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The Literature of Turkey Hunting: An Annotated Bibliography and the Random Scribblings of a Sporting Bibliophile

Books by Tom Kelly

The Literature of Turkey Hunting: An Annotated Bibliography and the Random Scribblings of a Sporting BibliophileTom Kelly’s literary impact on the sport of turkey hunting is so significant, and as a writer he has been so prolific, that it seemed appropriate to devote a separate section of this bibliography to his oeuvre. He is, as I have suggested on more than one occasion, the unofficial poet laureate of wild turkey hunting; or, put another way, the old colonel is in command of the Tenth Legion. It is a proud and worthy cult, and any initiate into the ranks owes it to himself to enjoy the distinct privilege of drinking deeply at the pure, clean, and sparkling literary well which flows from Kelly’s pen.

Also, from a collector’s perspective, there is sufficient confusion and complication connected with the printing and reprinting of certain of his books to merit more than mere annotation. With that in mind, I depart from the practice followed elsewhere in this work and list his books in chronological order of first publication. Where merited, most notably with his first and best-known book, Tenth Legion, there is considerable coverage of the work’s printing history.

One oddity connected with Kelly books certainly ought to be noted, and that involves signed works. He has been so generous in signing his books and so readily available at NWTF conventions, fund-raising banquets, and the like over the years, that in some cases finding an unsigned copy of one of his books may actually be the exception, not the rule. In other words, unlike the situation with virtually all other books in this bibliography, the presence of Tom’s signature adds little if any value to a book. However, if the book is inscribed or personalized, that’s another tale entirely. Such books, especially if the person to whom the book has been inscribed is a recognizable individual such as a fellow writer or a noted personality in the turkey hunting world, would have added value.

218. Tom Kelly, Tenth Legion. Brooklyn, NY: Theo. Gaus’ Sons, 1973. Hardback in dust jacket. viii, 119 pages. The first printing of the first edition of this book had a print run of precisely of 555 copies. Tom ordered and paid for 500 copies, and the publisher printed 55 extra copies and gave them to him. Incidentally, the print overrun is not that unusual. Printing contracts commonly call for an overage or underage of 10 percent, with the understanding that any overage will be paid for on a cost per unit basis while the same amount will be deducted from the final tab for any underage. What is unusual here is that Tom did not have to pay for the extras. Tom details the circumstances of the first edition in some detail in his Preface to the 1998 edition of Tenth Legion (p. ix). From the standpoint of strict accuracy of the sort which will keep booksellers and picayunish librarians happy (or at least reduce their temptation to storm my home for commission of grievous bibliographical sins), this is the version of Tenth Legion which should be styled the second edition. All previous manifestations were merely successive printings, and to Tom’s considerable credit, he gets this exactly right while simultaneously reducing confusion for bookworms such as the present writer. On the reverse of the title page details of the printings and their dates are given.

Thanks to the erstwhile Colonel Kelly, it is possible to set forth the circumstances of what happened in the aftermath of the first edition is some detail. A firm of lawyers in Monroe, Louisiana contacted him on behalf of one of their clients, a Mr. McLemore. This gentleman, who owned a number of sporting goods stores in Louisiana and Arkansas, had been so impressed by Tenth Legion that he had made copies on an office machine for a number of his friends and favored customers. In all likelihood when George Snellings, a partner in the Monroe law firm who was the point man in contacting Kelly, learned of this he realized there could be potential problems connected with copyright abuse. At that juncture Snellings contacted Kelly in an effort to put things in order. This resulted in an agreement whereby Tom, in his gracious fashion, assured them he was tickled the book had evoked some interest and agreed to let them do a reprint. To the best he can recollect, they agreed to pay him twenty percent of the monies they made from the reprints. Thus was born Spur Enterprises.

This name, chosen by the group of lawyers and perhaps one or two others who were involved in the “enterprise,” was used in connection with the second and third printings of the book. They fashioned a new dust jacket, which shows something resembling a coat of arms, with the words “Meleagris Gallapavo Sylvestris” running beneath a shield which displays a turkey’s head and a crown atop the shield, on the front. The back of the dust jacket, which in tan in color, has a mug shot of Tom wearing a cap and a brief bit of biographical information about him. The cover of the first edition, by way of contrast, has a dim picture of a turkey which Kelly borrowed from Roger Latham and does not show the author at all. The lower half of the dust jacket back for the Spur Enterprises printings carries encomiums from Charlie Elliott of Outdoor Life, Ted Trueblood of Field & Stream, and Mabry Anderson of the Delta Farm Press. The inside front flap lists the price as $7.50 (the rear flap is blank). The difference in the two dust jackets is the easiest way to distinguish the first printing from those by Spur Enterprises, but the latter also have Spur Enterprises listed on the title page as the publisher.

After three printings by Spur Enterprises, Tom’s wife, Helen, and a family friend, Betty Jo Wolff, the owner of bookstores in Fairhope and Gulf Shores, Alabama, brought the operation “in house.” They produced a spiffy new dust jacket in white, with a red stripe across the top to match the color of the cloth binding, a drawing of a turkey feather and a turkey in flight on the front, and a picture of Tom and his daughter (“one of the principal characters” of Dealer’s Choice now grown into a painted woman”) on the back. The photo changes from a girl in her early teens clad in a tee-shirt and shorts to a smiling young woman clad in a camo shirt (as is her mentor and hunting sidekick) on the seventh and final Wingfeather Press printing.

Tom thinks that it was likely Spur Enterprises had a print run of 1,000 copies with their three printings, and that was definitely the print run for printings five through seven. In other words, all printings of the first edition of Tenth Legion except the first are equally rare. The first printing, first edition is one of the true treasures of turkey hunting literature, second only, in my opinion, to Tom Turpin’s book. I have sold three copies over the years and send perhaps a dozen more. Tom has retained five copies, so that means a total of 550 went out to the general public.

I suspect that no more than 300, and possibly appreciably fewer, remain extant. A fine copy with the dust jacket intact is worth $3,000+, and as these words are being written there is a copy available on the Internet for a whopping $6,503.99! For those who might be interested in trying to acquire an example of each of the printings, here are their dates.

First printing—Theo. Gaus’ Sons, October, 1973—555 copies

Second printing—Spur Enterprises (Monroe, LA), December, 1974—1,000 copies

Third printing—Spur Enterprises, September, 1975—1,000 copies

Fourth printing—Spur Enterprises, November, 1977—1,000 copies

Fifth printing—Wingfeather Press, May, 1982—1,000 copies

Sixth printing—Wingfeather Press, June, 1986—1,000 copies

Seventh printing—Wingfeather Press, November, 1994—1,000 copies

Value for the second through seventh printings, $150-$200.

That is where matters stood when, early in the 1990s, folks at Field & Stream magazine began assembling what they considered the greatest stories they had ever published for a special book celebrating the magazine’s centennial. Tom had contributed to the magazine a number of times over the years, and the editor for the project, J. I. Merritt, choose one of his pieces, “Continuum,” for inclusion in The Best of Field & Stream: 100 Years of Great Writing (1995). The publisher of this book was Lyons & Burford Press, and they approached Kelly about reprinting Tenth Legion. He agreed, but only after a stipulation that they reprint Dealer’s Choice as well. This led to the appearance of the second edition of Tenth Legion, under the imprint of the Lyons Press (Lyons & Burford had changed names) in 1998. Tom wrote a short Preface for the new edition, and it came with a new dust jacket and changed binding. The type was reset so that the second edition had changed pagination (xii, 119 pages as opposed to vii, 119 pages) from the first printing.

As if the bibliographical details for Tenth Legion were not murky enough already, subsequent developments muddied the waters even further. The Lyons Press was acquired by Globe-Pequot Press, and somewhere in this time period the hardbound version of Tenth Legion was remaindered. However, in 2005 the firm brought out a paperbound version and as of this writing in early 2011 it remains in print. It includes a new Preface (those to both the original edition and that of 1998 are retained), thus making it an item that adds a bit of material (just over a printed page) to those who insist on completeness. Somewhat surprisingly, the value of the Lyons Press version of Tenth Legion has gone up considerably. You will do well to find a copy for less than $50. The key to this is that Tom Kelly, Inc., of which more momentarily, still has not as of this writing reacquired the rights to Tenth Legion.

219. Tom Kelly, Dealer’s Choice. Fairhope, AL: Page & Pallet, 1980. Hardback in dust jacket. v, 83 pages. This is Tom’s second book, and while the details are less complex with those for Tenth Legion, they can nonetheless be a bit daunting. For starters, there are two variants of the first printing, distinguishable solely by a minor difference in the print size and font for the publisher on the title page. The second printing occurred in March, 1983 and is under the Wingfeather Press imprint. The dust jacket remains the same but the color of the binding changes from olive to a bright green. Tom thinks these were done in print runs of 1,000 copies and that means, in effect, that obtaining a first edition of Dealer’s Choice (no matter what printing) is more difficult than doing so for any print of Tenth Legion except the first.

As has been noted above, reprinting Dealer’s Choice formed part of the agreement with the folks at Lyons Press, and it duly appeared in 1998. Although the type is reset and the layout and design have changed, except for the necessary data added to the copyright page and the number of pages, this book does not differ, contents-wise, from the original. The bibliographical details are: Tom Kelly, Dealer’s Choice. NY: The Lyons Press, 1998. Hardback in dust jacket. xii, 116 pages. When it was remaindered, Tom Kelly, Inc. got back the rights. It is currently out of print and in considerable demand. Value $100+ for any version of the first printing; $50-$75 for the Lyons Press reprint.

Kelly’s dealings with Lyons Press/Lyons & Burford covered not only reprinting of his first two books but publication of his next three works, Better on a Rising Tide, The Season, and The Boat. Here are the details for those books:

220. Tom Kelly, Better on a Rising Tide. NY: The Lyons Press, 1995, Hardback in dust jacket. [iv], 184 pages. This book is comprised primarily of stories which had previously been published in magazines, mostly in Field & Stream but two of the chapters were in the pages of Sports Illustrated. In almost every case there are some changes from the original magazine publication. The book went through at least two printings with Lyons Press, distinguishable solely by checking the copyright page. Although rights have reverted to Kelly, at this juncture he has not yet reprinted the book. Value $100-$150.

221. Tom Kelly, The Season. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1996. Hardback in dust jacket. 160 pages. A collection of 15 stories in which author, as the titles suggests, describes the trials, tribulations, and occasional triumphs of a single season of turkey hunting. After reacquiring rights to the book, the author reprinted it in a second printing. The contents are unchanged, but the type was reset in a larger font which is easier on the eyes, and the number of pages increased to 188. The dust jacket differs in color and the boards have a new color. While I have seen a statement from one dealer to the effect that there were only 1,500 copies of the first edition printed, I am uncertain such is the case. Commercial publishers seldom have print runs that small. Value $150+ for first edition; $29.95 (in print) for the second printing.

222. Tom Kelly, The Boat. NY: The Lyons Press, 1998.[iv], 152 pages. Hardback in dust jacket. Although this book involves the building of a wooden boat rather than the quest for turkeys, it is included here for the sake of completeness. The book is actually in some demand as Kelly fans strive for completeness. Value $100+.

After something of a debacle connected with the reprinting of his first two books (Tom was amazed and chagrined when, in the course of a conversation, I told him I had acquired scores of copies of both of the Lyons Press books as remainders at a dramatically reduced price), Kelly began to reconsider his whole approach to publication of his work. With his next three books he took a strong step in that direction by reverting back to the Wingfeather Press imprint first used with the fifth printing of Tenth Legion back in 1982. Those books were next three listings.

223. Tom Kelly, A Year Outside. Spanish Fort, AL: Wingfeather Press, 2000. Hardback in dust jacket. [iv], 184 pages. Tom on his home heath, as described in sixteen chapters. One of them, “Palm Sunday at St. Marys,” appeared in somewhat different form in Sporting Classics magazine. Otherwise the pieces are entirely original. Out-of-print and quite collectible. Value $150.

224. Tom Kelly, Faces in the Crowd. Spanish Fort, AL: Wingfeather Press, 2002. Hardback in dust jacket. [iv], 149 pages. A collection of sixteen stories, six of which had previously been published in Turkey & Turkey Hunting (two) and Sports Afield (four). The book includes what I personally consider the greatest of all Tom Kelly tales, “An Afternoon on the Handles.” It is powerful, eerie, and beautiful. Value $50-$75.

225. Tom Kelly, A Few Loose Chapters. Spanish Fort, AL: Wingfeather Press, 2003. Hardback in dust jacket. [iv], 132 pages. A baker’s dozen original stories along with one, “Both Ends of the Curve,” which was previously published in Sports Afield. Value $25.95 (in print).

That would be the last individual book to carry the Wingfeather Press imprint, and when change came it was a real breakthrough, one which has been good for Tom and wonderful for his followers. A major breakthrough came when he met David Clarke and Tom Kelly, Inc. was formed. That development had its aegis in 2003, when Clarke attended Tom’s annual turkey hunting seminar at Westervelt Lodge in Alabama, carrying a video camera rather than a gun. A year later the two joined forces in Tom Kelly, Inc. All of Kelly’s subsequent books, along with audio books, a boxed collector’s edition of his first eight works, movie DVDs, and more, have emanated from this source. In other words, all but his first two books have been privately published, either as reprints or original editions, under the Tom Kelly, Inc. imprint. Individual listings follow, with those which remain in print being priced accordingly, while out-of-print works are evaluated along the same line of thinking which governs entries elsewhere in this bibliography. There would be one final usage of the Wingfeather Press imprint, although it came after Clarke and Kelly had joined forces. It was a special “Collector’s Edition” which offered reprints of Kelly’s first eight books as a special set.

226. Tom Kelly, Collector’s Edition. Spanish Fort, AL: Wingfeather Press, 2005. This was a boxed set of eight books, bound into four volumes. The books are leatherbound, feature all edges gilt, come with a ribbon marker, and utilized gold stamping on the spine. Printed in a numbered edition of 1,000 copies, it was offered under some special conditions. Sets 1-50 were reserved by the publisher, sets 51-251 were reserved for subscribers, and the remainder of the printing (252-1000) was for sale to the general public. The pagination is the same as that found in the original editions of the books, with a color plate of a wild turkey, protected by tissue, separating the two books in each volume. Details are: Volume I contains Tenth Legion and Better on a Rising Tide, Volume II contains The Season and Dealer’s Choice, Volume III contains The Boat and A Year Outside, and Volume IV contains Faces in the Crowd and A Few Loose Chapters.

It should be noted that Clarke and Kelly encountered appreciable problems with the printer for this set. The slipcases were poorly done, there were some problems with binding, and other issues arose. In fact, while there was a printing of 1000 copies, fewer full, undamaged sets were available. The experienced was a lesson learned though. Henceforth Tom Kelly, Inc. would get their printing work done in the United States rather than relying on the vagaries and uncertainties associated with dealing with a firm in the Orient. Value $250 (in print).

227. Tom Kelly, Take Back in Fancy. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2005. Hardback in dust jacket. 169 pages. A baker’s dozen tales, plus one, all of which are new to book form and only one of which had previously appeared in print anywhere (“Red Zone” was published in Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine). Value: $25.95 (in print).

228. Tom Kelly, A Hat Full of Rabbits. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2006. Hardback in dust jacket. 150 pages. A dozen Kelly tales told in his inimitable fashion. Value $29.95 (in print).

229. Tom Kelly, A Fork in the Road. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2007. Hardback in dust jacket. 124 pages. This book includes a two-hour instructional DVD, which is inside a sleeve attached to the rear end paper. Value $29.95 (in print).

230. Tom Kelly, Ol’ Tom and Laura. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2008. Hardback in dust jacket. 191 pages. A collection of tales featuring Tom hunting with his daughter, Laura. All have been previously published in magazines and/or earlier Kelly books. Value $25.95 (in print).

231. Tom Kelly, Absent Companions. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2008. Hardback in dust jacket. 143 pages. A poignant tribute to deceased companions, human and otherwise, who have been Tom’s friends over the span of time leading him to octogenarian status. Unlike most of the other Tom Kelly, Inc. imprints, with 1,000 copies printed, this one had an initial print run of 1,000 copies and a second printing (with no notation of that fact) of 500. Value: $28.95 (in print).

232. Tom Kelly, The Best of Tom Kelly. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2009. Leatherbound hardback. xvi, 311 pages. With Introductory Notes by Jim Casada and Jim Spencer. A limited, numbered, and signed edition of 1,000 copies. The book has a ribbon marker, comes with all edges gilt, and has gilt imprinting on the spine and front. This work contains 34 stories covering the entire span of Kelly’s literary career. Both Casada and Spencer, writers in their own right and great fans of the Colonel, had been urging him to do such a book for years. The pair each selected 20 of their favorites, compared notes, consulted with Tom, and offered their respective thoughts on the man and his contributions to the sport. This book is the end result. Value $75 (in print).

233. Tom Kelly, Infirm Opinions. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2009. Hardback in dust jacket. x, 166 pages. The book includes a DVD showing the “Fan Club” presentation from Mossy Oak’s “Hunting the Country” television program in which Tom was the start. It is attached to the back of the rear end paper. Value $29.95 (in print).

234. Tom Kelly, Payback. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2010. Hardback in dust jacket. viii, 207 pages. Illustrated. Yet another in the ongoing outpouring of Kelly tales. Value: $29.95 (in print).

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