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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

THE CARTER COLLECTION


THE CARTER COLLECTION
Facebook social groups are a common ground in cyberspace where like-minded individuals can interact, exchange views, and share their knowledge of whatever broad subject or niche interest to which the group is dedicated. From apple bobbing to zydeco music, no matter how obscure or how small the circle of dedicated enthusiasts, every hobby, activity, or creative endeavor imaginable has a Facebook group to represent it. These groups can be very active or stagnating in a black hole. Some are all hearts and rainbows (very, very few) while others can be a hotbed of arguments, bullying, name calling, and inflammatory discourse (more common). This is often determined by the group moderator’s level of control, oversight and tolerance for bad behavior. Most groups fall into a comfortable middle ground between the two extremes.

If an interest is broad enough there can be hundreds of Facebook groups in which to participate. Even if a subject appeals to only an infinitesimal sampling of Internet surfers, it is bound to have a handful of representative groups, each with its own flavor, personality, perspective, or approach to the given subject. Many times connected or similar groups are splintered off from an original group due to a clash of egos, arguments, or other derisive factors. Participants often join numerous groups involving the same subject looking for varied input or searching for the virtual hangout which best suits their needs.

The Men's Adventure Paperback Series of the '70s & '80s (now Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century) is a hangout for fans of old school action fiction series such as The Executioner, The Destroyer, The Death Merchant, The Penetrator, and a horde of similar vigilante avengers, mercenaries, rogue cops, secret agents, and others who always have time between murders, mayhem, and gun porn to bed down a bevy of long-legged, buxom, often traitorous vixens, and do it all in under 200 pages. This is an amazing feat when you consider it takes modern action heroes—such as Jack Reacher or Mitch Rapp—600 to 800 pages to save the world.

To the uninitiated, men’s adventure paperbacks would appeared to be a micro-niche interest—even when compared to apple-bobbing or Zydeco music. In reality, however, the Men's Adventure Paperback Series group boasts close to 5,000 members. Around a hundred members participate occasionally, while between twenty and fifty hardcore members participate weekly or daily. There are also a number of lurkers who sporadically pop up to voice an opinion, share photos of paperback finds, or ask a question.

Created in 2009, it's an active group comprised almost exclusively of men of a certain age who read uncountable examples of men’s trash fiction in their misspent youth. All are readers. Many are writers—some even contributing to the series back in the day, and others who have become writers for whom these series were cherished inspirations. The members are incredibly knowledgeable about their collective interest. 

There is not a men’s adventure paperback ever written not read by at least one member in the group. In my eight years of participation, there has never been a question asked about men’s adventure paperbacks that hasn’t been answered with astonishing speed by another group member. 

Even the most obscure memory of a series—it had a blue cover and a guy with a big-ass knife who worked for some kind of secret organization—generates the name of the series (The Mesmerizer), further detailed information (Three books in the series...Written by Butch Randy...Which was a pseudonym for current bestselling author XYZ), and very often a cover scan. 

On top of everything else, members of the Men's Adventure Paperback Series group are frankly the kindest, most polite, and generous folks anywhere on social media. No drama—ever. The few trolls who have popped up have been handled with the speed and efficiency of a champion Whack-A-Mole player. The group is a haven of sanity for many members who participate nowhere else on social media.

Group activity is also not confined to Facebook and the Internet. Many round-robin boxes have traveled around the country to land at the home of participating members. The member who starts the round-robin puts twenty men’s adventure related paperbacks into a box and mails it to the next member on the sign-up list.

When the next participating member receives the box, they take out the books they want and replace them with an equal number of books from their own collection and send it on to the next participant. There are usually ten to as many as thirty group members participating, so the box can take a while to make it back to the originating member. However, when it does, it is rare for there to be any of the original books inside.

Summer usually involves a paperback swap. Participating members send a vintage men’s adventure paperback to another participant, while another participant sends them a vintage men’s adventure paperback. The swaps are shown on the group page with reviews of the received books. It’s an activity that keeps the group’s Facebook page alive with comments and interesting threads.

Naturally, during the winter holidays, members of the men’s adventure paperback group are obviously too macho to participate in a Secret Santa anonymous exchange of several vintage paperbacks. However, by switching the name to Vigilante Santa an activity similar to Secret Santa (actually, it’s exactly the same) has proven to be a successful yearly event.

About six or seven months ago, a woman named Allysa Rivers contacted another of our Men's Adventure group moderators, Tom Simon, via the group's Facebook page. She wanted to know what to do with her late brother's Executioner books as she had a ton of them. If she couldn't find a home for them she was going to either take them to Goodwill or toss them. She told Tom she lived in Ventura, California. Tom immediately passed her info on to me since he knew I lived about 15 minutes south of Ventura.

I reached out to Alessa and offered to take a look at the collection and advise her. She said she'd contact me after she had gone through the books and organize them. That odd comment—I say odd because why do you need to organize a couple of boxes of batter Executioner paperbacks—ended our conversation and I thought no more about it.

However, out of the blue at the beginning of May, 2019, I received a Facebook message from Alessa. She said she had finally organized her brother's books and asked if I would advise her about what to do with them. I had an appointment near her house the following day, so we arranged to meet.

When I arrived, Allysa took me into her garage. I immediately became weak in the knees and almost began to hyperventilate. This collection was not a couple of boxes of battered paperbacks from the Executioner series as I expected. Instead there were boxes and boxes and boxes filled with a wide array of men's adventure paperbacks in what appeared to be excellent condition.

Digging randomly through the first few boxes, I ran my hands over full runs of some of the most highly sought after, hard to impossible to find, high value men's adventure series with brightly colored pristine covers, many of which had never been opened—Black Samurai, Narc, The Liquidator, Riker, Stryker, Dark Angel (four books worth upward if $1000 if they could ever be found, especially the elusive, low print run fourth book), and  long runs of many other classic and iconic men's adventure series. I had walked into Aladdin's cave, a once in a lifetime golden motherlode.

When I could breathe again, I tried to keep my voice from sounding shaky and responsibly explained the books would bring in a sizable amount of cash via eBay if she could be patient until a hungry collector with a fat wallet came along. I was quite shocked when Alessa said she wasn't concerned about the money. She simply wanted her brother's books to go to a good home.

I told her I could share some with our men’s adventure group made up of readers who cherish these types of books. I could also send some via Operation Paperback to our military overseas, and take the rest to the VA hospital where men's adventure type books are craved by the patients there. Alessa was delighted with the plan, but she needed the books gone from her garage as quickly as possible as she was moving. She said if I took them right then, I could have them gratis, no money, zip, nada, zero down, zero at signing, and zero payments.

I started loading up the boxes and they just kept coming—A full run of The Executioner and the Stoney Man series (through 2010) in VG condition. A full run of The Destroyer series in unopened mint condition. Near full runs of The Penetrator, Richard Blayde, The Butcher, and The Death Merchant. Boxes with The Dark Angel, Crown, Honey West, the Drake series by Stephen Marlowe, a ton of Shell Scott books by Richard Prather, and partial odds and ends from a bunch of other series. She then asked me if I wanted the three boxes of Westerns with nearly full runs of Longarm, Lone Star, and other Western series. I damn near wept...

But she wasn't done. Once I loaded the Westerns, she told me her sister and mother had collected vintage sci-fi paperbacks, about double the number of her brother's men's adventure collection. She wondered if, after she had gone through them all, would I come back and take them...again for free (this would involve another trip and double the amount of boxes involved in the first pick up). By now I was beside myself with shock over the treasure trove.

I asked Alessa about her brother and how he came to collect the books. She told me his name was Mike Carter. He lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he and Alessa grew up. He was a big supporter of the military having been in both the Army and the Air Force for different periods of time. Mike made a living driving a Yellow Cab taxi in Cheyenne, and loved to read whenever he had a spare moment. His taxi always had a selection of men’s adventure books scattered across the front passenger seat. Inside the front covers of his books Mike would use his taxi stamp as an identifying bookplate:

Nr. 5 Yellow cab
Michael D. Carter
2606 ½ Dillon Ave
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82011

Mike had a collector’s personality, buying books in the different men’s adventure series he was passionate about even if he didn’t have time to read them. They filled the shelves in his apartment. He never married and was happiest when surrounded by books. Unfortunately, Mike suffered from numerous health issues and passed away at the early age of 58.

Finding Mike’s books was the kind of time capsule every book hound dreams of stumbling into. It was the perfect storm of hard to find series in fantastic condition overall, and at the perfect price—free. Like Mike, I am passionate about this genre of books, and was thrilled to simply hold in my hands the many amazing gems in his collection. In reality, the monetary value of the collection in the grand scheme was relatively innocuous, but the intrinsic value to collectors was over the moon.  

The whole experience was a freakish windfall, which I felt the need to pay forward. I felt a responsibility to do for Mike’s collection what I would like done with mine someday—having the books passed on to somebody who will understand the joy reading them brought me. There were books in the collection I hadn't seen in the wild in 30 or more years—paperbacks so scarce, especially in full runs in amazing condition, as to be virtually impossible to find on the collectors market.

While it is true the collection would turn a decent profit in eBay auctions, I'm strictly a reader and a collector, not a dealer. I also felt the same way as Alessa—dispensing of the collection was not about profit. Nor was it about hording the books for myself.  It was about honoring Mike Carter and his collection by giving access to the books to other like-minded enthusiasts. I felt this strange kinship to Mike Carter and I was determined to find homes for the books with collectors who would appreciate and value them for what they are, as opposed to their market value.

In the weeks after taking possession of Mike’s collection, I dug through the books trying to determine how best to disperse them. There were books from both ends of the collecting spectrum. Many were not collectibles, but were still in great condition and still worth being read. Those books were donated through various charitable venues. 

Some were boxed and sending to our military overseas through Operation Paperback. Others were taken to the local VA hospital. Two boxes of fantasy novels went to a women's shelter, who were delighted to take them. A judicious selection was taken to the new, under stocked, high school library at a local juvenile detention center.

The great majority of the books, however, were photographed and posted to the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks group on Facebook. The deal was first come first serve, with resellers being blocked out. Whoever claimed the books first (in the beginning no more than ten per person) could have them for the cost of postage. No matter what the intrinsic value was of a book, it was not sold. It was given. A gift from Mike Carter to another fan of the genre.

Dispersing the books in this manner took almost three months and involved a lot of shipping and handling. It also involved many trips to the Post Office, where the desk clerks would shake their heads when they same me come in with another tower of packages. In all over 3,000 books were sent to collectors and readers in 38 different states and three different countries.

Despite the time involved, I had a blast doing this. It's much more fun playing a men's adventure version of Santa Claus than trying to Scrooge a few bucks from eBay that are going to make no difference to me in the long run. 

Trying to handle the opportunity in an altruistic way has provide me with good feelings and memories for a long time. I hope Mike Carter was looking down the entire time this went on and was smiling, knowing how much pleasure his books were bringing to so many others—especially me.

Thanks, Mike...I hope you are in a heaven surrounded by all the books you loved so much and with all the time and eternity to read them.


A SELECTION OF BOOKS FROM
THE CARTER COLLECTION




















































  
















 









6 comments:

  1. All I can say at first blush is WOW! What a discovery and you handled it with such class. Bravo my friend!

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  2. Thanks for sharing the full story here. I was aware of the collection, as I am a member of the Facebook group. But I stay rather quiet, just an occasional post or response is usually all. Love the genre and love the knowledge of all the group's members! Thanks again for all your efforts with this once in a lifetime collection!

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  3. The only word applicable in my opinion is - Wow.

    Thanks for all the info and pictures. There are so many books there that I used to have and wish to have....the mind boggles.

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  4. One hell of a story thanks for sharing.

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  5. Wow! This is the first time I've ever wished I was on Facebook. Great story and I love the way you handled it. Thanks for all the pictures.

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