Vintage Treasures: Hell’s Gate by Dean R. Koontz
One of the great things about collecting old paperbacks is that it’s an inexpensive hobby. Almost criminally inexpensive. Want a good condition copy of the first edition of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, one of the rarest and most sought-after genre paperbacks? Copies at Amazon.com start at around 10 bucks… about the price of a brand new paperback. I bought a mint-condition, unread copy on eBay for a lofty $20 a few years back.
But there are exceptions. And some of the most interesting exceptions are the early paperbacks of Dean R. Koontz.
Koontz was (and is) a terrifically prolific writer, publishing as many as eight books a year. His first novel, Star Quest (cover here), was published as an Ace Double in 1968, and over the next few years he wrote more than a dozen other SF novels, under his own name and many pseudonyms, including Leigh Nichols, David Axton, and many others. His first bestsellers were Demon Seed (1973), The Key to Midnight (1979, as by Leigh Nichols) and his breakout novel Whispers (1980). With the money he made as a bestselling writer, Koontz famously bought up the rights to most of his early work and, with rare exceptions, has not allowed it to be reprinted.
Which brings us to Hell’s Gate, his fifth novel, published under his own name as a paperback original by Lancer in 1970. It is 190 pages, originally priced at $0.75, with a gorgeous cover by the great Kelly Freas (click the above images for bigger versions). The rights now rest with Koontz and, like much of his early work, it has never been reprinted. There is no digital edition. If you want a copy, you’ll have to turn to the collector’s market, and copies in good condition can be pretty expensive. Prices at Amazon.com currently range from around $15-35, and at eBay range from $7.50 to $100. If you’re interested, be prepared to shop around.
I’ll buy all those first editions of The Dying Earth for $10 I can find. Unfortunately, I can’t find any. Are you sure this is the Hillman paperback?
Great question. I’m fairly confident that many of those listed at Amazon are NOT the Hillman edition (even though the photo clearly is).
But in my buying experience, some sellers don’t distinguish… they’ll sell you the 1950 Hillman for the same price as the Lancer. Even some sellers who carefully price hardcovers consider paperbacks not worth their time.
I just purchased a copy of “Magic for Sale,” an Ace pb anthology edited by Avram Davidson. Amazon lists their cheapest available copy at $95+; I obtained mine through a rival used book site for under $10. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen outrageously high prices at Amazon; not long ago, a book I had on my want list was jacked up from a couple of dollars to well over $9000 (and I DO have the decimal point in the correct place there). Shop around, folks.
Sorry — there is no decimal point in that price; it should read $9000.00.
That’s a great book!
And wow… you’re absolutely right. Usually when there’s only one or two copies available for sale, anything can happen with Amazon sellers. But market forces take over once five or six sellers step in.
But with MAGIC FOR SALE, there are currently 13 sellers…. and the lowest price is still $95.97 (!)
No idea what’s going on with this book. Maybe it’s an algorithimic pricing quirk? (Those happen at Amazon with startling regularity). Good condition copies are selling on eBay for $12 (including shipping):
By the way, for those curious about MAGIC FOR SALE, Matthew David Surridge took a look at the anthology (and others in the same magic-shop vein) back in February:
John, it was because I saw the book mentioned here in that piece by Surridge that I added it to my want list, just another reason I’m so grateful for whatever it was that led me to Black Gate earlier this year. By the way, I found the less expensive copy, in Near Fine condition, at AbeBooks (last time I checked, there was another copy for about $1 more).
[…] science fiction and horror. Inspired by John O’Neill’s earlier “look back” at Koontz’s Hell’s Gate, I decided to give Werewolf a reread and see how well it holds up, and I’m happy to say that it […]