-buildings, businesses, and the trappings of humanity. These buildings are not just wrecked, but gone. The dozens of stately homes from the 1800s, including the home of Jefferson Davis, first and only President of the Confederacy, were primarily located along the oceanfront. Most were either wiped out or taken down to framework. Five and six story hotels and casinos are now pitiful shells of tangled metal and plastic. Even now, a year and a half later, there are mountains of debris in fields where there were once homes, there are FEMA trailers everywhere, and many people are still homeless.

We found Mike and Pat Hutter at Spanish Trail Books, a scant four or five blocks from the ocean front in Biloxi. We were relieved to find that they were terribly lucky in that the water from the surge stopped about six feet from the back door of the shop and even their big glass windows survived. Spanish Trail is a wonderful bookstore. It has a mezzanine around the top of the store and the original pressed tin ceiling. The store is neat as a pin, with the books lined up to the edges of the oak shelves. They have thousands of wonderful, classic and modern books on the shelves. He carries an incredible number of very old, good condition, paperback classics of all genres all neatly arranged and packaged in cellophane envelopes. He has some interesting ephemera and posters and lots of select, modern, first edition literature. The prices are a bit high for dealers but if you are just looking for books for your own collection, give them a call in Biloxi.

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