Friday, June 18, 2010

Dig Allen, Space Explorer

Once in awhile I am drawn to vintage teen literature. I guess my Trixie Belden reading past (which smoked Nancy Drew) causes me to wax sentimental when I stumble across any G-rated novel for yesterday’s youth.

This week I was browsing in a used bookstore and I came across a book that looked, at a glance, much like the old yellow-spined Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. This one, however, had a cover illustration of three boys and a grown man in spacesuits kneeling down and examining what appeared to be an elaborate city under ice. The title read “Lost City of Uranus,” and at the very top it said “A Dig Allen Space Explorer Adventure.” The copyright was 1962. I was immediately drawn to the nostalgia of 1960s sci-fi, a time of innocent wonder at space exploration before sophisticated cynicism, in my opinion, perverted much of sci-fi into the borderline horror of today.

The penciled-in price read 12.00, and even though that seemed a bit steep for Half-Priced Books, I took it to the counter along with two other books. I was startled when the lady said my total would be 7.00 +. I hesitated, wondering if I should count my blessings and run. But curiosity got the better of me and, pointing to the Dig Allen book, I asked, “How much was that?”

“1.00,” the lady said, opening the inside cover to have another look. “Oh no! “ she exclaimed. ”This is 12.00!” Of course, I expected her to reward my honesty, but instead she thanked me for it and charged me the correct amount.

Now feeling incredibly stupid, I paid for and took my purchase. As I explained the situation to my mom, mom suggested I ask the owner of the bookstore, who was currently behind the customer service counter, why this particular book was so much. The man explained that the Dig Allen series , of which there were six total, had been intended to be the new Hardy Boys. However, they had not sold well, and as a result there were only so few printed. That’s why my book cost so much.

Upon hearing this, Mom said to me, “Well, you just paid extra for a flop.” The man hastened to contradict her, but his explanation had already done the damage.

Feeling even more ridiculous, I left with mom. She encouraged me to return the book if I had reservations (and I really should have between the clerk not sticking to the price she originally named and the man explaining to me what a disaster the series had been), but I didn’t.

So last night I started the book, which I thought would be a quick and semi-delightful read, but so far it hasn’t captured me. However, the cover -- the boys in spacesuits exclaiming over a brilliant, extra-terrestrial city under ice – makes me very happy to look at. So I’m keeping it. And I WILL read it, since I paid for it. But from now on I will ASK why a book is so expensive, just in case it is, ironically, because nobody wanted it to begin with.


Dana said...

one would think that the book cost more because there were fewer printed, thus leading to a shortage in the books. Not because it was a flop. Because it was a flop, it should have been way less.....oh well.

Naomi said...

Well, it was expensive because there were fewer printed -- because it was a flop.

Clell Harmon said...

Necroing this old thread, but on the off chance....

The reason that your Dig Allen book is so expensive is because the series failed and the print runs were small.

Now, 50 odd years later, fans of the series, of which I am one, are paying top dollar for whatever copies they can find.

The issue you've got is the only one my collection is lacking. If you've still got the book, I'll double what you paid for it...

Naomi said...

Hey, you got it! Email me@