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Thelbert Curry Adds Hill Man; Now Has One Of Most Beautiful Complete Sets Of Gi

This article first appeared in issue 10, and was written by Staff. The full title appeared as: Thelbert Curry adds Hill Man; now has one of most beautiful complete sets of Giles works.

November 20, 1996, is now a red letter day in Janice Holt and Henry Giles collector Thelbert Curry's life.

On that day, he secured a copy of Hill Man the 1954 novel written by Janice Holt Giles under pseudonym John Garth, giving him one of the few complete sets of the Giles' works anywhere.

Because the books have been kept in "As New" condition, they may represent one of the most valuable sets in existence.

The Hill Man edition is a 1954 first edition, in almost perfect condition.

Mr. Curry is no newcomer to the Giles rage, which has made the Adair County authors' books easily the hottest commodity among Kentucky collectors. "I started reading them when they first came out," Curry recalls. "I would buy new books at Meadow Hill Inn and at the same place when it became Walker's Florist."

That was an economic advantage for Curry, who was buying first edition Giles books in the range of $5 per book.

His set today includes all the published books. Most are first edition. Most are signed by Janice Holt Giles or Henry Giles. Only one hardback, his Savannah, lacks a dust jacket. And all are in hardback except Hill Man, which was only published in paperback editions. His Run Me a River is in paperback. His Land Beyond the Mountains is a new, University Press of Kentucky edition. He plans to upgrade both RMAG and LBTM to first editions when he can find them at reasonable prices, he says.

Fortuitous circumstances led to the signing of the books. "I was laying carpet at Spout Springs about six months before Mrs. Giles died," he said, "I told her I was a fan and that I had almost all of her books. She told me she knew she was sick and that she wouldn't live very much longer. She told me I ought to bring the books to her and she would sign them."

Many of the books are inscribed "To Mr. and Mrs. Curry." In one case, with his Kinta Years, which he bought after Mrs. Giles' death, the inscription is signed "Henry Giles" by Henry Giles in 1982. Kinta Years is an autobiographical account of Mrs. Giles early childhood days in Kinta, Oklahoma. Janice Holt Moore was born in Altus, Arkansas. When she was four years old her father moved the family to Kinta, where he was principal.

As collectors might expect, his most expensive hardback likely has the least value. He paid $30 for the University Press edition. The highest price he paid for any of the hardback firsts was $25 for Six Horse Hitch, which he bought at an auction. That novel, in the condition of Curry's, often bring several times that amount. His most expensive book of all was the Hill Man copy. So far as can be determined in the book trade around the county, only six copies of the book have reached Columbia to date. Three were handled by noted book dealer David Pyles and are now in private collections. Tommy Giles, a descendant of the real Hill Man, owns two copies.

Curry has an easy favorite among the books. "Forty Acres and No Mule," he readily responds to that question. "I've read that book at least four times. It's the first Janice Holt Giles book I ever bought."

And, as with most Adair County readers, the Kentucky books, particularly the autobiographical ones with Adair County settings, and the books based on Adair County life, give the most pleasure.

And he likes to recall the stories about Mrs. Giles which supplement the lore in her writing. "You know," he says, "Joe Spires named A Little Better Than Plumb. He told her the story about the carpenters who were working on a house. One asked the other, 'Is it plumb?" and he answered, 'It's a little better than plumb.' When Mrs. Giles heard the story, she said, 'That's it. That's the name of my book. I'm going to call it A Little Better Than Plumb,' that's what she did.

Mr. Curry and his wife, Gloria, and their daughter Lila and son-in-law John Ford have operated Curry's Floor Covering for the past four years together. The business was founded by Mr. Curry and has been at the same location for 25 years.

This story was posted on 1996-12-14 12:01:01
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1996-12-14 - Photo Staff. FORTY ACRES AND NO MULEIt wasn't the most expensive JHG book, but Thelbert Curry likes it best. He's read it four times now.This item first appeared in Issue 10 of the print edition of Columbia! Magazine.
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