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Windy City 2013 Convention Report

Posted in Conventions on April 18, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

The 2013 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention took place last weekend, and I’m still recovering. Bracketed by grueling 14-hour drives, the show found me scurrying around like the proverbial chicken without a head — changing DVDs in the Film Room every hour or two, manning the Murania Press table solo (for the first time in many years), and flitting from one dealer’s table to another in search of elusive pulps on my want list.

The con once again unfolded in the luxurious Westin hotel in Lombard’s Yorktown Shopping Center, the jewel of this upscale Chicago suburb. The Westin is my favorite of the dozens of hotels I’ve patronized in 40 years of convention-going, and its proximity to innumerable restaurants is much appreciated. Everything about this year’s visit was predictably and resoundingly favorable — except the weather. With several friends in tow, I left northern New Jersey last Wednesday, which saw the temperature rise to 80 degrees. That night, by the time we rolled into Lombard after driving many hours through steady wind and rain, the mercury was down to 41. And we didn’t see the sun until Sunday.

Not that we spent much time outdoors. As always, the convention teemed with hobbyists hot on the trail of their favorite collectibles. Windy City chairman Doug Ellis had sold out the dealer’s room in record time, renting nearly 150 tables to vendors selling original pulps, paperbacks and hardcovers, along with such related items as comics, fanzines, and newly published pulp-fiction reprints. Additionally, the current crop of “New Pulp” fictioneers was well represented. The variety of material for sale was little short of mind-boggling, although some dealer stock looked a little too familiar for my tastes.

The Windy City staff (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit to being a member) did its usual fine job of mounting a memorable convention: The art show and programming, pegged to the 90th birthday of Weird Tales and the centennial of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, maintained the customary high standards. But the heart of this particular convention has always been its huckster room, with the bulk of con activity revolving around buying and selling. And the 2013 show was no exception.

Collectors of Arkham House books had to have been gratified to see so many choice titles in one room. Virginia-based dealer Dave Kurzman had his usual assortment, but DreamHaven Books’ Greg Ketter also displayed multiple copies of desirable Arkhams, the result of having recently bought two collections of same. Long-time pulp collector Richard Meli made his convention debut as a dealer with an eye-popping selection of high-grade pulps. Among the many treasures sold at his Heartwood Auctions table was a nice copy of Shadow #1, which fetched $10,000. Connecticut dealer/collector Paul Herman offered seldom-seen British editions of early Black Mask issues. And so on.

For real action, though, the Friday-night auction couldn’t be beat. For the last two years, Windy City has been auctioning inventory belonging to the late Jerry Weist, a near-legendary collector of comics and pulps as well as the publisher of the classic fanzine Squa Tront. This year’s sale included items from Jerry’s core collection. They included high-grade copies of Teens issues of The All-Story and All-Story Weekly, most carrying installments of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you know the pulp market at all, you know that these issues are scarce in any condition and high-grade copies extremely rare. So it was no surprise to see them bringing record-breaking prices at the auction.

The Murania Press table wasn’t as active as it’s been in previous years, although I brought 60 copies of the new Blood ‘n’ Thunder double issue and sold them all. I also did well with the recently released Wilderness Trail, the strong early sales of which rival those of Barehanded Castaways, up to now the best-selling title in Murania’s Classic Pulp Reprints line.

Although the Windy City con is mostly driven by commerce, it’s also a great venue for socializing, and as always I enjoyed fraternizing with friends I only see two or three times a year. The pulp-collecting community is minuscule compared to those of other hobbyist groups, but it’s populated by a grand bunch of guys (and, increasingly, gals). I enjoyed visiting with each and every one of them and only wish I’d had more time to gab with those I touched base with just briefly.

Some 488 people attended this year’s confab, thanks in no small part to a nice article in the Chicago Sun-Times and a story on one of the local TV stations. Congrats to co-chairmen Doug Ellis and John Gunnison, program-book editor Tom Roberts, and all the volunteers who worked hard to uphold the level of quality for which this convention is justifiably famous. It’s an honor to be part of such a staff, believe me.

Now it’s on to PulpFest, about which you’ll be reading more in this space over the next few months.

Correction, April 24: I was mistaken about the sale of Shadow #1. The issue was actually sold by long-time collector/dealer Jerry Schattenberg, whose glass case of rare pulps was right next to the Heartwood Auctions display. Also, the buyer informs me that the purchase price was “slightly higher” than the reported ten grand. In any case, it was a notable transaction.

Co-chairman Doug Ellis with treasured pulps. Photo: Chicago Sun-Times.

204 thoughts on “Windy City 2013 Convention Report

  1. Great report; reminds me of the Golden Age of SF conventions, before creeping crud invaded the Dealers Rooms.

    It’s Greg Ketter, not Kettir, btw. I am reminded of this because he son was born on my 50th birthday, and each year I get a little more decrepit, his son a little taller and more personable.

    • Thanks for the correction, Andy. I’ve adjusted the post accordingly. After doing business with Greg for years — he carries Blood ‘n’ Thunder and other Murania Press publications — I certainly ought to get his name right.

  2. I agree with everything Ed said above. A great convention for book, pulp, and art collectors. If you missed Windy City, you can still attend PulpFest. Check out the details at pulpfest.com.

  3. Pingback: » WINDY CITY PULP CONVENTION 2013 REPORT, by Walker Martin.

  4. Thanks, Ed, for the insightful report. As always, you are spot on with your observations. I got a special kick when you told me, “These are the three Blood ‘N’ Thunder issues you need.” Indeed! I began reading them on the 2,000-plus mile drive home. Looks like the usual great stuff — well worth the price! I recall how frustrated you were at PulpFest last August, when your fall issue had been delayed. I hope you sold out of that issue, too. Because of your article on Wild West Weekly and Paul Powers, I purchased several issues just to see how much fun they are. I’ll keep you posted.
    Thanks to Doug, John, Tom, you and everyone else who once again made ‘The Windy’ a great vacation!

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