Category Archives: Theater

A Recommendation for My New Play

I have a new play.  It’s called Lily Blossoms or Modern Subdivision Zoning for the Present Day.  It’s a one-act comedy.  Recently, a playwright/reader on New Play Exchange, a website where playwrights can upload their plays and theatre managers, artistic directors, etc., can find new plays to produce.

The play is set in 1954, in New York, and features writers Lily Palmer and Theodore Barkley, who work for Manhattan magazine. But, things will change once Barkley gets an offer from a movie studio and has to move to California.

This is the season when theatre companies ask for submissions and I wanted to have a new play ready to submit.  I worked on this play in November and December and finished it early January.  I like it.  It’s funny and the characters are among my favorites.  I even got to name drop a favorite character from one of my other plays.

This recommendation is from Steven G. Martin, a fellow playwright:

 Sophisticated humor — through wit, wordplay, and charm — infuse this light, one-act comedy set in 1950s New York. Hatfield clearly understands and enjoys the high-brow charm of shows of this period, and has created a group of characters — world wearing magazine writers, a misled wife, and a tortured editor — that fits right in. Stylish and enchanting. 

If you see this post and know a theatrical producer, please pass this along.  Hopefully, a company will like the play and decide to produce it.

2018 was a good year for me, professionally.  Two of my plays, The Great Stalinski and The Ten Minute Play (With a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), received readings. in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, respectively.   Another play, Mundy Tuesday Friday, was a finalist for a theatre company in Virginia.

2019 is off to a good start, too.  I’ll have some news a bit later on about some theatrical work I’m doing in Cincinnati.

Play Reading of The Great Stalinski

My play, The Great Stalinski, will be given a reading by the Pittsburgh New Works Reading Series, on Monday, November 5.

The Reading Series will be be held at Higher Voice Studios, 144 E Main St, Carnegie, PA 15106, at 7:00 p.m.  Their website is https://pittsburghnewworks.org/reading-series/

The Great Stalinski was selected as a finalist for the Pittsburgh New Works Festival in 2018, but just didn’t make the final cut of 18 produced plays.  Out of hundreds of submissions, my play and about 39 others were finalists.  The Reading Series is taking the plays that didn’t make it and giving them a reading over the course of the winter with local actors.

Of course I’m thrilled to be included.

The Great Stalinski is a personal favorite of my plays, as it started what I call “The Cabot Trilogy.”  Let me explain:  The play is about the third generation of Cabot actors who are gathered together for the funeral the “World’s Greatest Shakespearean Actor,” Gregor Stalinski.  Brothers Jack and Monty and sister Veronica Cabot were close to Stalinski (especially Veronica) and they meet up at Jack’s theater to travel together to the funeral.  The Cabots are theater royalty and the play is really a fun piece about theater history and fame.

So after writing it, that got me to thinking about the other generations of Cabots and I wrote a play about Jack, Monty and Veronica’s parents called Three Sisters in Repertory.  I love that play.  The characters are great.  We meet Charles Cabot, their father, and three sisters, Virginia, Eve and Roz Fleming.  I’m guessing that one of them becomes their mother.  Again, theater history is evident as scenes are played from Pygmalion, Hamlet and The Importance of Being Earnest.

So I had to write a play about the First Generation of Cabots and I wrote the first act of what would become The Cabots of Broadway, where we meet Kate and John Cabot, who start the whole family on a theatrical career.

Act Two is Three Sister in Repertory and Act Three is The Great Stalinski.  I’m really proud of this play and have been sending it out religiously.

As always, my plays are on New Play Exchange.  I’m sorry more of you can’t see or read the plays just yet, but I’m working on it.  It’s hard work.

Some Nice Words About My Ten Minute Play.

So, if you’re a fan of my blog (and maybe you should be), I’ve discovered that earlier in the month a couple of playwrights on the New Play Exchange, where I host my plays hoping that someone will read them and want to produce them, have read my play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter).

I am thrilled to say that both liked the play very much and have written some wonderful comments about that are posted on my New Play Exchange profile.

Here’s what they said:

2 Oct. 2018
 I think every writer, but especially those of ten minute plays, can relate to this ten minute play about ten minute plays and writing in general. From explaining what a ten minute play is, to thinking that what we’ve crafted is the best ten minute play ever. sing a picture of Jimmy Carter seems to be about the most ten minute play thing ever. Did I mention this is a ten minute play about ten minute plays? Because it is and I think it might be slightly brilliant. 

 

2 Oct. 2018
 Irreverently funny, Greg Hatfield strikes the right tone with a two-hander reminiscent of the style of May/Nichols. 
Thank you, Everett and Robert.  I really appreciate it.
Everett is hailed as “one of our best new children’s authors” by Heartland Play Publishers, Everett Robert is an award winning author, playwright, actor, and director with over 20 years of experience.  His website is:  http://www.emergencyroomproductions.com
Robert is a playwright with many productions under his belt.
Both men are members of the New Play Exchange.  I had the opportunity to meet both men at the Midwest Dramatists Conference recently, where our plays were given a reading, and their plays stood out among the group.
Thanks again, guys.

Update: October

My play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), had a reading at the Midwest Dramatists Conference, near Kansas City, on Saturday, September 29.  The conference gave me a chance to hob-nob with theater folk and just talk about plays for a few days.  Playwright Sean Grennan and agent Beth Blickers were there all weekend giving feedback to playwrights as the plays were being presented.

It went great.  Lots of laughs (which is good, since it is a comedy) and positive feedback from the judges.  My actors were great.  Brie Henderson as Gwen and Curtis Smith as Peter delivered the lines perfectly.  Thanks to those two for wonderful performances.

I’m glad I went to the conference.  The organizers were very good.  I’ve done a few conferences in my career and I know how hard it could be.  They took very good care of us.  David Hanson, Vicki Vodrey, Lindsay Adams were all really really nice people.  (David Hanson directed my play, too.

I met other playwrights from all over the country who attended and talked to them about their work and how they approached getting their stuff out there.  I was happy to meet Tim Toepel (who had worked with Steve Allen), Morgan Trant Kinnally, Linda Paul, Sharon Goldner, and many others.

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I was impressed with the actors the conference had for the readings.  There was about 15-18 actors doing almost 50 plays and they were very good.  It’s really an actor’s dream to have so many different parts to play.  Shoutouts to Brie and Curtis (in my play, but good in others, too).   Laura Jacobs and Nicole Hall were great, and I mean great, in everything they did over the weekend.  I’ve got parts for both of them in a couple of plays of mine.

So now, we move on to other things.  Thanks for reading.  If you’re a member, all of my plays are on New Play Exchange under my name.

What’s New?

So, writing plays is pretty cool.  My one-act play, The Ten Minute Play (With a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter) has been selected for a reading at the Midwest Dramatist Conference in late September, in Kansas City.  I’ll be attending and participating in panels and see my play being performed.

Another one-act play, Mundy Tuesday Friday, was selected over the summer as a Finalist by the Shakespeare in the Burg theater company in Middleburg, Virginia.  Of course, it would have been nice to have the play actually produced, but the director of the company is very nice.  I’ve received several nice rejections for this play from other companies.   One day, somebody’s going to pick this up and stage it.

The biggest news (and I know I’m burying the lede) is that I just finished a full-length play called The Cabots of Broadway.  It’s a comedy about three generations of actors.  Each act is about one generation and how they became the First Family of the Theater.  I’ve been submitting it to theater festivals around the country in the hopes that someone loves it and wants to do it.   I love it.  It’s my best work so far.

All of my plays ( I have several)  are available on New Play Exchange (https://newplayexchange.org/users/14397/greg-hatfield) under my name.

So there you have it.  Updates.  While you’re here, go ahead and read some of the older posts.  The Crosby post is good, as is the Grace Metalious post.  I’m also fond of the Harpo and Dorothy Parker posts.  And if you want to cry a little, The Day the Sheriff Shot My Dog is up your alley.

Thanks for reading.

So, What’s Been Going On: An Update

I feel like I’m close to finishing some of the essays I’ve been working on.  Just to give you a preview of what is in store for my readers, I have the following in various stages of completion:

A Short History of the Dublin Gate Theater, featuring the founders, Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammoir.  This has been all-consuming lately, with the reasons detailed in my essay.  Founded in 1928, in Dublin, Ireland, the Gate is one of the longest-consecutive running theaters in the world.  It’s difficult writing about productions and actors you’ve never personally seen (except maybe in filmed clips), but I hope to get across the passion and brilliance of both Edwards and MacLiammoir, and all the paths that lead to them.

What Moss Hart Means to Me.  Playwright and director Moss Hart was a very talented man, known for being George S. Kaufman’s most successful collaborator.  He certainly influenced my life and Hart has seen a bit of a renaissance lately with the production of his autobiography, Act One, on Broadway, so I’ll take a look at his career and life.

I’m trying to figure out a couple of stories about, well, me.  I’d like to write about a play I directed in college, Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, because it was memorable and interesting, I think.  I might also write about my time in comedy, starting with The Act, my duo with Scott Levy.  I may also publish some unpublished work, including parts of my novel The Dick Beaks Show, or sketches that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.

This is all part of the bigger picture leading to my memoirs called Scrap Heap.

In the meantime, it’s the start of the holiday season, so my timeless Bing Crosby article gets shoved to the front.

See you soon.

G

Der Bingle: A Short Appreciation of Bing Crosby

 

Der Bingle:  A Short Appreciation of Bing Crosby

 

He was once the most popular singer ever.

He recorded over 1600 songs over a 58 year recording career.  His records have sold over one billion copies.  He had 38 number one hits, including the most popular song ever.

He appeared on about 4000 radio programs.

His television show regularly was watched by over 50 million people weekly.

He appeared in 83 movies and sold over one billion tickets, which puts him third overall on the most popular actor category, behind Clark Gable and John Wayne.  He was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won one, and introduced fourteen Oscar nominated songs in these films, which won four.

He is largely forgotten, with the exception of this time of year, where his music is rotated liberally and his name is synonymous with the holiday season.

He is Bing Crosby whose life and legacy still live on among those of us who cherish popular singing.

An early Crosby album on Decca.

An early Crosby album on Decca.

 

And that’s what he was, a popular singer, singing songs of every type and genre, with an easy-going style that belied his immense talent.  Bing made it look easy and everyone, from all walks of life, would enjoy his music.  And man, that voice, that incomparable voice; that deep baritone that takes every musical phrase seriously and glides it to its musical height.  Jazz, ballads, blues, cowboy songs, hymns, show tunes – he sang practically everything, captivating his audience with those full, rich notes.  They clung to every word, every syllable, as Bing invented what became the crooner.  Many tried to imitate.  Sinatra started out as a Bing clone.

What made me start thinking of Crosby was the programming of local radio.  Several stations here in Cincinnati – as I am sure other cities have done the same thing — have begun playing Christmas music 24/7.  I had the occasion to listen to a large block of that programming one night and noticed that, roughly, one out of six songs were songs by Crosby, including at least two versions of White Christmas, the aforementioned most popular song ever, with sales of over 100 million.

WhiteChristmasPoster

 

I thought about that.  I thought about how much I like Crosby’s music and mused sadly that this is probably the only time of the year in which Crosby is played on mainstream radio.  SiriusXM radio even has a channel devoted this time of year called “Bing Crosby Christmas Radio”.  To be fair, you can listen to Crosby songs on Sirius’ 40’s channel and Pandora and Spotify also program Crosby music into your specific playlists.

TMC does show the occasional Crosby film, Going My Way being the most popular.  Sometimes a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” picture pops up, but these are mostly dated comedies and, as much as I love Bob Hope, his humor is very topical and era-specific.

Going My Way poster

Yes, Bing Crosby has some skeletons in his closet.  He could be aloof and dismissive.  He probably wasn’t the greatest father to his four sons by his first marriage, but apparently redeemed himself by his second marriage, with three children.

(There’s a biography of Bing called The Hollow Man, which presents a less than flattering portrait of him.  For years, during my friends and my annual White Elephant Christmas party, we gave away the same copy of this book each year to some unsuspecting recipient, who was obliged to give it away the following year.

An unflattering look at Bing.

An unflattering look at Bing.

My friend, Rick Simms, né Clem Coffee, said that if “One fifth of what was written in that book is true, Bing Crosby was the most despicable man who ever lived.”  And Clem liked Bing Crosby.

A better biography is Gary Giddins’ Bing Crosby:  A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years 1903-1940.  This came out in 2001, with a promised second volume that is taking some time to see print.

So, this holiday season, when you hear Bing Crosby sing those delightful Christmas carols that can make the other ones seem lame, pause and reflect just one minute that the man you’re listening to is a superstar in the world of popular music.  And if you have Pandora or Spotify, give a listen to some of his other non-holiday music.  I’ll bet you’ll end up liking it and wanting more.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on my vinyl copy of Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings.

 

 

 

 

Ernest Hemingway: A Short Overview with No Insights into His Writing, Life or Otherwise

A while back, I presented a book proposal on the deaths of famous writers.  An editor suggested it for me and I sketched out some rough outlines of Poe, Hemingway and Dorothy Parker (Mrs. Parker’s entry is here on the blog, and I’m sure the Poe entry will show up sooner or later.  Since I’m terribly late in posting my latest story, I’m filling in with this chestnut, complete now with visuals.  I hope you enjoy it. — Hat

Ernest Hemingway:  A Short Overview with No Insights into His Writing, Life or Otherwise

On the morning of July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway, quite possibly the finest writer America has ever produced, selected a shotgun he had bought from Abercrombie & Fitch from his gun cabinet, fired once, and blew his head off.  He was just two weeks shy of his 62nd birthday.

EH at Work

At the time of his suicide, Hemingway was just a shell of his former self, both physically and mentally.  He had suffered severe injuries, including a skull fracture, internal organs ruptured and spinal damage during a plane crash on safari in Uganda in 1954.  More recently, Hemingway had undergone a series of electroshock treatments at the Mayo Clinic to help him with his bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies.  The treatments, subsequently, erased his memories and Hemingway lost his ability to write.  He became even more paranoid and depressed and drank up to a quart of liquor a day, which affected his mood.

Hemingway

It’s hard to measure the impact Hemingway has had on American literature. There have been many imitators, but few could match his prowess.  His prose was distinctively his own voice, simple and direct, with a journalist’s eye for capturing detail.  His heroes are all masculine, a “man’s man” and the public relished reading about activities that they could only dream about — bullfighting in Spain, African safaris, wild nights of drinking.

EH at the Bullfights

EH 1306N

He was lauded as the finest writer of the 20th Century for his novels, The Sun Also Rises (which influenced a generation of “Beat” writers), A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953).  Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

 Orson Welles remembered:  “I saw Hemingway after he got the Nobel Prize, which Ordoñez, the bullfighter, used to call “the Swedish prize.” I don’t know why that always struck me as a funny name for it. Well, when Ernest got the Swedish Prize—not in his official speech, but to the press when he arrived—he said, “You shouldn’t have given it to me—you should have given it to Isak Dinesen.”  There he was in Scandinavia, so it was very nice for her. I didn’t know how nice until I mentioned it to him one day in Paris. He flew into a rage. It seems he hated her. The old Baron Blixen—her husband—was Hemingway’s great pal out of Africa, and (Dinesen) had left him for another man. Finch Hatton, wasn’t it? The white hunter.”

A Farewell

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hemingway-for-whom-the-bell-tolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(These are First Edition Covers.  I will gladly take any off your hands.)

 

Leaving Cuba during Castro’s military coup, Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary, made their home in Ketchum, Idaho.  In the immediate aftermath of Hemingway’s suicide, Mary claimed the gun accidentally discharged and said Hemingway had left no note.  President Kennedy called Hemingway one of America’s greatest authors and “one of the great citizens of the world.”  Hemingway is buried in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho.

EH Grave EH Library EH and Castro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidebar:

His father, a brother and a sister, and his granddaughter, the model and celebrity Margaux, all committed suicide.

Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, died a transsexual by the name of Gloria in a cell at a women’s jail in 2001.

Dorothy Parker: “I do not care what is written about me so long as it is not true.”

A while back, I presented a book proposal on the deaths of famous writers.  An editor suggested it for me and I sketched out some rough outlines of Poe, Hemingway and my favorite, Dorothy Parker.  Since I’m terribly late in posting my latest story, I’m filling in with this chestnut, complete now with visuals.  I hope you enjoy it. — Hat

Dorothy Parker:  “I do not care what is written about me so long as it is not true.”

When Dorothy Parker died on June 7, 1967, her death surprised many people.  After reading her obituary in the New York Times, they shook their heads in disbelief.  They thought she had died years ago.  Indeed, death came much too late in life for Mrs. Parker.  The famed literary wit of the 1920’s had, after all, attempted suicide on at least three different occasions.  After her second attempt, her friend, the humorist Robert Benchley warned her that if she wasn’t careful she was “likely to make herself sick.”   On her 70th birthday, she said if she had any manners, she “should be dead by now.  All of my friends are.”

Mrs. Parker and Mr. Benchley

Alone and forgotten at her death, Dottie had lived the last years of her life in her beloved New York, where she had made her biggest contribution.  She was the darling of the Algonquin Round Table, whose ranks included the most famous drama critic of the day Alexander Woollcott;  widely read newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams (from whose poetry style of light verse Dottie borrowed heavily);  award-winning playwright George S. Kaufman;  and the New Yorker founder Harold Ross.  Ironically, she outlived all but two of its members.

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The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld

Dottie was one of the original staffers at Ross’ new magazine, the New Yorker, where she is credited with creating the prototypical “New Yorker Short Story,” that is a story under 7000 words, urbane, witty and well-written.  But her biggest success came from her poetry;  short, humorous poems, usually about suicide or failed relationships, that she called “trifles,” never taking it seriously, but nonetheless knowing its popularity among her readers.  In the early days of the struggling magazine, Ross scolded her for turning in an article late.  “Sorry,” she said, “someone else was using the pencil.”

The New Yorker’s first issue, 1925
Mrs. Parker, Benchley and Woollcott were all on the “advisory” staff

“I hate writing.  I love having written.”

She published seven books during her lifetime, collections of her short stories and poetry, including Enough Rope (1926), Sunset Gun (1927), Death and Taxes (1931) and After Such Pleasures (1933).  She won the O. Henry Prize for “Outstanding Short Story” in 1939 for her story, Big BlondeA collection from her entire body of work, The Portable Dorothy Parker, was first published in 1944 and remains in print today, bringing thousands of new readers every year.  As she grew older, she and her then-husband Alan Campbell moved to Hollywood, where they worked on screenplays.  Dottie, Alan and Robert Carson were nominated for an Academy Award for their screenplay for the 1937 film, A Star is Born.

Always a champion for social causes, upon her death Mrs. Parker left her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Upon his assassination, the rights reverted to the NAACP.  Author Lillian Hellman was the executor of Dottie’s estate, but never claimed her ashes for burial, after finding out, and getting angry, that Dottie hadn’t left her the rights to her literary works.  Mrs. Parker’s ashes languished in a box in an attorney’s office for over fifteen years before the NAACP took Dottie’s remains and interred them in a memorial garden at their national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.  Dorothy had her own suggestion for her epitaph:

“Excuse my dust.”

Sidebar:

The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with her likeness, as part of the Literary Arts series on August 22, 1992, on what would have been Mrs. Parker’s 99th birthday.

Mrs. Parker isn’t the only Round Table member to be commemorated on a postage stamp.  Others include:

Artist Neysa McMein

Author Edna Ferber

Playwright Moss Hart

A film of her life, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, directed by Alan Rudolph and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, was released in 1994 and released on DVD in 2006.

See the trailer here:

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1621950745/

The Book Scavenger

(Starting a new series of blogs where I write about not only the books I enjoy, but how these books came into my possession.  I hope to be able to share finding selected titles, the cost (because I’m always looking for a deal) and the connection a person has to his/her books.)

Books are not just items to read.  In many ways, books are comfort food, ever-lasting friends and, even, trophies.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about someone, well, reading books and I hope you’ll share with me your own experiences.  We can have a dialogue on Facebook as to why the printed word, bindings and covers are so important to many of us.)
The Book Scavenger

I love books.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed reading, and having, books.  It started with the Hardy Boys, that venerable institution of boy detective stories that began its run in the mid-18th century, I believe, with its first few stories written by Benjamin Franklin.  Ben fancied himself a detective ever since he solved the Mystery of the Missing Rum Barrel, at the First Meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774.  (Spoiler Alert:  John Adams had hidden it in the belfry so members wouldn’t be drunk by the time he was scheduled to speak near the end of the program.)

By the time I got into the series, in elementary school, I had discovered the school library, where two books stood out, Little Britches by Ralph Moody, and a biography of the great Sauk warrior, Chief Black Hawk.

Little Britches was what we now call historical autobiographical fiction.  In it, Moody told the tale of his family’s move from New Hampshire to Colorado, when he was about 10.  His father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and it was hoped the dry air would help his father’s breathing.  Mostly the book was a story about a city kid finding his way on the ranch.  It resembled Green Acres, now that I think about it.  The family from the city bought the worst farm in Colorado, the Haney farm it was called.  Crops wouldn’t grow. The ground was hard as a rock and they had no real water source.  They had no experience being ranchers, so they were destined to fail.  The difference between the Moody family and the Douglas’ was that Oliver and Lisa were incredibly wealthy and the Moody’s were poor.

But for a kid my age, roughly 9 or 10 years old, it was a great story.  Because Ralph was my age during this time of the story, I related to him.  He did everything I would have done.  He went a got a job at one of the more successful farms in the neighborhood.  He learned to farm properly, learned to ride horses and worked side by side with some real cowboys.  It turned out Ralph had a real knack for handling horses and became a real expert with them.  When his father eventually died from his illness, Ralph, just barely a teenager, became the man of the family, and a series of book were born.

I found out there were eight books in Moody’s series, and I tried to find them all.  I found most of them at the library, but a couple have eluded me all these years.  I still hunt for them at used bookstores.  I believe I own four of the books in my library, and have read seven of the series.

The biography of Chief Black Hawk, founder of the hockey team in Chicago, was an interesting book to me.  As a kid, I had no political leanings, other than thinking that Jackie Kennedy sure did look different than Mamie Eisenhower, but as I read the book and read about the injustices done to the American Indian, I knew that wasn’t right.

Black Hawk was the leader of the Sauk tribe in Illinois and Wisconsin.  He fought against the American movement west of the Mississippi, until, of course, the white man figured out that bombing everything in sight might win them the battles.  Black Hawk didn’t go down without a fight, though.  He fought with the British during the War of 1812 (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) and in 1832, he played a major role in a war so big they named it after him – The Black Hawk War.

I’ve never been able to find this book, however.  I have no clue as to the author, but if you run across a young adult biography of one of the greatest Native American chiefs in history, let me know.

The Rest of the South Wall of the library at the Hatfield Ranch.

So, back to the Hardy Boys.

The books began their publishing life in 1927 and were written by F.W. Dixon, a pseudonym for Leslie McFarlane and others, although the Hardys were created by Edward Stratemeyer, who had also created Nancy Drew and Tom Swift.  All told, there are 58 original books with 38 revisions of the originals.

The books I got were revised versions with blue covers and, as I found out later, had been updated to reflect the 60’s.  No, Frank and Joe didn’t burn their draft cards or smoke pot or listen to the Grateful Dead (although it wouldn’t have hurt Frank who was always uptight).  They were clean cut kids, the sons of a famous private eye, and who always did their homework and were in bed by 9:00.

Now this is where the collecting part comes in.  On the back covers of these Hardy Boys books, the complete list of titles was shown.  I think at the time I was reading the books there were maybe 20 of the revised editions available, so I had reference to what I wanted.  As a kid, I read as many as I could get my hands upon, which was a lot, because the books were priced kid-friendly and they were readily available.  I also had the chance to read some of the older books because a friend of mine across the street had them.  He was an older teen and had outgrown them and gave them to me.  I still have them.

My mother didn’t seem to mind me wanting those Hardy Boys books, so I milked it and got practically every book on the list, with one exception.  I never could find The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, which purportedly, revealed how you could become a detective just like Frank and Joe.  When I was in the 6th grade, I became friends with the brother of the cutest girl in my class who had a copy of the book and he had actually gotten hold of some Plaster of Paris and had made a plaster cast of a footprint!  If that wasn’t detective-ing, I didn’t know what was!  We hung out a couple of times trying to decide what kind of detective work we wanted to do and it kind of fizzled out when he wouldn’t sell me the book.  I still don’t have that book.

But I had a Hardy Boys collection that rivaled anyone I knew.  I think I stopped reading the Hardy Boys when I discovered James Bond in the early 1960’s.  In 1962, the first James Bond movie, Dr. No was released and the paperback racks were flooded with reprints of the Fleming novels.

I somehow got my hands on Peyton Place by Grace Metalious.  It was a giant best-seller in the late 1950’s and copies were readily available, especially after the television program launched in the early 60’s.  It was certainly a different style of book for me and though I could tell the writing was a bit clunky, it was steamy enough to be interesting.  I didn’t read another book of that type until Valley of the Dolls came along.

Bookstores were an anomaly to me at the time.  Other than the library, I really didn’t visit any bookstore.  The library was where you went to get hardbacks because every corner drug store or newsstand had a rack of mass market paperbacks that adults bought.  Most of the paperbacks were 25 cents, with some costing 50 cents.

I remember the biggest department store in Cincinnati, Shillito’s, having a large book selection.  Later, I went to Kidd’s Bookstore downtown, with four floors of books, and then discovered this place called Ohio Bookstore and nearly next to it Acres of Books.

Ohio Bookstore is still in existence and it can be both a treasure trove of used books, and a frustrating collection of books, depending on what you’re looking for.  The guys there are great and can generally tell you where a particular book might be.  They have a nice collection of paperbacks and several tables of mass markets.  Prices are reasonable too.

My favorite used bookstore, back in the old days, was Bertrand Smith’s Acres of Books on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati.  There were at least three floors of books.  It was the kind of place I’ve always loved:  Dimly lit, the musty smell of used books fragrant in the air and the chance that dust would cloud the space above your head when you touched a book that had sat there for months, even years.

I bought my first copy of Moss Hart’s Act One there.  It was one of the books that changed my life.  The store had at least six copies on the shelf and I had my pick of the best.  The prices were very good, too.  It was a feat of endurance to browse the entire store on a semi-regular basis.

(I later found out there was an Acres of Books in Long Beach.  I was in Long Beach in 2010 and passed an old building with “Acres of Books” on the front.  I found out that Smith had opened this store decades ago, until the space of taken for area redevelopment, the same as his location in Cincinnati.)

So where do you go for used books these days?  A few places in Cincinnati are great for browsing.  Dutenhofer’s in CliftonHeights is a good place to start, and although I don’t like their premium pricing, I still go there.  The aforementioned Ohio Book Store is a must visit.  There used to be a place in the Mohawk area on McMicken Avenue call The Bookstore and owned by a University of Cincinnati professor.  The hours were so random and the store had no real days and times that it became frustrating to visit on the chance that they were open.  I haven’t been there in a couple of years, so if it’s open, let me know.

Bonnett’s in Dayton, Ohio is great for book and pop culture lovers, although the store is in closed quarters, so if you’re claustrophobic, you may want to avoid it.  But it has that used book smell that is as appealing as a bakery on a spring day.

Half Price Books has several stores in the area and I like to go to every single one because the mix is different at each one.  They used to be better when they first opened because their inventory consisted largely of the books they bought from customers.  Now, they have a ton of remainders and promotional books and, when I visited one store this past weekend, J.K. Rowling’s new book for sale in a promo shipper for 20% off regular price.  (The irony is, when the book becomes a cut-out due to over printing and sells for pennies on the dollar, Half Price Books will already have the inventory in stock.)  But, I can always find books to buy there, especially in their clearance section (which used to be a dollar, but are now two dollars.)  Look for coupons and special days of sales, which make it worthwhile.

But I mostly love the thrift stores.  St. Vincent DePaul stores are better than Goodwill, which are better than Valley Thrift.  Some of the St. Vincent DePaul stores have hundreds of used books, priced at 50 cents for paperbacks and $1.00 for hardbacks.  They also have specials frequently and the selection is good.

I do shop at Betterworldbooks.com and thriftbooks.com and I check out Amazon and Abebooks (owned by Amazon now).

I’m not opposed to reading books digitally.  I have several books on my Kindle Fire and a couple on my laptop.  If I find an interesting e-book, I will read it and then look for a hard copy.

Good luck with your book hunting because that’s the thrill of scouring used book stores.  Discovery plays a big part in going to used book stores.  The chance to find a book and be able to say, “I didn’t know there was a book on that!”  Finding the one book that has eluded you all your life and suddenly seeing it on the shelf is a feeling that cannot be conveyed.  But if I get there first, I’m going to buy it before you.