People drop off books at Classics Used and Rare Books all the time—sometimes one plastic bag at a time, other times they have to rent a U-Haul and bring so many boxes of books that you could block up a Poe character never to be seen again—I’m looking at you Richard Behrens. Some are anonymous drive-bys, leaving bags of books on the doorsteps like orphans at a church; others are brought by regulars and friends. But the most legendary of them all was the mysterious Dean Richards.
In five large installments, a woman claiming to be Dean Richard’s wife brought a giant collection of books of high quality. These books included great and slightly obscure fiction, smart academic history, and interesting travelogues. In the upper right hand corner of each of these fascinating books, Dean Richards wrote his name, a date, and a place—what we assumed was the place in which he read the book.
The books were so incredibly interesting that 5 customers, independent of each other, began searching the stacks for books with Dean Richard’s name in them—as if Richards was a secret private book reviewer only for them.
We saw hundreds of books from the Dean Richards collection. Here’s a sample of inscriptions
- Dean Richards 1957 Langley, VA
- Dean Richards 1961 Saigon
- Dean Richards 1952 Oxford
- Dean Richards 1968 Bankok
- Dean Richards 1957 Langley
- Dean Richards 1954 Oxford
- Dean Richards 1956 Langley, VA
- Dean Richards 1971 Berlin
I don’t know to whom it occurred first. Putting the hundreds of inscriptions together, Dean Richards outlined his history for us. First Oxford, then Langley, then South East Asia, then Europe. Langley, VA? That’s CIA Headquarters!
Now, in the fevered imagination of the 6 members of the Dean Richards fan club we had the personal library of a spy who had went to school at Oxford, trained at Langley, and went on Mission Impossible-like missions during the Vietnam War and then in Cold War Europe.
Was this true? Had we unraveled the path of a super spy? Was this all a fantasy from watching too many episodes of The Unit? Unknown. Either way, whether the story belonged to the “fiction” section of the bookstore or to the “espionage” section, this was the birth of the legend of Dean Richards.