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

23 October 2008

Yet more Bastards with Bookshops


One must not forget the Birmingham dealer, who on being asked for a discount for books would tear them in half in front of the customer. What particularly irked him was the phrase 'What can you do on this?' A red mist would descend and he would reply 'I'll show you what I can do on this...' and tore up the book. One imagines that this was selective, possibly only books under £20. Not a wise business stratagem but probably quite satisfying...

Then there was the dealer who suddenly put up his stock from an average of £10 a book to £200 a book. Sales slowed down, customers got annoyed, fights broke out but business did not totally come to a halt. Every time a customer bought a book his fiendish plan was justified. Before long he was totally and utterly broke. In this business greed is the enemy of profit. This was 20 years ago. Now in the great 200 million strong bookshop in the sky (ABE) £10 books are routinely priced at £200 and if they are ex library or in unacceptable condition, quite a bit more.

Also unforgotten is the great Eric Barton and his shop in Richmond, a sort of bookselling John Fothergill who would chuck people out of his shop if he didn't like the cut of their gib. A bastard's bastard; his speciality was 18th century cricket books. When, some time in the 1970s, the writer and bookseller Iain Sinclair walked from Islington to Richmond with a rucksack on his back for his book buys, the destination of his pilgrimage was this shop. At the end of his great walk, when he entered the hallowed shop, Barton, spying the bulging rucksack, shouted at him - 'Not another bloody tourist!'

There was also the very posh shop run by well connected chinless wonders who got great books from their chum's in country houses--they would ban people who bought too many books, especially those who boasted about it and also dealers who had not been to the right schools. Lastly the bookshop in Metroland run by a British Nazi who sat with his jackboots up on the desk reading the 'Daily Sport' or 'Stormtrooper' and discouraged any punter who wasn't a bald or booted skinhead. B'stards all of them...
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