RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

21 May 2008

House Calls 3


Strangest call? A pal of mine, now ennobled, was called to a house full of books in North London. When he arrived he realised there was a noisy afternoon party going on that had developed into an orgy and he swears he had to tread on the odd buttock as he made his way to the desirable book collection. The call had come through his ad in 'Time Out' and he noted many of the participants were not young. Being a dealer he did not make an excuse and leave but made a good offer and returned to clear the books after the last raver had left. Martin Stone swears he bought a great collection of modern firsts from an adult bookshop in Liverpool after the owner was shot one lunchtime by a crazed gunman. There were a dozen copies of 'Clockwork Orange' - first eds, fine in fine, trouble was most were splashed with the late owner's blood.

At a house call performed by myself and my brother the owner of the books, a Rachman type landlord, refused to part with them after accepting the money in cash. To be fair we had taken half of them to the waiting Volvo when he cried 'you've had enough.' During an argument he struck my brother, never a wise move as he has a fiery Irish temper. The altercation became heated, further blows were exchanged and the police were called by one of his tenants. None of his rather cowed tenants would witness against their landlord and we never got the other half of the books that we had paid for. One of the police remarked 'I thought bookselling was a quiet sort of job.'

At one point we were called to look at 100,000 books on a chicken farm in Fenland. The nonagerian owner, a retired dealer had been found dead in a ditch and the books needed clearing because the farm was to be sold. Normally dealer's stocks are unexciting because they have sold off the good stuff but in this case the books had been so grossly overpriced that hardly anything had sold... to be continued...
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