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Origins of the Collection

The Secret Origins of the George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

by George Kelley

photo of george kelleyIt all started when my Mom threw out my comic book collection while I was away at summer camp.

When I returned after a week of fighting bugs, I was stunned by the neatness of my room and the emptiness of my closet that once held over 1,000 comic books. Yes, I had Fantastic Four #1. And a complete run of The Flash, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, and Blackhawk. When I show my Mom comic book price guides today, she's the one who's stunned at the astronomic prices of the "junk" she disposed of.

Nature abhors a vacuum and once my comic books were gone it was time to collect something else. I was drawn to science fiction paperbacks published by ACE Books. They were funky double books bound back to back with two covers. Great cover artists like Ed Emsh and Jack Gaughan were at the height of their powers. They were a step up from comic book artwork. Eventually, I collected most of the ACE Doubles including the westerns and the mysteries, too.

As a horny teenager, I was drawn to the provocative covers on the "Carter Brown" and Mike Shayne paperbacks. The artist was Robert McGinnis and soon I was buying everything that he illustrated.

When I went to college at Marquette University, Milwaukee had several great used bookstores. I continued to buy and read paperbacks. My Mom, learning from her previous mistake, didn’t try to get rid of any of my new collection. I also tried to protect my collection by placing each paperback book in a plastic, air-tight, Ziploc® storage bag. It was an inexpensive way to protect the high acid paper from browning and discoloring.

In the Seventies, I went to work for Opinion Research Associates of Madison, Wisconsin as a consultant. They sent me everywhere. I logged 100,000 air miles a year. I've been to every state except for Mississippi and Hawaii. And after completing my consulting for the day in every strange town Opinion Research sent me to, I'd head for the used bookstores. Soon my apartment was overflowing with paperback books.

After getting married, I returned to Western New York to pursue a teaching career. I still visited used bookstores in Western New York and Canada. I became a member of a Mystery apa (amateur press association) called DAPA-EM (which stands for "Elementary, My Dear APA"). This group of around 40 hard-core mystery readers and collectors never failed to fire up my interest in new writers or overlooked masters. Of course, I had to find the books--half the fun--before I could read them--the other half. Chasing a title through a dozen used bookstores was great fun.

But like all fun, it eventually comes to an end. The collection was stored in my basement because of the weight: the wooden floors of my house couldn't bear the load of 25,000 books and the shelving to hold them. To protect the books from humidity, mold, and dust of the basement, I continued to place each one of them in a Ziploc® bag. My wife was having trouble weaving her way through the mazes of shelving to the washer and dryer. If I wanted clean clothes, she said, the books would have to go.

So I spoke to Charles D'Aniello, then Coordinator for Collection Development at SUNY at Buffalo's Lockwood Library, about a donation. We worked together with my buddy James Fenn and moved over 25,000 books, magazines, fanzines, and pulps to UB in the Fall of 1995. Judith Adams, then Director of Lockwood Library, marveled at the superb condition of the collection. Many of the paperback books retained their original freshness, due in large part to the Ziploc® bag protection.

Today, the cataloging of the collection is complete and this website will show you some of the goodies that entertained me for three decades. Have fun!

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