Since I started my career break I have had to rein in my book shopping and so, knowing a resolution to buy no books wouldn’t work, I promised myself that I would only buy exceptional bargains and used out of print books.
The exceptional bargains rule allowed me to buy three of the new Mary Stewart reissues in The Works last week.
My mother used to read a lot of Mary Stewart and I always suspected that I would like her too, but her books seemed to disappear for a very long time. I’m delighted to see these reissues, and very pleased to see that the library has bought copies of a few more of them. I have one on order already.
And the used out of print books rule allowed me to visit Bookmark, the last secondhand bookshop still trading in the town, when I was in Falmouth earlier in the week.
It is a lovely shop with a wonderful stock and well worth a visit if you are ever in that part of Cornwall.
I could have spent a fortune but I set myself a £20 budget. I spent it all, and though I regretfully left some lovely titles behind, I was happy to came home with some real gems.
I read Shadow of a Lady by Holly Roth last week for the letter R in my Crime Fiction alphabet last weekend, and I liked it more than enough to want to track down more of her books. I found two: The Content Assignment and The Sleeper.
Both plots look intriguing, and I am very impressed that one opens in the first person and the other in the third and that they both read beautifully.
I recognised the name Helen McCloy, as I already have one of her novels sitting unread in a bookcase. The title Two-Thirds of a Ghost intrigued me and the synopsis spoke of parlour-games at a publisher’s party. Sold!
John Dickson Carr is one of those authors I’ve been thinking I really must try for quite some time now. I didn’t recognise the title, The Demoniacs, but when I picked the book up I discovered that it was a historical mystery, set in London in 1757. The opening, on a post-chaise travelling from Southwark towards London Bridge, read beautifully and so I had to hang on to this one.
And then, moving from the crime fiction shelves to general fiction, there was Ivy Compton-Burnett. I have a few of her books sitting unread, but not A Family and a Fortune. And this was such a lovely numbered Penguin edition, in grey rather than the more usual orange for general fiction, and again the opening reads so well …
I spotted a row of five books by A A Milne, published by Meuthen & Co in the 1930s. Very pretty little hardback editions with an impression of the author’s signature on the front cover. I already have a couple of books by E H Young in the same format. I left The Red House Mystery behind – it’s a lovely book and I already have a very noce modern edition. I reluctantly left the volumes of journalism and Punch articles, as I know that the library has at least one of them in stock. But Mr Pim Passes By looked so perfect that I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.
Here’s the first paragraph:
“Tell me what a man has for breakfast, and I will tell you what he is like,” as George Marsden used to say, though whether it was his own, or whether he was quoting from that other great thinker, Podbury, I cannot tell you. But the observation would come out periodically; as, for instance, when Dinah had declined a second go of marmalade, or a weaker vessel among his guests had refused to let him help her to one of those nice kidneys …
Had I been restricted to one book, this would have been that one.
And finally there was something that I so rarely find these days: a Virago Modern Classic that I don’t already have in my collection. I hadn’t particularly looked for Hackenfeller’s Ape by Brigid Brophy because I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book about apes and a scientist, but I remembered Verity writing about it positively and it was there in front of me …
And that was it – a book budget well spent!