Bookseller Sam Wenger’s spiritual home isn’t California, or upstate New York, or any of the other places that he has called home. He would like to settle and enjoy life in Camelot – the residence of King Arthur, still Britain’s greatest hero.
Sam runs a bookselling business called Three Geese in Flight Celtic Books, and he specialises in books about Arthurian and Celtic mythology as well as medieval and mythic literature. For decades, he’s been inspired by the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose writing gave birth to the modern fantasy genre.
Today, Sam is found in Los Angeles but his bookselling adventures began in 1977 when he and Moira Joyce opened a bookshop called Three Geese In Flight Celtic Books in Woodstock, New York – yes, that Woodstock.
“Moira's family were Gaelic speakers from Ireland, as well as Micmac from Nova Scotia,” said Sam. “I was drawn to Celtic culture. The stories, the legends, the poetry. I was then teaching Celtic Myth at the Irish Arts Center in New York City and at Ulster County College in Stone Ridge near our Woodstock bookstore. At the time, combining King Arthur with Celtic Studies was considered odd, and having a bookstore with this as a focus was considered odder still.”
Located in the Catskill Mountains, Sam also began to stock folklore books around witches and legends such as Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman.
Eventually, Sam moved West where he now teaches, lectures, writes an Arthurian trilogy set in 6th century America, and sells online and by appointment out of his suite. “We also feature books about the American Revolution and Iroquois Longhouse Confederacy," he added. "We see that struggle as an extension of the Heroic Age.”
His unique inventory stretches from England’s (or Wales’) Camelot to Yiddish Arthurian legend, as well as many books on Celtic Studies, including Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton history. Sam is also a member of the International Arthurian Society (North American branch), and supplies books to collectors of Arthurian folklore around the globe.
Q&A with Sam Wenger
AbeBooks: Who is your favourite Arthurian figure?
Sam Wenger: “King Arthur himself because he created a round table of equal brothers at age 15.”
AbeBooks: What's your favourite Arthurian legend?
Sam Wenger: “King Arthur accepting Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake of the unseen fairy world of De Danann.”
AbeBooks: How do you research books written in the Celtic languages like Gaelic, and Welsh?
Sam Wenger: “I like to find as many of the original texts as I can find in the best academic translation. I also like to go to the local oral traditions of the Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scottish, and English."
AbeBooks: What’s the Arthurian or Celtic book you’ve been most excited to handle?
Sam Wenger: “The Assertion of King Arthure by Leland's from 1582. We had an original copy of that book 'Assertio inclytissimi Arturii'. It lays out the argument for the historicity of King Arthur himself against the cynicism of the mundane.”