'The Dartmouth MysteryIn June 1920, a few minutes after a dispute at a Dartmouth College dorm room, Bob Meads, a sophomore, who sold bootlegged whiskey he sourced from Canada, fatally shot senior, Hank Maroney of the Theta Delta Fraternity. Another Dartmouth College sophomore at the time, Clifford “Kip” Orr, deeply affected by the murder of his classmate, captured the atmosphere of the stunned college campus in a fictional mystery novel, titled The Dartmouth Murders, which was published in 1929. Unlike the true crime event, Orr’s story had imaginary characters and described 3 murders at three different Dartmouth campus locations. The killer was a music professor at the college.

The Dartmouth Murders, first appeared in serial form as The Dartmouth Mystery, in a magazine titled College Humor, Vol.18:2-4 (September-November,1929). The novel was published in book format by Farrar and Rinehart, during the publisher’s inaugural year (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1929). It did, in fact, come out on the day of the stock market crash, October 29, 1929. Despite the disclosure on a title page: “All events and all important characters in this story are entirely imaginary,” the image on the dust-jacket with the Dartmouth Hall clock outline, underneath the title The Dartmouth Murders, subconsciously alluded to the 1920 actual murder.

Orr dedicated his book to Franklin McDuffie, class of 1921, in the Dartmouth English Department. The story was copyrighted by the Collegiate World Publishing Company (College Humor). After Franklin McDuffee graduated from Dartmouth, he became an English professor at the College, and soon after that, at the urging of President Ernest Martin Hopkins, class of 1901, wrote the words to the College’s tribute anthem Dartmouth Undying.

The Farrar & Rinehart first edition of the book, featuring Joe Pye’s green art on its dust jacket, and showing the Dartmouth Hall in the background, is quite scarce. It is currently held by several institutions. The Dartmouth College Rauner Special Collections Library, has several copies, some signed by the author, and it also has Orr’s original manuscript. There have not been any sales recorded by our own Rare Books Sales Monitor in recent years, and there are no copies currently available for sale. It is thus quite difficult to provide an estimated on this book’s value.

The Dartmouth Murders

The reprint edition, published by Grosset and Dunlap












The reprint edition, published by Grosset and Dunlap, carries an orange band printed on top of the Dartmouth Hall image, with the blurb: “’Absorbing and dramatic mystery and crime.’ – Transcript’ . . . five feverish days on the campus . . . sensational.’ -New York Herald-Tribune’ . . . suspense and horror sustained to the end, with an unexpected solution of the problem.’ -Boston Evening Transcript.” Grosset and Dunlap, historically known for its photoplay editions and juvenile series books, was primarily a hardcover reprint house with large volume circulations. This edition of the book, which has the identical format to the Farrar & Rinehart edition, except of course for the change to the dust-jacket image, is actually available for sale on various marketplaces, for less than $100.

The Dartmouth Murders, was made into a movie in 1935, titled A Shot in the Dark (no more Dartmouth on the title). The New York Times panned the movie version for which Orr wrote the script, with the critic: “an inability to be properly mysterious…..excessively routine…. lead actors subscribe to the wooden Indian school of acting.” The star of the movie, Charles Starrett, was fullback on Dartmouth’s 1925 national championship football team, and was a member of the class of 1926, and thus, a late-comer to the 1920 campus murder scene. He did not share the same feelings that Orr did, nor did he know Meads or Maroney (killer and victim) intimately and lacked a spark of realism. Another famous author to be, who joined the college the year following the murder, was Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. He, of course, focused on children’s literature and cartoons. What effect life on campus during the murder could have inflicted on the feel good children’s storyteller? One would never know.


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Cyberpunks among us

by jim on January 28, 2023

We have entered the cyberpunk age. Many of the things that were predicted in cyberpunk literature are here now. The global cyber threat continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with a rising number of data breaches each year. Viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, adware, botnets, SQL injections, phishing cyberattacks developed by malicious programmers, threaten individuals, organizations and governments across the globe. Security programs continue to evolve as new defenses against new risks are being developed.

The term cyberpunk first appeared as the title of a short story written by Bruce Bethke in 1980, and published in Amazing Stories in 19831.  The term was subsequently popularized in the editorials of Gardner Dozois, editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Cyberpunk, a science fiction subgenre, was defined by science-fiction author Bruce Sterling as: “the integration of the realm of high tech and modern underground culture.” Technology has advanced through Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT), social media, mobile devices, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), brain controlled prosthetics, etc. Today, malicious hackers operating underground for financial or political reasons, launch cyberattacks every 39 seconds, according to Cobalt, a pentesting company.

William Gibson, author of  Neuromancer (1984), is arguably the most famous writer connected with the term cyberpunk. The first edition of this landmark winner of one of science fiction’s “triple crown” (Nebula, Hugo and Philip K. Dick Awards), was first published in paperback by Ace Science Fiction. The copyright page states: Ace Original/July 1984 and ISBN: 0-441-56956-0. Front cover art is by James Warhola. The first UK edition of Neuromancer, and first edition printed in hardcover, was published in late 1984. 2 Prices for both editions have risen sharply in recent years, with the paperback selling for a few hundred dollars while the hardcover sells for a few thousand dollars.

Gibson was partially influenced by the landmark cyberpunk film, Blade Runner, which was released in 1982, during the time Gibson was writing Neuromancer.  Blade Runner was based on Philip K. Dick’s blockbuster novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, first published in 1968, and generally cited as proto-cyberpunk. Literary science fiction critics have labeled as proto-cyberpunk a few major forerunners of the cyberpunk movement. Some of these are short stories and others are early sci-fi novels with dystopian future stories, exploring ethical and moral problems with cybernetics and artificial intelligence.

The genre, with its roots in the technical fiction of the 1940s and ’50s, and the dystopian science fiction of the ‘60s and 70’s, matured in the 80’s. American literary critic, Larry McCaffery, in his 1991 book Storming the Reality Studio : a Casebook of Cyberpunk & Postmodern Science Fiction, suggests that Samuel R. Delany’s 1968 novel Nova, is one of the major forerunners of cyberpunk due to the depiction of human interfacing with computers via implants. John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider, is considered by Bruce Bethke, among others, to be the first cyberpunk novel eight years before the term was popularized by Dozois. It depicts a world immersed in e-communication, topped up with surveillance and control of people and societies through information and data. William Gibson’s 1981 short story, Johnny Mnemonic which also became a film in 1995, involves another dystopian future, where human couriers deliver computer data, stored cybernetically in their own minds.

The cyberworld often overlaps with the real world. Computers do not commit crimes but they can be misused. Cyberpunk science fiction writers accurately predicted that there could never be such a thing as total security and created imaginative, malicious hackers resembling those in existence today. The literature of Cyberpunk proved to be a not so distant sci-fi genre. Sci-fi also describes interstellar wars, intergalactic wars or even interplanetary wars which up to this day and age are quite far-fetched. In Cyberpunk, we’ve managed to keep the war on the local battlefield, here on planet Earth.


1 “cyberpunk”.  en.wikipedia.org  Retrieved 2023-01-10.

2 http://www.fedpo.com/BookDetail.php/Neuromancer


Helen Frankenthaler’s Valentine Art

January 11, 2023
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Helen Frankenthaler, a dominant figure in the abstract art world watered my plants when I went away for the weekend.  She lived diagonally across the street from me on a point of land surrounded on three sides by Long Island Sound.  We were neighbors sharing the same street address.  I don’t remember how we started […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – End of 2022 Edition

December 11, 2022
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Back to Boston for the first time since the pandemic, the in-person format had an impact on the performance of the 3rd ABAA Virtual Book Fair: Boston. This year the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) decided to combine the convenience of online commerce with the community of in-person book fairs. The 44th Boston Book […]

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Ballets Russes: a gift to Modernism

November 9, 2022
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The arrival in Europe of the Ballets Russes led by impresario Sergei Diaghilev on the eve of the First World War, revived interest in the ballet and launched the modern era in performance dance. Ballets Russes is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century as well as an important promoter […]

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Our Nobel Prize Nominations of the Literature Laureates

September 19, 2022
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Historical data shows that demand for the works of the Nobel laureates tend to increase in the weeks immediately following the Swedish Academy’s announcement. That is because there are many aspiring Nobel laureate collectors who rush to add some of the latest winner’s offerings to their collections. On a broader scale, readers are generally interested […]

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Father of the American Hard-boiled Detective Stories

August 29, 2022
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Famous authors, whose writings are colored by fictional portrayals of their own real life experiences, are plentiful. Often, authors turn themselves into characters in their fictional novels because they have unique, interesting life stories to write about.  Kurt Vonnegut, for example, who appears as a character in his novel Breakfast of Champions, interacts with several […]

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NFT Usage in the World of Rare Books

June 29, 2022
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NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are digital proofs of a purchase for goods like art, digital music and other valuable collectibles. When auction house Christie’s sold the NFT “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” a collage by the artist Beeple, for $69.3 million in March of 2021, it signaled the dawn of a potential virtual fad. Data […]

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Horticulture Preserved on a Changing Planet

June 6, 2022
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Ahh spring, with its new life, warm weather, and flowers and trees coming into leaf and blossom. In literature, it is perhaps the most popular of the four seasons. Authors, poets and artists find inspiration in the season’s delightful, blooming fruit trees, native plants, edible annuals and perennials, and plethora of culinary and medicinal herbs. […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – New York edition

May 7, 2022
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Think back to 2021. This was supposed to be the year of new openings! A return to pre-pandemic normalcy! Instead, it became the year that failed to live up to its preseason hype. Many of the in-person events were either cancelled or forced to remain virtual. In the Rare Book world, most of the trades […]

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