Monday 28 April 2014

Being A Bookfairy

I think it might have been the legendary Driff Field who invented the term 'Bookfairy', as in people who pitch out at bookfairs. Having acquired the requisite set of folding tabletop bookshelves, I can now count myself among their number...

Withnail Books has only attended a couple of fairs so far, with the second being this Saturday, down in Preston.

Just a toe-dipping exercise really, with only a few boxes of varied books to see what tends to be popular. So far, there's no definitive answer to that. For example, on Saturday, a couple of nice fiction firsts sold, but not because the buyers were particularly looking for fiction. An Enid Blyton first sold to a lady who simply collected books with Scotty dogs on the cover, and a rare first of Stella Gibbons' A Pink Front Door sold to a lady who (wait for it) used to have a pink front door. But hey, they were happy with them, so it's all good.

Bookfairs can be a good place to buy as well as sell: there's usually a dealer who has something you have a customer for, often meaning that the biggest sales in the room are dealer-to-dealer, before the doors even open to the public. This means that bookfairs are pretty much the last place on Earth that everyone has a chequebook...

Sunday 20 April 2014

A Monster-Sized Book About Godzilla

As the very cool looking latest remake stomps into view on the horizon, one of Withnail Books' current eBay listings is a copy of one of the most lavish single books about Godzilla ever produced. This Godzilla Chronicles — not to be confused with the more recent book of the same title — was published in Japan in 1998. It's a massive brick of a book, 14.5 inches tall, with over 300 pages, packed with photos, including many which have rarely (if ever) seen print elsewhere.

The text is in Japanese, but there's not much of it: this book is all about the visuals. This is now a hard to find book: copies rarely come up online anywhere. It cost the equivalent of over £100 new back in 1998 (20,000 yen), and was a limited, numbered print run, long sold out... so bid now if you're interested (at the time of writing it's going to go to the US for a bit of a steal...).

A couple of bonuses which (I think) originally came with the book are included: a brochure for the (woeful) 1998 Godzilla, and what appears to be a repro of a brochure for King Kong vs Godzilla, complete with a period ad for a TV set on the back. Anyway, feast your eyes (oh, and the metal drum thing in the first photo is a diesel tank off the back of a 1920s petrol tanker lorry):

Sunday 13 April 2014

Bruce Robinson Not Funny: Official

So, a customer who happily bought a first edition copy of Bruce Robinson's novel The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman last week brought it back, wanting a refund. "It's full of four letter words!" he said, incredulously.

"The front flap says it is 'excruciatingly funny', and that's not true," he continued. "I read the first few pages, and they weren't funny, and I looked at a few pages later on, and they weren't funny either."

After a few beats, I realised he was deadly serious. We had a short chat about how his thoughts on the book were a matter of opinion, rather than a quantifiable fact, and how, as a secondhand bookshop, books tended to be sold as seen with no refunds, especially if the only reason was because he thought it wasn't funny.

"But it isn't funny," he countered, in exactly the same kind of voice Nigel Tufnell used when he said, "But it goes up to eleven."

By now the breathtaking audacity of the man had won me over, and I decided to give him his money back (after all, Withnail Books can never have enough first edition copies of Thomas Penman, and if I hadn't, he'd still be standing there now).

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman *is* excruciatingly funny, in my opinion, though it most certainly is full of four letter words, and many equally rude words with more letters than that, all used to wonderful effect. As reviewer 'A Reader' on Amazon opines:

Bruce Robinson's mastery of descriptive language was so delicious I found myself reading whole paragraphs aloud, to no one in particular, just to hear the words. Selections should be publicly read on Mr. Robinson's birthday by the best British voices available.

Hear, hear. If you're not familiar with the book and want to read a short review, here's what a certain Mr Simon Pegg thinks of it (in brief, he says it's "both moving and side-splittingly hilarious").

It was Robinson's first (and to date only) novel, and it caused quite a splash when it was published in 1998, not only because of the Withnail connection, but thanks to Bloomsbury's fantastic cover design.

After a hardcover which included typography, they took the gutsy decision to go entirely type-free on the cover of the paperback, and just let the utterly perfect photograph (by Matt Harris) do all the work.

Once seen, never forgotten. And as someone who regularly sells copies of the book that I leave face out, I can vouch for its efficacy.

Bruce Robinson is currently trying to get a film version of Thomas Penman off the ground. What a shame this kid is now too old, as he'd be worth casting if only to use this image on the film poster as well.

Sunday 6 April 2014

B.A.P. 01: History of Penrith, By Ewanian, 1894

If you run a second hand bookshop in Penrith, you're bound to become interested in, and try to stock whenever possible, books about the town, because:

a) it's interesting to learn about the history of the town in which you're based
b) interesting old books about Penrith on sale in a second hand bookshop in Penrith tend to sell very quickly (see a)

Several books about the town have come into, and swiftly out of, the Little Shop since it's been open, but this new arrival is a scarce title that's not been in stock before. So, in the first of an occasional series which shall be called Books About Penrith (B.A.P. for short), here's a quick look at History of Penrith, From the Earliest Record To The Present Time, by 'Ewanian' (aka William Furness), printed and published by William Furness in Penrith in 1894. It's not the first book exclusively about Penrith by any means (confusingly, there was the almost identically titled The History of Penrith, From the Earliest Period To The Present Time by Walker in 1858, for example), but I *think* it might be the first to include photographs amongst the illustrations. So here's a selection of them, including a cracking photo of Middlegate, in which you can see Furness's own establishment.