Friday, 24 July 2009

Let Your Mind Off It's Leash...

Okay, so the Horror display didn't quite come off... but it might yet.

I got distracted by some of the rather wonderful SF & Fantasy coming in to the shop. Not the avergage Dungeons & Dragons/Lord Of The Rings type rips offs, nor the Star Wars/Star Trek Space Opera's either. I'm talking about the kind of writing with IDEAS. The kind of writing that doesn't forget the human element in SF/Fantasy...

I'm talking Harlan Ellison's SHATTERDAY - one of the most amazing collections of short stories that I;ve ever read, and which doesn't pull it's punches in confronting you with all your weakest least admirable qualities. A book that confronts you and tells you to grow the hell up. I honestly think it made me a better person.

I'm talking about J.G. Ballard - may he rest in peace - who until recently was by far one of the finest writers on the planet, and certainly that this country has ever produced.

I'm talking about Richard Matheson's THE SHRINKING MAN - made into a brilliant B-Movie by Jack Arnold, but the book is A+ writing. Man's place in the universe stuff, but as exciting and emotional as anything I think I've ever read. Certainly as good as his other classic I AM LEGEND (which no film adaptation has yet come close to getting right, unless you count Night Of The Living Dead, which enters the ball park).

I'm talking Michael Moorcock, one of the most prolific and richly entertaining minds in British SF/Fantasy...

I'm talking Ray Bradbury's THE HALLOWEEN TREE - which really is perfect for October (coming soon), and even though it's a children's book, really, it's a wonderful read.

Enough. I think you get the picture.

Don't just take your body for a Holiday this year... send you mind out somewhere special. Let your imagination off it's leash. Let it see the sights in far off lands, the like of which your eyes may never see.

A book is a dream that you hold in your hands...

Start dreaming.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Have An Adventure This Summer..

That's the theme in what was the Doctor Who window... old fashioned adventure. The kind of thing attatched to being read while you were on holiday, away from home, that somehow made it extra exciting.

Try some Leon Garfield: 'Devil In The Fog', or G.K. Chesterton's 'The Man Who Was Thursday' which I can't reccomend highly enough. Marcus Sedgwick's 'My Sword Hand Is Singing', Susan Cooper's 'The Dark Is Rising', Tony Hawk's 'Round Ireland With A Fridge' or H.G. Wells' 'First Men In The Moon' - all this celebrating of the Apollo Moon Landings and we Brits got there first. Turn of the century no less, in the name of Queen Victoria!

We're seeing some interesting old SF & Fantasy coming in at the moment, James Branch Cabal, Fritz Lieber, Theodore Sturgeon...

And a good few more contemporary classics - Betty Smith (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn), Graham Greene, F. Scott Fitzgerald etc.

Thought I might flag up our rather well stocked Horror section, to be found - fittingly - in the basement, with a display of covers from the late 70's and early 80's. The kind that used to dare you and scare you as a kid. The kind that promised so much you were almost afraid of what might lurk inside.

Or I might just do a display of Guy N. Smith, a pretty awful writer with wonderfully shoddy pulp titles like 'The Slime Beast' and 'Night Of The Crabs'. They've got covers to die for in many cases. They're trash, but they're well packaged trash - and just bad enough to be fun in the right frame of mind.

We'll see what I dig most of from the section... whatever puts the biggest grin onto my face will be the winner. Whichever way it goes, they'll be i the window soon. Why don't you stop and take a look...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

So, one week down... many more to go.

It's been good. A little slower on those first few days than I would have thought, but not catastrophic - eyebrows were raised, but we didn't go running for the hills. And it's picked right up since then, so things are looking good.

Which is great, since we need to be able to tick over for a little while before making moves on new stock, and new ideas - building on what we already have, and adding to it. We're taking nothing away here. For any loyal customers reading this who've been with the shop since way back when, we're here for you still. You're the backbone of our enterprise (one might say the engine room, if you want to make a Star Trek analogy).

We just want to bring a few new people into the fold. In the months to come, we hope to improve our Childrens section, enlarge it if possible, if space permits/can be bent to our will; refresh the SF/Fantasy; add a little spice across the sections in general, jbring their flavour to the fullest.

Elsewhere, we're looking to maybe start doing some kind of events in store. There's already plans for a Bookclub - or rather and existing bookclub is likely to be using us as it's base and would like to invite more people to join in. More details to follow.

we'd also like to introduce regular/semi regular readings to the shop. Hearing a story read aloud, when it's read aloud well, is a wonderfull thing, so I'm going to look into that. It's a dying art, but one that I sense is having something of a comeback. More and more people I know (myself included) say they read to their partners, in bed, or instead of television, or while the other is cooking or whhatever. It's a lovely thing to do. And really, a story can often be a whole different thing read aloud. Spoken out loud, a story can take on a life of it's own, find it's personality, express itself. It might be funnier than you thought it was, or scarier. The rhythm of the thing comes to the fore in ways you hadn't thought of before, because you'd never had to get your lips or tongue around it, never had to take a breath.

We'll see what happens with this idea. It's something that will need some planning and searching for good readers. But if it works, it could be something magical.

We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Expressing Ourselves...

I like making window displays, thinking up themes, and descriptive phrases that might catch the eye, hook the mind, or raise a little smirk.

The line-up of Fontana Agatha Christie novels is doing well to catch attention, and indeed to sell itself. And I'm rather fond of the 'DO YOU NEED A DOCTOR?/THEY'RE BIGGER ON THE INSIDE' window of Target Doctor Who novels. A certain kind of person stops to have a good look and a smile, and from inside the shop, behind the counter, I look up and think - 'You're one of us...'

It's all just a way of letting people know the character of the place of course. And there really are some delights within... I've been finding all sorts of gems in the SF/Fantasy stocks (with some help from our friend Jez). Fritz Lieber collections, Tim Powers, a first collection of 'The Best Of Interzone', Gene Wolfe's 'Island Of Dr. Death' and many more. There's quite a treasure trove to be found in here. A veritable browsers delight.

Of course, putting the good stuff out on display is a double edged sword. It says look at me! I'm interesting! You didn't even know you wanted me but look, take me home! And then somebody does...

And you're pleased. Not only because you're making money, but because you've introduced someone to something GOOD.

And then you realise that you have to find something else. That if you're any good at this, and people keep on buying your recommendations (like you hope they will) you're going to have to get out there and hunt out more, find the cream that other folks are missing because they don't have the eye. And you somehow have to do this despite not being in the position to hire anyone just yet to look after the shop while you go out on the hunt...

Of course as soon as things are paying for themselves, and fully on ther feet, you can just go to the wholesalers, find the cream of all the new stock, the missing things that aren't being pushed by British Publishers so much, distracted as they are by paying to get their new 'bestsellers' into the Waterstones chart, or bargaining to have the public buy them as part of '3for2' deals.

In the mean time shops like us slip round the back and pull the curtains wide on smaller stranger, much more interesting treasures. Books that might just change you. Books that make a difference. Books that you will treasure, instead of leaving them in hotel rooms smelling of sun-tan lotion and the sea.

I've just finished reading Philip Pullmman's CLOCKWORK, which is a lovely little story that would probably make a great Christmas Day TV movie treat. I've also got MAUS on the go, finally. It's been sitting here since christmas past. I can safely say that it lives up to it's reputation. At the same time I've got an itch to go back and read more Ursula Le Guin, but Diana Wynne Jones's HOUSE OF MANY WAYS is looking at me; whispering and winking from the shelf. As is Michael Chabon's GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD (which I didn't get into first time around - and I LOVE Michael Chabon - but which I re-read a bit of the other day and it seemed like now might be it's time), but then Michael Moorcock's MOTHER LONDON is doing much the same, and Harlan Ellison's* DEATHBIRD STORIES, and for that matter Glen David Gold's follow-up to CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL, SUNNYSIDE, and, and, and... it's no good they're ganging up on me! And they all look so good!

What can I say, I'm a book slut. So sue me. I'm even thinking I might have to read at least ONE of the books in our really rather popular US Romance section. Let's call it 'research'. Just so I have some idea of whhat I'm talking about. I'll let you know if I get past page 1.

*Mentioning Harlan Ellison, I must just point you all towards a wonderful documentary about him that's currently avaliable on DVD from the states, called DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, it's a wonderful look at this immensley talented, highly entertaining, witty, angry, irascible old man, who - though largely known as an author of SF and dark fantasy - has written every kind of story under the sun, not to mention award winning scripts for televison, and is probably one of the finest writers that America has ever produced. If you don't believe me, ask Dorothy Parker.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


That's right.

We're in there. We're open!

Okay so it was open the day before we stepped in, but hey, this is something to celebrate!

Typically, the weather been either so good everybody's been down at the beach, or so weird and wet and warm that it was messing with peoples minds, so they wandered dazedly right past us... fools! Don't they know the cavalcade of curious things we have inside!?

Anyway, we're working through the shop, checking out what we have, what we need, what we think needs rearranging. Don't mind us if we're faffing about when you come in. Feel free to interrupt us. We're there for you after all.

If you're someone who already knows the shop, don't worry it wont change too much. We're just going through it with a fine tooth comb to make it a little bit more user friendly.

SF/Fantasy on ground floor, was New titles only, but it will now be a mix of new and used.

Crime will become Crime/Thriller... but other than that nothing too much will be changing.

Once we've found our feet and the shop has earned a little money (you gotta make a bit to spend a bit) we're hoping to introduce more New stock, which is to say New titles. A touch more of the literary, but not at the expense of what already works. We just want to be able to appeal to as many different READERS as possible. We try not to be snobbish in our tastes, nor reversely snobbish. A damn fine yarn is a damn fine yarn, whether it's one thhat grabs you by the throat, or tickles the inner workings of the mind.

What we have at the moment is a foundation. A good foundation at that. But we wannt to build on it. So if you do come in and don't find what you're looking for... come back another day. Keep trying us.

Hell, if we don't have what you're looking for in stock, we can order it (so long as it's in print). We offer a 20% DISCOUNT ON ALL NEW BOOK ORDERS. And remember, we can get things in from the United States, which opens up a whole world of possibilities.

So keep your eyes peeled. There's a lot to come. Check us out. We're friendly and enthusiastic. We want you to find something GOOD.

Our phone number is at the top of the page. Our email is:

'A book is dream you can hold in your hands...'

See you in the shop.