I didn't buy the title at a bookstore, and I didn't visit the store looking for books. Until this morning, I didn't even know this author had released the title. But as soon as I saw the books, spine out, and noticed the author's name. I knew I had to buy a copy. Especially for just one dollar.
My wife wanted something at Dollar Tree. I visited the back corner where they shelve overstock books. This time I struck pay dirt: Here, There, Elsewhere, a collection of travel essays by William Least Heat-Moon. Having enjoyed his Blue Highways, Prairie Erth, and River-Horse, how could I lose? Especially for a buck.
I don't often buy books at Dollar Tree, but over the years I've found enough treasures to keep checking: a coffee-table book about the filming of Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. And titles by hardly obscure writers such as Stephen King and Clive Cusssler.
No matter how successful the author and how good the book, the publisher usually ends up with extra copies at the end of the print run. These remnants find their way down the retailing food chain – sometimes as far as Dollar Tree.
As my wife drove us home, I began the first essay. Serious pay dirt. In the opening pages I received food for thought about how the author's career began (a letter to the editor of his local paper), the odds of getting published (“Writing books is indeed a gambler's trade because it's one of hope against probability: the belief someone somewhere sometime might choose to spend money on your words rather than on a nice bottle of cabernet or on a couple of lottery tickets”), and the judgment of editors to limit a writer's vocabulary to what's accessible to an average reader.
All that in the first six pages.
Somehow my copy of Here, There, Elsewhere wasn't needed by a brick-and-mortar bookstore or an online retailer. My gain. Even better, the store on Austin Bluffs near Academy Boulevard had maybe a dozen more copies. If you're lucky, maybe a Dollar Tree near you also has a copy. Based on those first six pages, you'll more than get your dollar's worth.