Miscellany Posted May 14, 2018

Goodbye to Book Castle and Adam Parfrey

On Saturdays in the mid to late sixties, pre-teen science fiction and comic book enthusiast me would hop the RTD bus from West LA to comb the unadorned wooden shelves and cardboard boxes of Hollywood Boulevard's Cherokee Book Shop and Bond Street Books. I had grown up doing stockwork over the Summers at Campbell's bookstore in Westwood Village which served much of the UCLA community, but had not yet really been exposed to the whole used bookstore experience. In their own separate ways, Cherokee and Bond Street were for me that introduction.


Bert Blum was the younger brother of Cherokee's owner Gene who ran a separate comics shop upstairs - one of the very first in the city. Unlike the Village Rexall Drugs which only stocked that month's titles, Cherokee dealt in out of date back issues going back to the Golden Age, which were of course what I really coveted. Bert was young-ish and hip, and I was pretty sure he indulged in at least modest drug use when he wasn't haggling with his youthful clientele of buyers and sellers. I met any number of like-minded proto-nerds there - many of whom later went on to have jobs in the comics industry.


A couple blocks away, just south of the Boulevard on Wilcox, was Bond Street Books. Bond Street had not as comprehensive a selection of comics, but did possess a magnificent array of back issues of every science fiction magazine imaginable - including my favorites at the time, Galaxy, Analog, and the occasional New Worlds. It's interior was spartan and unruly, and owner Steve Edrington was notably cranky and sarcastic. You needed to be tough to keep going back there with as little available funds as I had then, but I loved that place and so I did. I was impressed by Steve’s way of keeping customers in line, and upon reflection have to think that for better or worse  - as my lovely partner Whitney would convincingly argue - subconsciously some of it creeped into my own later retail persona… Soon enough though, those weekend trips took a back seat to having girlfriends and listening to (and beginning to play) music. By my High School years they were but a distant memory, though I tried to catch up with Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and R.A. Lafferty when I could.


Cut to the early eighties, in my post-Rhino Records, pre-Arcana period of learning to become a bookseller, and therefore exploring each and every local used book store for potential inventory and inspiration. Upon entering Burbank Book Castle on the Golden Mall for the first time, I was mesmerized. A former Woolworth's as I recall, it was cavernous, and filled to its mezzanine with every subject matter imaginable. The bookcases were mostly constructed from old wooden fruit crates stacked up and pushed back-to-back with one another to form lengthy aisles. While there were numerous reasonably priced art and photography book finds to be made each trip, Hollywood was king here. Book Castle had thousands of books, scripts, film stills and one-sheets, and scores of thousands of back issue magazines of all kinds. I found out it was owned by a trio of book dealers - most notably one which was the very same Steve Edrington from Bond Street. Upon seeing him, he not only hadn't changed physically one bit, but also had lost none of his sharp-tongued repartee. Along with Dutton's, Book Castle became my primary reason for frequent treks out to the east Valley in those days when bargains were still to be had.


In the ensuing years both of Steve's partners departed, and he actually bought a building just north on San Fernando Boulevard and rechristened the new place Book Castle and Movie World. While a tenth the size of the previous store, it seemingly housed just about the same amount of stock, and negotiating the aisles was not for the faint of heart. Steve's nephew Mitchell manned the counter most days, and against all odds efficiently rode herd on the miles of newspapers and periodicals still housed in the underground catacombs of their original location two doors down. The shop was a mainstay for gifts, reference, and set decoration for the local Film studios and creatives for decades before the internet changed the ways these things work. Even over the past few years after they jettisoned the mags and papers and stopped buying much, there were always untold treasures to be found on those shelves, boxes, and toppled stacks on the floor. Visiting only a month ago, Mitchell was as usual beleaguered with being half the staff that day, but also unfailingly polite and attentive. He still to this day calls me sir! Steve was as acerbic and funny as ever, even though the process of finally closing up his shop after a run of fifty-one years had begun. At least this was because he sold the building and actually had something to show for all of that time.


Today was Steve, Mitchell, and Movie World's last day. And while those two are due for a well-deserved rest, I'm gonna miss those guys.


In some additional sad news, I just learned that author and publisher extraordinaire Adam Parfrey passed away this past weekend at his Port Townsend, Washington home. Adam was a longtime mainstay of the the local book scene, first via the storied Amok, and later promoting authors and the dissemination of transgressive cultural knowledge by way of his Feral House and Process Media imprints. Some favorite publications of these to be found on my personal shelves include his own "Apocalypse Culture" and “Sin-a-Rama”, guilty pleasure "Ye-Ye Girls", the amazing color photographs of Leon Kagarise's "Pure Country", biographies of Roky Erickson, The Germs, Moondog, Ed Wood, and Walter Keane, and his former wife and partner Jodi Wille's extensively researched "The Source" - the companion book to her awesome documentary film of the same name. And in a suitably spooky “coincidence – perhaps not” occurrence, I had just begun re-reading Feral House’s biography of Pasadena’s own pioneering rocket scientist and occult legend Jack Parsons entitled “Sex and Rockets” this past Friday... While many of the most memorable personalities in the book world tend towards the idiosyncratic, Adam was truly one of a kind who carried on a unique mission. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

Lee Kaplan 



Photograph of Steve Edrington at Book Castle and Movie World by John McCoy via dailynews.com

Photograph of Adam Parfrey and Jodi Wille by Andrew Hultkrans via artforum.com