Picked up an old book in my library last night, and a bunch of memories came flooding back. The book was Marked Man by Harry Carmichael, a mystery, and I thought of Bengta Wu.
Bengta Wu was a bookseller. I never met the person, so I can’t tell you anything about him or her, but Bengta Wu was my own personal “84 Charring Cross Road.” We corresponded about books, and I bought most of my early library that way.
I was a kid who had just discovered that there were stores that sold used books that were real books, not worn-out paperbacks but with covers and maybe even dust jackets. And I had also just discovered John Dickson Carr, Marjorie Allingham, John Creasey and so many other authors that the local stores rarely stocked.
So my hard-earned paper route money went off through the mail to New Jersey, in response to mimeographed lists. Several times I was asked for something called a “want list”; I never responded with one for the main reason that I had no idea what I wanted, beyond “more books.” Every new list brought me more titles than I could afford, anyway, so what would have been the purpose? To find still more books than I could afford?
It’s funny the effect people can have on you. I still remember Bengta Wu fondly. Since it’s been 40 years or so since our last contact, I suspect the person is long dead, but the love of books he/she fanned within me still burns strong, and when I pick up one of the old volumes, I still remember.
Thank You, Bengta Wu.