Literary Firsts, Crime, Rare Cinema, and Unusual Items from James Pepper Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
James Pepper Rare Books has issued Catalogue 163: Literary First Editions, Mystery and Detective Fiction, Rare Cinema Material, and Unusual Items. Here are a few samples of these varied works.
You may not have realized that Bonnie and Clyde came from literary families, but here is a book written by a few close relatives -- Fugitives: The Story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker as Told by Bonnie's Mother and Clyde's Sister. Actually, neither Emma Parker nor Nell Barrow Cowan are remembered as great writers, but in 1934, they did get a chance to cash in on their late relatives' notoriety. The two armed robbers are sympathetically recalled through their family's memories, along with letters they wrote, and even a poem by Bonnie. Item 17. Priced at $575.
Item 5 is another notorious biography, by the notorious subject himself: Public Enemy Number One. The Alvin Karpis Story by Alvin Karpis as Told to Bill Trent. Karpis went into business with the sons of Ma Barker to form one of the most notorious gangs of the 1930s. Robbing banks was among their specialties, along with the kidnapping of wealthy brewer William Hamm from his home in the Land of Sky Blue Waters. After the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, and other big name criminals, the FBI began to concentrate more on Karpis and the Barkers. Alvin "Creepy" Karpis was elevated to Public Enemy Number One on the FBI list. He was captured in 1936 and spent 25 years in Alcatraz, being transferred out when that august institution closed its doors to guests. He was finally released in 1969 and deported to Canada. Karpis lived until 1979, giving him time to write a few books, this one, his first, included. This copy is inscribed "To Fred from Alvin Karpis." We don't know who Fred was, but definitely not Fred Barker, as he and Ma were shot to death by FBI agents in 1939. $450.
And now for the other side of the story. Item 60 is American Agent by Melvin Purvis. Purvis was perhaps the best-known FBI agent besides J. Edgar Hoover. He was involved in the killing or capture of numerous criminals, including John Dillinger, "Babyface" Nelson, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Machine-Gun" Kelly. Offered is an inscribed presentation copy of Purvis' book. $1,250.
For those interested in the development of modern dance, item 48 is The Art of Dance, published in 1928. It contains 33 photographs and drawings of Isadora Duncan. Ms. Duncan was enormously influential in moving dance from classical ballet to more free-flowing forms. She was also quite an oddball, at one point denouncing commercialism and moving to Soviet Russia, carrying on various affairs, and dressing in unusual outfits. The latter was her downfall, quite literally. One night in 1927, she went out for a ride in one of her long, body-wrap scarves. The scarf got tangled in one of the wheels and dragged her from the car to her death in the street. This book recalls Duncan as she would have liked to be remembered. $50.