I met Mr. Squires this past August when he allowed Don and me to spend an evening in his home, a couple of days before PulpFest. John was going to be on the Conan panel but he later decided that he just couldn’t make it. He had been preparing for it though; I saw an opened copy of the Berkley edition of The Hour of the Dragon close to where he sat—of course this book had been edited by his friend Karl Edward Wagner.
I had heard much of the collection of John D. Squires and I knew he was one of the greatest M. P. Shiel scholars ever, so I was excited to not only see how big the Squires library was, but also to hear some stories about Shiel, who, while I have read The Purple Cloud and a few scattered short works, was still a bit of a mystery to me.
When I set foot in Mr. Squires’ house I was completely amazed and the first thing I said to him was “I see you’ve got a few books.” They were everywhere and I knew I was in the home not only of a book collector, but also in the home of a scholar who realized that the first purpose of a book is to actually read it. I further discovered that Mr. Squires was a dedicated connoisseur of the War Between the States and my eye was immediately attracted to the huge, museum-quality Civil War diorama that shared the room with his books; it was a beauty.
However, after we all had grabbed a beer, John took us into the addition that he had had built to house the majority of his books and I was even more amazed. First editions of M. P. Shiel were the main focus of course but that was just a beginning to his collection, which also included a book from the library of H. P. Lovecraft, with his signature inside. Way too many cool things to mention, but it certainly ranks as one of the greatest private libraries I’ve ever seen.
The rest of that night I mostly just sat and listened to Don and John talk about M. P. Shiel and Karl Edward Wagner, and it was pretty cool. Mr. Squires even gave me a few books, one of which is pictured. Free beer, free books and great conversation—it doesn’t get much better than that folks.
I got up a little early the next morning and John and I talked about different things, but soon the conversation drifted back to Wagner and Shiel and, over some good hot black coffee that John made, I learned even more about these two writers. No introduction to either of these writer’s books could have given me more information than what that early morning talk with John delivered, of that I’ll always be sure.
The day after PulpFest Don and I returned to John’s home for another gabfest and, somehow or other, we got to comparing who had the most autographs in their collection. It was a fun, light-hearted couple of hours as we looked at the signatures, among many others, of Arthur Machen, Lovecraft (again) and always, always those beautiful signed M. P. Shiel books. I don’t have anything signed by Shiel and I regret that; but in remembrance of the Squires library tour I’ll rectify that one of these days.
In closing I apologize, knowing that I haven’t done enough justice to the memory of John D. Squires; I knew him only for those few moments spent before and after PulpFest, but it is something I’ll always remember.