Keller’s Fedora

Keller's Fedora (6): Block, Lawrence: 9781951939687: Amazon.com: Books

After sitting on my Amazon wish list for months (maybe more than a year) Lawrence Block’s latest Keller novella “Keller’s Fedora” was once again available in paperback. Because I had some gift card money left over from my birthday and not finding any cycling or exercise stuff I could afford (or didn’t need to try on first) I decided to splurge and get the book. In case you had forgotten, Keller is the paid assassin who is also a stamp collector. In case you had also forgotten, this was the character who got me into stamp collecting in the first place. My girlfriend is grateful that I decided to take up Keller’s hobby and collect stamps rather than take up his career and kill people for a living. I don’t bother arguing with her about which one is more lucrative.

I like the Keller novels and I have read all of them a couple of times. As far as assassins go, I would have to say Barry Eisler’s John Rain character is more interesting, but Keller gets good marks for being rather unique and somewhat less than the perfect killing machine.

Most of the reviews on Amazon focused on the fact that the book was rather short and that the trope of Keller’s fedora was a bit ridiculous. I understand the validity of the first complaint, but not the second. Keller has always been an introspective character who thought about a lot of other things to keep from thinking about his job. Focusing on his choice of hats and whether it made sense or how people reacted to it fit in perfectly with a man who had to occupy his thoughts somewhere. I am not into hats, but the idea of Keller wondering about detectives like Sam Spade and Mike Hammer and their relationship with the fedora seemed like a decent enough idea for me.

The story is vintage Keller and I don’t see it as marking a different path than what came before. Keller the hitman has a lot more to contend with in the new age of computer tracking and internet surveillance, but at least he exists in the real world. The writing is crisp and the scenes develop rapidly. What more can you ask for? I would have liked some more stamp moments, but since the author has moved on from stamp collecting, it is likely that this will feature less and less in future Keller adventures. It won’t go away completely, but I doubt it will occupy much of the story. Kind of sad in a way.

As for the length of the novella, I think this isn’t a bad compromise. Keller adventures were originally short stories and they don’t really need to be 300 pages long. Additionally, with Amazon printing to order, this might be a good way for a lot of books to get made. If you have a digital subscription, wouldn’t you love to read short books by your favorite authors? I could read the whole thing on my commute to and from work. If it gets me more stories by these authors, why wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It cost me about 14 dollars and I think the price point is a bit high, but I am not the one making that decision. It would have been much cheaper to have the electronic version of the book, but I haven’t had much luck with my kobo lately. When the library finally opens for real visitors, hopefully someone there can show me how to borrow books for free.

I enjoyed the book and always like the adventures of Keller.

Arrival

If after reading my last post, you were fretting like me, I just wanted to write to reassure you that my stamps have arrived. In fact, they arrived just one day apart.

I must say that it was wonderful to receive the stamps and place them in my albums. It is akin to finishing a jigsaw puzzle when I put the last stamp in its mount on the page, or get the last stamp in a country for my 1970’s collection.

Waiting for My Stamps

Kuwait 513-514 MNH (1970)

In the past month, I have pulled the trigger on a couple of stamp purchases. One was from a prominent stamp site and the other was from a bulletin board site. In both cases, I am still waiting for my stamps. I don’t write this to complain. I am confident in both sellers and know that they have done their part. It’s just that the mail is so slow right now.

Thanks to a layoff, I have lots of time to contemplate my stamp collection, but very little money to do anything about it. With so much uncertainty, it is nice to have my collection, but also a little frustrating.

Of these purchases, one was meant to fill up spaces in my Canadian album. I am doing a good job of collecting the affordable stamps from Canada, and will probably be left with the ones I might not be able to afford soon. In reality, that will mean either getting lower quality stamps, or a slow pace of filling the album. Neither is terrible and only time will tell what I choose.

The other purchase focuses on completing my 1970 collection. I still have a long way to go, but I am truly enjoying this project. 1970 is a great year for stamps. I completed the countries of Finland and Australia. I also added stamps from Iraq and Kuwait among others. Actually, I ordered them. They still haven’t arrived, but there is always today…..

Reading Material

Perhaps it was a coincidence, or perhaps the universe planned it that way. Just as I finished reading Lawrence Block’s book Generally Speaking (a collection of his columns from Linn’s Stamp Magazine) my girlfriend gave me a delayed Christmas present (thank you Amazon) of this book.

I am quite excited to dive in and read it. If I manage to do so, it will be the first book I start (and hopefully finish) in 2021, I have several books that were held over from last year (including Block’s) but I have cleared off all of them except one.

I have a number of books on my Amazon wish list that I want to read, but this is the first anyone has ever bought for me. Perhaps my other family members do not understand the pursuit of philately as well as my girlfriend. Perhaps, my girlfriend is the only one who listens to me.

I enjoyed the Block book, but I think I would have enjoyed the monthly columns more. I cannot find a copy of LInn’s in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and can’t fork over that much money for a subscription without ever seeing a sample copy–I asked, but they were unwilling. I am saving my money for stamps. I would recommend the book.

After Midnight

I found myself staying up very late last night thinking about buying stamps. I am still working on my 1970’s project and I got caught in a trap of comparing various sellers and their shipping fees. If I am going to buy a bunch of stamps, I want to pay the least possible. I also want to get as complete a collection from a country as possible. There’s nothing worse than getting the whole country except for one or two stamps.

It is funny how some sellers charge a couple of cents for each new purchase whereas others charge 50 cents an item. That would certainly add up. I don’t begrudge them the money–it is a business after all. However, I think that fee should be for every ten new items or so.

It was fun searching, but I didn’t pull the trigger on any deals.

Christmas Philately…..sort of

Christmas only brought one new philatelic item. A few books were on my list, as were subscriptions to magazines I shouldn’t collect. What did appear for this boy who was somewhere between naughty and nice was a new magnifying glass. Growing up a magnifying glass was mostly used to burn holes in wood and paper, so having one for my stamps seems novel.

I also took the time to assemble a shelf in my spare room. I will devote several shelves to my stamps, as well as my study of Japanese, and a few travel souvenirs. It isn’t organized yet, but hopefully by tomorrow or the next day. Having seen some fantastic stamp rooms, I am envious.

I haven’t made many stamp purchases as Christmas and purchasing my cycling trainer took precedence. I am also hoping that the new year will once again provide us with stamp shows and other opportunities to enjoy the hobby.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Also, Happy New Year and hoping it is better in all respects.

What philatelic items did you receive or purchase for yourself?

A Book I Have Started Reading

This is not a book review. For it to be a book review, I would have finished the entire book. I haven’t done that yet. I will do that, I just haven’t done that yet. Instead, this is a book introduction.

Anyone who has read some of the previous posts knows that the writing of Lawrence Block got me into stamp collecting. He made it sound interesting again. He wasn’t wrong. I am enjoying the hobby and enjoying that it comes and goes in spurts. I am interested in it for months and then there are months that my attention is diverted elsewhere. You can probably already tell that by the frequency in which I write these posts.

I discovered quite by accident that Mr. Block wrote a column for Linn’s Stamp News for some three years. I had heard of the magazine in his books about Keller the stamp collecting assassin, but never actually read one of them. I checked into a subscription, but never got beyond that. I discovered this book while coasting around Amazon. I search Amazon and YouTube in much the same way. I find lots of cool stuff, but I never know how I got there. That’s why my wish list and my watch later areas are full of stuff.

I’ve read about a quarter of the book and I am enjoying it much like I enjoyed the Keller books. Mr. Block has a straightforward style that is compelling. He gives it to the reader straight. How else could he explain that by the time this book was published that he had given up stamp collecting and sold his collection.

There appear to be a lot of great books about stamps out there, On my other blog I wrote about the One Cent Magenta. That was a more traditional review. I probably should link some of my posts about stamps and philately that are on my other blog. I will link that post and the adventurous amongst you can type in stamps in the search bar. You will find something.

The book contains the 33 columns he wrote and some excerpts from adventures of the aforementioned Keller–probably his stamp collecting and not his killing. They cover a range of topics and are more personal than historical, perhaps more autobiographical or anecdotal. Being a fan of his other writing makes this even more accessible.

I am enjoying this book and plan to read others in the new year.

Do you have any recommendations of some great books about stamps, stamp collecting/philately?

The last stamp needed

My effort to collect every stamp from 1970 got a boost today.  The last stamp I needed to finish my collection of Egyptian stamps for that year finally arrived….and what a strange trip it has been.

I bought what was advertised as the complete year on Ebay.  Sadly, it was missing two stamps, one of which was quite expensive and one of which was moderately priced.  I should have returned the whole set and written a bad review of the seller.  Instead, I took a substantial discount and bided my time.

I managed to collect the more expensive one a few months later.  The less expensive one proved to be a bit more elusive.  There were lots of sellers, but it was hard to justify paying as much for shipping as it was for the stamp.  I had to wait until I found a seller who also had some other things that I wanted.

Come to think of it, maybe that is the ploy.  They have a substantial shipping cost, which forces me to buy more to “make it worth my while”.  I should probably feel a bit duped, but instead, I am so happy to tick off that country in my collection.

I found a seller that was having a sale and bought a bunch of Canadian stamps to fill in some holes in my collection.  This seller also had the elusive Egyptian stamp.  I probably spent more than I wanted to–but that happens all the time.  It happens on the computer and it happens at shows.

The stamp itself is quite interesting and surprisingly large.  It might very well be the largest single stamp I have in my collection.

Stamp Mystery Bag

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The envelope the stamps came in.

I have been reading that Covid 19 and the lockdown has been a boon to stamp collecting.  I am not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that I have ordered more stamps than usual, and that I am spending more time with my collection.  However,  maybe cabin fever has gotten to me.  I am not really sure.  I did something I had not planned to do.  I bought a stamp mystery collection from Ebay.  I don’t know whether it is because of Covid 19 or because the stamps that I ordered for my collection were taking a long time to arrive.  I have been working from home and needed something to do.  So I took a chance because I saw the advertisement while I was playing one of those flash games.

I have seen these advertisements in stamp magazines for the years that I have been interested in this hobby.  I would love a huge box of 20 thousand stamps to explore, but I don’t know what I would do with them afterwards.  That being said, I decided to make this blog (though I considered making a YouTube video first) to show you what I got and maybe you can make your own decision about this.

So, I chose the least expensive lot.  It was listed for 11.99 Canadian and shipping within Canada was included.  I put it in my watch list and was going to come back to it later.  I recieved an email the next day offering me a ten percent discount.  So, now the price was listed at 10.79. (7.73 US today)   I decided to take the gamble.

So this is what I got, and the prices people are trying to get on Hipstamp.  Of course, you can find better deals, but we need some baseline.  The prices I am  listing are sometimes approximations and are in US dollars and do not include a shipping fee.

All stamps were MNH except one of the Canadian stamps and the package was secure.

  • Norway 318 -320 (4 to 5 dollars)
  • Norway 363  ($0.25)
  • Armenia 452-456 ($1.32)
  • Armenia 464-471 ($0.90)
  • Tanzania 816-822 ($7.00)
  • Canada 191 ($0.75)
  • Canada 215 (heavily used)  ($1.50)
  • San Marino 39  I could only find a used version, perhaps a little more than a dollar
  • Iran 1967 (0.75)
  • India C7 ($2.00)
  • Mexico 392-392  I couldn’t find an example of this one, but I consider this a decent find.

So, how did I do?  I think I came out ahead.  At the very least, I don’t feel like I was ripped off.  I have watched a few videos on YouTube which seem to suggest that is a likely scenario.  More importantly,  I enjoyed the thrill of opening the package and discovering what was included.  I appreciate that these stamps came as if I were at a show and going through the index boxes rather than a pile of stamps on paper in a box.

Would I do it again?  I think I would.  I might even go for the bigger batch next time.  If you are interested the headline was “Huge Dealer Liquidation.” and the seller was dr.note. I paid for these stamps myself and I am in no way affiliated with the seller.  I just appreciate not being taken and I enjoyed the experience.

I would love to hear your comments on the stamps and how you think I did.  I would also love to read about your experiences buying mystery bags.

Growing Interest

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I have stumbled upon a number of blogs exclaiming that the quarantine, or physical distancing, or isolation has led to an increase in stamp collecting.  Sounds good to me.

It makes sense.  There isn’t much on TV and even Netflix can become tiring.  It isn’t surprising that people are choosing calm quiet hobbies to divert themselves.  I haven’t had time to look at my stamp collection, but I can relate to how calming it must be.

I have been busy with a long “to do” list every day.  I’ve been working from home and once I cut out the lengthy commuting time, there are so many projects I can get completed.  Adding to that, I have a lot of other competing hobbies.  Ones that I didn’t really have enough time for, I seem to have time for.

I’ve also had time to ride my bike on weekdays.  This is a luxury I have never had before.  For ESL teachers, Spring was a time to work more and earn money for a vacation when the weather is bad.

On a more stamp friendly note, I have purchased a few stamps for my collection online, but they haven’t arrived yet.  Maybe when they do, I will feel the pull of the collection once more.

Have you had more time for your stamp collection?  Do you know someone who had had their interest rekindled?