Book-hunting tales, author interviews, book fair reports, bookshop photos and Conan Doyle gravesite photos.

MEETINGS WITH AUTHORS Page finalised 5th November, 2010.
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site in Australia.
This page includes reports on book fairs, general articles on looking for books and author interviews.
Leura Book Fair (March, 2005)
The Estate Collection (December, 2003) - separate page
Blue Mountains book fair (Australia, May, 2003)
Art, Books & Comics show (England, February, 2003)
Meeting with an author (England, April, 2002)
Decline in Jumble Sales (England, October, 2001)
Paperback and Pulp Book Fair (London, May, 2001)
Balgowlah Book Fair (Australia, December, 1999)
Three hundred thousand books (New Zealand, 1999)
Book-hunting in Sydney - Overview
Barbara's books
Conan Doyle office, gravesite and Dymock's bookshop photos.

Leura Book Fair, Australia, 29th March, 2005 - from the CB&M editor.
Leura book fair on Saturday 26th; I arrived as the doors opened at 10am with about 100 people ahead of me. Despite this I was one of the first into the room at the rear where the children's books are displayed as the crowd couldn't help stopping at the tables in the main room. There was an overflow area off to the side which held books for older children as well. However, I had to be at Parramatta by 11.30 (over an hour's drive) so was limited to one trip/one box/what I could carry :). A quick look around revealed a table of reasonable goodies which I reached seconds ahead of a number of local dealers. There wasn't time to open my bag and deposit items in neatly. I had to wrap my arm around almost a metre of books then stagger to the side for some breathing space. This pile of books consisted of the following in no particular order: EB's Fifth Form of St Clare's, early ed in g dj, BB's The Little Grey Men in g dj, an early ed of Freckles, 7 x LFP's Twins series, 5 in djs, mosly prewar, Flame Hits the Trail, Susan Pulls the Strings in dj, Abbey Girls on Trial in vg dj, Jen of the AS, Two Joans of the Abbey, silver star ed, A Dancer from the Abbey in dj, The Children of the Marshes, It Happened One Summer in tdj, an early Rainbow Valley, Fairy Tales of the South Seas, Vaizey's Big Game, Moore's The Lucas Girls, Harlequin Corner in a vg dj, Emmeline Garnett's Dragon Farm in a vg dj, Pollyanna of Magic Valley, 1st Oz in dj and the best find, Clare Mallory's The New House at Winwood, 1st Oz.

Blue Mountains book fair, Australia, May, 2003 - from the CB&M editor.
There's a yearly book fair held in the mountains by a local church which generally fills the church hall. I rolled up at 8.30, secure in the knowledge that though it is supposed to open at 9, the doors are always open by 8.30. No so this year, due to doubt to people complaining. No worries, as it was sunny with a clear, crisp and blue sky. My friends from Bohemia Books, soon to move out of the mountains were there, without transport, so I agreed to run them home with their 'finds', if any. I'd grabbed one of Barbara's Penrith book fair bags; it always pays to advertise!

The door creaked open and the mob - no one had actually lined up - surged for the 2 foot wide opening. I was trapped on both sides and swept through into the hall, seemingly without my feet touching the ground. Kids' books are always inside on the right - across the back of the hall, and this is where I headed. What a disappointment with nothing but modern picture books face up. I headed for the front and the stairs which go up above the stage, for sports and gardening and hear at least I found an Observers' book, 60s style, in a jacket. Leaving that section, I headed for the back room and the 'fill a bag for $2' area. No one had followed me and I was first there.

And yes, a few finds. A dozen folded copies of 'Modern Wonder, a weekly 'Eagle' style A3 paper published by Odhams in 1937 with colour covers and a great cutaway colour centre spread. These I've never come across in the flesh. Similarly, two 64pp publications, 'The Wonder world of modern Marvels' and 'This Wonderful World', two in a series of 8 published by Collins under the heading 'The Wonder World of Knowledge'. Date nk but I would guess all 8 came together as a book.

My eyes dropped to a box of general dross, but under it all was the orange cloth of a fat 40s EJO. 'The Abbey Girls' good with one loose page. Then in another pile of also-rans, a 48 ed of 'The Abbey Girls Play Up', a Needham, 1944 1st of 'The Woods of Windri' in a dj, an early Brazil 'Fortunes of Philippa', three early Orczy 'Pimpernels' and various other things. By then I was loaded up so paid and deposited all to the car. Back again and guess what; I'd MISSED a table signposted as 'Older Children's'. Argh; but there in a row of Hardy Boys pbs was 'Biggles in the Baltic', the thin 1942 reprint turquoise cloth, nice clean copy with intact colour f'piece. So all in all, a good day's finds. My friends had picked up 3 cartons of good material including the 1932 Opening of the Harbour Bridge souvenir book. How did I miss that?

Art, Books & Comics show, England, February, 2003, which is the same old UK Books, Pulps & Comics Fair with a snappy new title. Steve Holland steve@uworldst.demon.co.uk
I'm happy to report that stoic Brits showed the wartime stiff upper everything to attend in good numbers despite the problems faced with the London Underground (which recently suffered a rare catastrophe when an engine fell off one of the trains and scraped to a halt at Chancery Lane on the most heavily travelled tube line -- it links Liverpool Street and the shopping centre of London). Barred from taking my usual easy route I'd planned a new, nearly-as-easy route only to find that I'd have to make part of the journey by bus. And this on the day that I had volunteered to take some books to one of the dealers from a friend. By the time I got to the Royal National Hotel I felt like my knuckles were dragging the street and walked in like I had my own personal storm cloud perched above my head.

Woe, woe, and thrice woe, I declared to the assembled merchants. If everybody has the same journey I've just had they're not going to bother turning up.

I was wrong. By ten there was a good throng and by eleven at least a good throng and a half. Men doffed their cloth caps and rubbed shoulders with pearly queens, young 'uns with sooty faces sucking gobstoppers frolicked along the isles. "Gawd bless us all," wept happy booksellers and led a rousing cry of "God Save the King" as we purchased all manner of printed collectables and stoked their coffers with coins of the realm.

Deal after deal was struck, treasures in vg+ and near mint passed from hand to hand as we gazed in wonderment at the bounty from our fabled publishing houses of old. For was it not Winston Churchill who so memorably said of British book dealers: "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

And then I got the bus back to Liverpool Street and the train home.

Meeting with an author Jim Mackenzie jmackenzie48@yahoo.com
Yesterday morning I went to the Oxfam Bookshop in Newcastle Upon Tyne to listen to a reading by David Almond, the children's author who won the Carnegie prize for "Skellig" in 1998. "Skellig" was also judged Whitbread Book of the Year in the same year. The basic idea was that David Almond was working with the children's laureate, Anne Fine, in promoting the idea of home libraries. Each child was being encouraged to build their own collection of reading books to keep in their own private space at home. The Oxfam connection was via the issue of free bookplates that children could use to personalise their collections.

The reading was scheduled to start at 10.30 am and actually began on time. Sadly there were only about four of us there at the start – 3 adults and one 9 year old girl. Later two more little girls turned up to listen to the proceedings. It must have been quite disappointing for both David Almond and for Oxfam. However, it was certainly a very interesting experience for me and I got the chance to ask him lots of questions.

He began by talking about the "Home Library Scheme" and suddenly leant over a picked a book off the children's section of the Oxfam's shelves. "You can get an excellent book like this for less than two pounds," he said. He was holding a copy of "The Eagle of the Ninth" by Rosemary Sutcliff. At that point I was now totally on his side, for those of you who know David Almond's books will realise that you couldn't get two authors more unlike each other.

He read from "Skellig" first of all and he read very well indeed, without ever giving the impression that he was putting on a performance. He talked about how the idea came to him and how, after many years of trying to write for adults, he suddenly realised that he was composing a children's story. He talked about the process of writing and how the inspiration came from the house that he moved into in Westwood Avenue in Heaton (about half a mile from where I live). This was news to me. There is nothing in "Skellig" that betrays a particular place. One of the reasons for its popularity is the way in which it could be set anywhere in any big city.

I managed to follow up this idea of settings by asking about "Kit's Wilderness" for he had mentioned in previous interviews that it was partly set in Felling on Tyne, the place of his birth and his early youth. However, a large part of that book draws upon the idea of an old coal mining town and the traces that are left on the landscape. In response to my question he said it wasn't any particular place, just memories he had of various towns in County Durham. At this point he revealed that there are plans afoot to film "Kit's Wilderness" and that he had been round the area with the people behind the project looking for the right locations. There wasn't any one place that was quite right.

Next he read the opening from "Heaven Eyes" which I have to admit that I find to be the most effective and the most challenging of his books. He took the opportunity to point out to the children present the way in which books work. He said it was all a "big lie." He pointed to the front of the book, "Heaven Eyes" by David Almond. He turned to the title page, "Heaven Eyes" by David Almond. Then he read the first line, "My name is Erin Law."
"There you are," he said. "You know straight away that it's all lies."
He followed this up with encouraging them to let their imaginations roam and to take on new personalities when telling their stories. He agreed that it did feel different to be trying to write like a teenage girl but that the story wouldn't come to him any other way. Several crucial scenes in the story are set on a mudbank in the middle of the River Tyne which he called the "Black Middens". This led me back to asking him about his ideas about settings. He clearly knew that there was a real "Black Middens" miles further down river. Did he know that Robert Westall had set crucial scenes in one of his stories on the real Black Middens ? Had he ever read "The Watch House" ?

He said that he hadn't read any of the books by Robert Westall. It was something he would like to do but he didn't want to be inhibited by what other writers before him had done. I pointed out that it really was a remarkable coincidence that three male writers, born on the banks of the Tyne, had all won the Carnegie Prize for literature – himself, Robert Westall (1975+1981) and Richard Armstrong (1948). He told us that when touring the U.S.A. last year people had said that the journey down the river in "Heaven Eyes" had made them think of their own rivers when they read it. The remains of the coal industry on Tyneside mentioned in "Kit's Wilderness" started images of dereliction in East Virginia and other places. He felt happy that, though his books emerged in his mind with a very particular location, children were able to work with the features he suggests and make them their own imaginary landscape as the story unfolded.

I asked him how he felt about reading criticism of his work, especially from people who were "less than positive". He admitted he did read the critics and that it did upset him when comments were adverse. The Cambridge Guide to Children's writers was mentioned and I suggested that, though "Skellig" was warmly praised, the reaction to "Heaven Eyes" was not so enthusiastic. Was this because he had tried to experiment a little more with the sound and rhythm and the double meaning of words ? He agreed that certain critics found this difficult to accept.

At the moment he is working on two screenplays and he compared it to putting together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle rather than a more normal process of writing. Another novel is nearly finished, however. Its title is "The Apprentice" and he hinted that it would have more to do with the countryside than the town. Perhaps this reflects his recent move from Heaton to a small village much further up the Tyne Valley towards Hexham.

Many more questions that I'd always wanted to ask an author were dealt with lucidly and politely. The names of his characters, for instance, were a crucial part of how his stories evolved. They had to be just right. When questioned about the place called "Helmouth" in "Secret Heart" he conceded that he was having a little joke with himself by recalling the Medieval Mystery Plays and a physical representation of the mouth of hell being onstage with the actors. He did think there was a bit of "bandwagon" effect with lots of writers trying to produce stories for children with a strong fantasy element in imitation of J.K.Rowling and Philip Pullman. Critics often said that there was a great deal of junk being produced for children. His response was to say that even more was being put out for adults. He quoted examples from the best-seller lists to prove his point.

An excellent morning - just a pity there weren't more people there to enjoy it !

Decline in Jumble Sales Jim Mackenzie jmackenzie48@yahoo.com
As you grow older your view of the world gets more jaundiced. Take jumble sales for example. In a moment of weakness I agreed to help out at the local ... 's jumble sale – book section only. Let me make it clear that it was really my wife they wanted for she has run many stalls in the past. I agreed to be her helper and to defer all major decisions to her final adjudication.(Just like home really.) I admit I was seduced by the fact that a local secondary school was donating a large amount of it surplus library stock. I had dreams of well-protected copies of Geoffrey Trease and Monica Edwards. I should have known better.

Friday night six o'clock and we wandered into the church hall to find the book mountain, the jigsaw maze and the record and cassette trench. Someone had thoughtfully arranged the tables in a rectangle but forgotten to allow a gap for us to gain access. Slammed on to the tables was the biggest collection of junior enclopaedias and Readers Digests that I have ever seen in one place at one time. Cardboard boxes were arriving every minute and from every direction. For the first time ever we had more books than we knew what to do with. The rest of the hall was filling up with toys, bric a brac and piles of clothing that threatened to reach the rafters. There was no question of more table space.

The first cunning ploy was to surreptitiously slide the jigsaws on to the toy table when the ... occupants went for a cup of tea. We then threw the records and tapes into three big boxes and shoved them in the corner. Encyclopaedias were, we soon agreed, dead ducks. We stacked them behind us so that our backs were no longer both physically and metaphorically to the wall. Then it was triage – children's books to the right, fiction on the long front section and non-fiction crawling round the corner to the left to join the junk- boxes of records. Under the main tables we placed lower tables and under the lower tables we used the floor. At one point we were walled in and had to hack our way through a pile of Dick Francis in order to get out. Nine o'clock we escaped.

Saturday morning at ten o'clock the dealers arrived. I've never liked this idea and some jumble sales won't allow dealers in beforehand. (They pay for the privilege, of course. They are like specially invited vultures before the hyenas are allowed on to the carcass.) Apologies to all professionals reading this. :o))

However, we were just volunteers and not running the show. I am convinced that the author's name didn't mean a thing to the one I watched. He just picked "clean-looking" paperbacks by the usual run of Maeve Binchy and Elizabeth Jane Howard and co. I asked him about his choice and he was happy to confirm that he sold them from his market stall and only new-looking ones went. By now I'd worked out that the books from the local school library were all non-fiction and mostly from the lit-crit and biology sections. None of the children's books on our stall was over five years old apart from a Meindert de Jong which I purchased for myself.

Home at twelve o'clock. Back at 1.15 for a 1.30 start. Then the action really began and this is where the jaundice set in. More dealers pretending to be real people. I'd forgotten they like to select ten, get you to store them (as if you haven't got anything else to do) and have their hands free for the next ten. Two women combed our offerings in tandem – the short one went under the tables and the long one elbowed her way along the top. I trod on the hand of the lower one as she tried to sneak a book off the pile that had been stored for another dealer. She knew that - but my foot was accidental, honestly.

To my amazement a huge crowd built up round the records, tapes and C.D.'s and people deliberated for hours about whether to spend 20p on Des O'Connor.

For people who wanted books it was frightening how many couldn't read and kept asking the prices of books when there were huge notices telling them. As I dealt with one dealer I could see out of the corner of my eye one ... dropping a cassette into his plastic bag without paying for it. "How much is this book ?" asked one man aggressively. I told him. He looked amazed and opened his mouth. ... I rapped out,
"Yes. It's amazingly cheap, isn't it." He paid and shuffled off. I think my greatest success was persuading a bloke to buy a book on `A' level geomorphology for his friend who used a mine-detector to look for precious stones. My biggest failure was not getting rid of a French Linguaphone course that looked like it had come over with William the Conqueror. Suddenly the crowd thinned out and I dealt with a few human beings whilst drinking a refreshing cup of coffee brought round by the Akela.

All the usual tricks had been tried – the slow-motion fumbling with the purse in the hope that you will accept less because you want to get on to the next customer, the sigh of despair when you give them a total for five books that apparently exceeds their life savings, the attempt to hand over money to young cubs in the hope they can be brow- beaten into accepting the wrong amount, the "accidental" foreign coin, the bringing of the item of bric-a-brac to your stall in the hope you will accept 20p because there was too big a crowd at the stall itself (where the price was 1.20), the claim that ... had said all items were now reduced to 10p…and so on.

And for all this bother and this unfortunate view of humanity I get one children's book and the doubtful pleasure of cataloguing the one annual that turned up – "Barbie 1997". Does anyone else attend or run British jumble sales ? Never again.Well, not till next time.

All the left-over books were taken to charity shops by the way.

The Paperback and Pulp Book Fair Steve Holland steve@uworldst.demon.co.uk
Since this is a global site, a little history: the Paperback and Pulp Book Fair was launched in September 1991 by Maurice Flanagan of Zardoz Books
www.zardozbooks.com , one of the (and probably *the*) biggest dealers in vintage paperbacks in the UK. Maurice had a full-time lecturing job at the time, although he is now a full-time book dealer, yet was able to bring together the show, which included a number of guests (of which I was one) with relative ease because the enthusiasm was there for people to meet up. There had been earlier paperback shows based around the small collective of folks known as the British Association of Paperback Collectors (BAPC), but these had been held in the midlands... England is notoriously London-centric when it comes to travel so most "national" shows do mean London, although that situation is changing with the expansion of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) based in Birmingham.

So the first London show became the official 1st UK Paperback and Pulp Book Fair, a regular annual get-together for paperback fans to buy, sell, meet and chat -- lots of fun in what is often a fairly isolated hobby. A second show, in May, was started four years ago, originally at a different venue, but moving last year to the same hotel venue as the main show: the Grosvenor Hotel is a luxurious and vast sprawl which backs onto Victoria railway station, easily accessible to anyone on the London underground. Walking into the hotel and through the spacious main hallway is like crossing a dividing line from the bustling main-line station into a quiet sanctuary.

Up a short, wide flight of steps, and you enter straight into the dealer's room. The May Fair has always been comparatively quiet compared to October (which isn't *huge* itself), and this year there were some 22 tables and, perhaps, 12 dealers, most of them familiar faces to the folks who make their way to these Fairs twice a year. Doors open at 10.00 am and the day is usually over by 4.00 pm... although after about 2.00 pm many of the dealers are dropping their prices to make last minute sales before people scurry out the door to try and find some lunch. With only 20 or so tables in use this year, it didn't take too long to get around, spot a few interesting items and call it a day; like many people I tend to treat the whole thing as a social event... but for the first hour or so I try to keep my head down, looking for elusive old vintage paperbacks and maybe one or two more modern items.

Sunday, May 20th: the fourth May Book Fair. Day begins at around 6.00 am as I try to figure out who replaced my normally neat hair with a fright wig while I was asleep. The mirror tells a sorry story.

One breakfast, a shower and a shave later and I start to feel a little more human. Out of habit I've turned the computer on and start checking mail but drag myself away to load up a bag with books that I'm taking up to the Fair to be sold to finance my trip, mostly modern SF destined for Bob Wardzinski (aka The Talking Dead) and some books for Jamie Sturgeon from a friend of mine who is doing a swap.

8.15 am and I'm in a taxi heading down to Colchester Town station, which is frustratingly distant for someone so lazy as me. The weighty bag is the perfect excuse; it really was heavy. At the station there's the message I feared: maintenance on the line has shut the railway down -- we have this pleasure to look forward to every summer -- and the first third of the journey is going to be by bus. I bury my head in a book ("I, Lucifer" by Peter O'Donnell, the third Modesty Blaise). Later, we exchange bumpy old bus for bumpy old railway stock, and spend the rest of the journey dozing. On the borders of conscience, two women are having a conversation about a pub quiz and whether the team should have to pay to have a trophy engraved. When they drift back it has turned into a conversation about a friend of theirs who has gone walking in Belgium. Seeing the entrance to Liverpool Street is a blessed relief.

Delays and disruptions to the underground keep me guessing about how long it will be before I'll reach Victoria, but I don't do too badly; I'm only half and hour later than I'd hoped when I swap sunny, tourist-filled London streets for the sanctuary of the Grosvenor, cross the foyer and walk up the stairs.

Leaving the heavy bag with dealer Bob Wardzinski, I chose a corner of the room to start and headed over, keeping my head down... it was time to look at books, not catch the eye of people who might distract me from the task at hand. The top right end of the hall belonged this year to Clive Jones (whose father-in-law used to be a pulp and storypaper writer in the 1930s). The "two pounds or less" box immediately yielded a couple of paperbacks for a quid apiece: an Arrow Edgar Wallace ("On the Spot") and "The Wrong Murder" by Craig Rice. Neither could be said to be in mint condition (or anything like it): however the minor cover creases didn't detract too much from the covers, and I'm after the contents anyway.

To sate my need for post-war PBOs (PBO = paperback original, coincidentally the title of the newsletter I used to run for the BAPC), a found and grabbed a copy of "Miss Otis Throws a Come-Back" by Ben Sarto with its Perl cover.

Having spent a small amount (the books this year were, in the main, very reasonably priced) and received my "fix" of book-buying I trawled the rest of the tables at a slightly more leisurely pace, picking up the occasional book (I won't give you a blow-by-blow account of every single purchase!) and looking enviably at one or two others which I would have liked but don't have the money for. It's a delight to see many of these books -- I don't have the urge to collect *everything* (despite rumours to the contrary), but I'm always interested in seeing a run of titles from the same publisher, or a group of books in the same genre laid out. You see interesting patterns emerging; the crime novels which I collect from the post-war years have what's usually called "good-girl art" (I'll scan some and post them for anyone who wants to take a look at what I mean); other books fall into other areas: "leg art" is very popular; there are even genres of "gorilla art" and "eye art" which people collect, usually in the USA where there have been more magazines published on the subject of paperbacks and where catalogues are more often illustrated.

I'm fortunate in that most people know me. I compiled some lists back in the mid-1980s covering some of the collectable UK publishers which were well-received, and by the time of the first Fair I had contributed to most of the paperback magazines being published -- Books Are Everything, Paperback Parade, Paperbacks, Pulps & Comics, and the BAPC newsletter - so even when people didn't recognise me in person, they knew my name. Ten years later (and probably two stone heavier!) the Fair has become a meeting place for old friends, sharing stories about the books we've picked up, having a pint at the bar, or coffee at one of the local coffee shops, doing some wheeling and dealing, catching up on various new publications and griping about how few vintage paperbacks there are... far too few to go around all our collections.

After one full circuit of the hall, I headed off for coffee with old pals Ray Steptoe, Ray Norton and Sam Peffer. Sam (better known as "Peff") was a prolific artist of paperback covers in the 1950s and 1960s, drawing some of the great covers for Pan especially, but working for most of the leading publishers of the time before drifting into designing and painting film posters, video box sleeves and other commissions. A classical artist with a photo-realist style, Peff often did Pan's movie tie-in covers. He's one of the greats of British paperback art, and always an interesting person to talk to, especially when he and Ray Norton get together. The two worked together for some years in the days when cinemas did not use posters as they do today -- they had agencies who supplied stand-up billboards, painted by in-house artists and huge 48-sheet silk-screened posters that were stuck to huge advertising hoardings that had to be winched up the front of the cinemas. The company they worked for (Ray being there from apprenticeship for thirty years before joining Foyles Bookshop) was full of characters, and we soon lost track of time as the two reminisced.

Back at the Fair (eventually), I found that various people had been asking for me. Mike Ashley had been and gone on a flying visit. Fortunately, I'd been able to pick up a copy of his new book "The Time Machines" -- a history of science fiction magazines from 1926-1950, the first of three volumes.

Jamie Sturgeon, my friendly supplier of old crime novels, had a stack of books for me that I had already purchased (bringing them down to the Fair saves postage!), amongst them a bound volume of Union Jacks ("Sexton Blake's Own Paper!) which I'll be indexing here soon. Also a Gwyn Evans novel (I mentioned Gwyn here recently). Phil Harbottle showed me the latest clutch of books from Cosmos / Wildside Press, the US publisher he helps keep supplied (Phil is an agent, and we co-wrote a couple of books about British SF a few years ago); unfortunately these had been flown in, and weren't for sale or I'd have been a few pounds lighter in the pocket and a few pounds heavier in the bag to be carried home.

And for all you Biggles collectors who have read this far, is anyone interested in W. E. Johns contribution to... is it "My Garden" ? Drop me a line as one of the dealers has a volume for sale.

So, let's drop some names. Ted Tubb, the SF writer of many excellent novels -- probably best known for the Dumarest books -- was there as usual, signing dozens of books for fans and dealers alike; Syd J. Bounds, whose name has popped up in a couple of annuals we've checklisted here, was on form as usual and we exchanged our usual greeting: "How are you, Syd?" "Still upright, so I must be OK." Syd's 81 and still writing, having just started the fourth western of a five-book contract with Robert Hale.

The big surprise was the arrival of Ernest Dudley, the "Armchair Detective". He's quite frail, at 93, but still has all his faculties. We talked about his autobiography, just completed and looking for a publisher, which was all about his life in Cookham where he grew up as the neighbour to a famous artist. I also hear he has another Dr. Morelle novel partly written.

In a slightly quavering, quiet voice, he admitted to me that he was quite shell-shocked by the Fair, having never seen anything like it before. And he plans to be at the next one. As do I.

The Paperback Book Fair hasn't the attendance of most Book Fairs in London -- compared to some its almost unattended -- but I find it more relaxing and all the more friendly for it. You get to talk (not shout) with dealers about what you collect, you can pick up some friendly advise about what to look out for. And you can compare notes afterwards at the bar. All in all, it's a good day out. Plus, if you're so inclined, you're in the heart of London, and London doesn't close on a Sunday, so you can shop, take a look around, and generally kick back without all the crowds.

A Holiday, a Book, a Carton-full, no - a Car-full of Books! - Barbara
I hadn't thought about it before but when we arrived home from the 1997 Abbey Girls of Australia Camp in Adelaide with about 20 boxes of books (no one would think I sold any at the camp as the car was bursting at the seams), I was told I wouldn't have as much fun at the next camp. At first I was puzzled then I realised my friend meant The Trip. We always have as much fun getting to the camp as we have at it. I certainly won't be able to visit anywhere near the 107 Op-shops, book shops, etc, which we visited on the way to Adelaide, in a 2-hour trip to Sydney. So I've decided to tell you about the highlights of that Sydney-Adelaide-Sydney trip to illustrate some tips on book hunting. In the hope some of you coming to Sydney will have as much fun as I have had for the last 3 camps.

  • The pre-trip preparation is essential. Look up where you are going & and copy booksellers-s/h, secondhand shops and antique shops from the Yellow pages, and Salvation Army & St Vincent De Paul from the White pages, and plot them on your maps. I used the UBD Towns of NSW, Victoria & South Australia, & the Adelaide Street Directory. It was amazing how many places I had difficulty finding even when I knew the address. These would have been missed entirely without the list.
  • Highlight on the state map the places that have shops that seem likely, and choose your route. For example Griffith was a bit out of the way but they had four Op shops, one secondhand shop and one antique shop. These shops netted over 60 books. The Salvos were actually giving away all the hardbacks as they had been unable to sell them. There WERE Antonia Forests, Monica Edwards, W.E Johns, Angela Thirkell just to name a few. They were all ex library but in very good condition. I don't think any collectors could have been there for ages. The lady in change was amazed when I insisted on paying or giving them a donation for the 45 books I had selected.
  • Always go home a different way. As well as being more interesting there are different towns and shops. I really feel sorry for people with driver-husbands who are loath to stop when Op shop signs are seen and never do U-turns to go back to one. My car is almost on auto-pilot to stop at each and every one (even if Mum eventually sits in the car for a few of the stops). It was with great regret on the way home that we had to miss a few shops, but if we hadn’t, we wouldn't have arrived in Canberra in time for the Lifeline Booksale.
  • In country towns (even in cities and suburbs this can be good idea but you would need weeks to see them all) look in the secondhand shops and antique shops. Most have books and often they are priced at $2, and $5 or even less. Often most of the books are not worth 20c but there are nearly always gems. A few examples are Girls of Gwynfa, Mistress Nancibell, two Chambers EBDs in DJ,'s , three Clare Mallorys in just the first four days of this trip..
  • Never take any notice when a friend says a shop or market is no good. You never know what they may have just got in. I would never have gone to the Canberra Lifeline book sale if I believed friends both in Canberra and Sydney. A mutual friend who had also been there that day had reported that it was no good (this friend does know a little about the authors we collect & found me a copy of Two Form Captains a year or so ago), and he was sorry I'd rushed to get there for the opening. I bought  6 W.E.Johns, 5 Billy Bunters, 2 Film fun Annuals all for $2-$5. Also the last Gladys Lister "Little Round..." book I needed in almost mint condition among a host of other things. I spent over $200 overall. Admittedly there were very few EJO's and only pb EBD's (that I saw). but lots of lovely picture books for a friend that collects them.
  • Look for things for other people. Ask your friends what they collect, particularly those things you don't. Offer to look for their wants if they will do the same for your wants. I find this works very well and it becomes as much fun telling them how little you paid for a rare title as finding something for yourself. John had actually had the best find (from my viewpoint) very close to home while I was away - A hardback ed with dj of Cousin From Town by Mary Grant Bruce, previously only thought to exist as a pb school reader.
  • Always ask for what you want if you don't see it. In one place my request was answered by "probably got lots more (EJO, & W E Johns) in the back room or the garage". The offer to search some out that night (thank goodness it was late afternoon) he only came up with a few Seagulls but one was ‘Tomboys’. He also pulled out a couple of fairly scarce WEJs and a few other things that might have interested me. I ended up buying another 20 books the following morning. He happily took my list and promised to ring next time he got some EJO's as only one person in town collected them. Why? Because her name was ‘Oxenham’ (no not Marick unless she’s moved) and only paid $1-$2.
  • Bookshops seem to fall into two categories, ones who have never heard of EJO (so never buy any) & and those who have 10 people they ring as soon as they get any in. So you have to be lucky to find one who doesn't keep peoples’ wants lists, and has just got something in.
  • Happy book hunting!   Barbara

Sydney including the nearby Blue Mountains, Wollongong and central coast to Newcastle is reasonably well served by public transport so far as the book shop searcher is concerned. However, if you're really keen and intend looking around charity and junk shops, fairs, garage sales and fetes, you'll most certainly need a car. The major rental companies can be quite expensive so if you're travelling on a budget, we suggest you check the yellow pages for 'rent a bomb' auto hire companies. These are mostly located around the city of Sydney proper. For travel queries and anything to do with cars, see the NRMA (National Roads and Motorists)'s web page at nrma.com.au

You should consult our LINKS page for information on secondhand bookshops. Book fairs are a far less regular occurrence than in Britain with no more than half a dozen major ones per year. These you'll find (if the organisers have given us the current details) on the FAIRS page.

Like in many cities, rents in Sydney have forced most secondhand booksellers out of Sydney proper. You should consult the Yellow Pages for current addresses, after having looked at our BOOKMART site, naturally.  John (June, 1999)

Some Sydney book fairs are infernally inconvenient. They start late on a Friday in order to catch people driving home after work. This particular event would require my driving across the peak hour traffic, from the southwest of the city to the north side of the Harbour. For those of you not familiar with Sydney, the peak hour extends from 3 pm to 7 pm. This event was scheduled to open at 5 so I would have to start off no later than 3.45, with the hope that there would be no traffic blockages on the way. It had been a book drought of late and of course there was no way I could sit at home, wondering what I might have missed.

This regular event is held in a school hall a couple of miles to the west of Manly Beach. Usually there are at least 50,000 books and magazines. The organisers have it all down to a fine art. Floor plans are handed out prior to the doors opening. The hall is approached by a wide flight of steps. The day was overcast but fortunately the rain held off. I arrived at 4.50, having for once remembered to park downhill from the hall in case I did find enough to fill my bag. There would have been close to a hundred anxious people waiting around by the time the door opened. There is a certain technique to beating the crowd. My height seems to be against me: little old ladies slip in under my arms and experienced dealers shove boxes in my stomach. Entry was gained in return for a donation.

Imagine if you will a hall wider than it is long, the stage being opposite the entrance. (It could be 100 x 120 feet in size, or larger.) The children's books occupy the entire width at the stage end, picture books to the left of the steps, novels to the right, extending all the way to the wall. All books are well displayed in boxes, with boxes under the tables as well. The organisers have all visible boxes opened, a good idea from which other groups could learn. By doing that, they avoid the problem of people ripping open cartons and strewing the contents around the floor. I should have mentioned that books deemed to be 'collectible' have a separate table just in front of the door. All the tables, sensibly, run from the entrance end towards the stage, with tables right around the walls as well. No space is left unused.

I had a quick glance at the 'collectibles' table before walking swiftly to the children's fiction, picking up an early Brazil and a Pocock in a jacket. The Johns, Ethel Turner and M G Bruce books there were overpriced for common titles in below par condition, so there they stayed. I was happy to lay hands on a thick edition of 'A Thrilling Term at Janeways' and 'The New House Mistress' in a jacket. Once I walked to the stage area and arrived at the hundreds of children's fiction books, I felt hopeful. Slowly my bag began to fill, with Sue Bartons, Malcolm Savilles, Pat Smythes, Chalet paperbacks (sorry, no hardbacks!), Lorna Hills, Jane Shaws, Cherry Ames, Montgomerys, Drinas, Pullein-Thompsons, Twins, Blytons and so on finding a home within. The real surprise came after 45 minutes when I returned to the 'collectibles' table to find discarded thereon 1920s editions of EJO's 'Expelled from School' and 'The Abbey Girls Again'! Still, I wasn't complaining!! By this time the bag was barely moveable so I staggered to the tallying table, certain that a credit card transaction would be necessary. Night had fallen as I walked unsteadily out the door and down the steps, to discover that rain was beginning to fall. I was very grateful that I had parked downhill.

Having stacked the books in the boot, I returned to the hall with no great expectations. Yet again I found more good titles and even a few books for myself. I'd begun checking through the older hardback adult fiction and sure enough as often happens, this is where more Malcolm Savilles turned up. A further check through the children's paperbacks revealed two Biggles including 'Noble Lord' which I knew was the only title required by a friend to complete his Biggles collection. Completing someone's collection of a particular author always gives me satisfaction. Anyway, what could have been the best find of all so far as paying my bills was concerned, turned out to be a disappointment. I picked up a damaged but seemingly complete 1925 edition of Rentoul's and Outhwaite's 'The Little Green Road to Fairyland'. Closer examination at home revealed that one colour plate was missing.

In all, Barbara received about 60 books, with the event providing me with about a dozen. Check this page again in August for another report. John (June, 1999)

THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND BOOKS [Editors' comments: !!!]
Jane Webster reports on 2 New Zealand Book Fairs this year 1999
I know the people in the UK use the term 'book fair' to describe something completely different so I'll start off with a description of the best of the New Zealand ones - the 300,000 book Regent Theatre Book Fair in Dunedin.

This book fair (like a few others around the country) is run to renovate the local theatre (previously a picture theatre, now a venue for live events). The Regent Theatre was going to be demolished to make way for a car park - despite being quite an old building in a country rather lacking in historic places. Instead it was decided to restore it if funds could be found, which they were. The book fairs (which began in 1980) consist of selling donated books cheaply (in Dunedin, mostly for 50 cents each). Of course, the labour is voluntary and, as it is held in the Theatre, there is no venue hire cost, so nearly all of the takings are profit. I don't say that all 300,000 books are sold, but about half are, giving a boost to the restoration fund of some 75,000 dollars each year. I might add (having queued in the building for 2 hours) that the Theatre now looks lovely and it is hard to believe that anyone would have considered demolishing it for a car park!

This book fair is a 24 hour event so that although keen collectors (me, for example) queue for the opening at midday Friday, new books are being put out throughout the whole 24 hours period so 'treasures' can be found at any time. Alas! For the addicted collector (yep, me again) this means you have to be there almost non-stop. Strangely, 11 pm - 1 am is a really busy time!

The atmosphere is great with local bands and groups donating their time; from loud high school bands with music which could wake the dead, to string quartets or an old WWII veteran with an accordion.

Anyway, this year the Dunedin event was not as exciting as usual - except for copies of Elsie J. Oxenham's Pernel Wins, Damaris Dances, and Girls of Gwynfa; a couple of rarer Dorita Fairlie Bruce's (in dust wrappers); one lone Nancy Breary (last year I started my collection of this author with nine titles); a Clare Mallory in a dust wrapper (I don't know which one as one of the crowd of fellow collectors scooped that one up); a few Monica Edwards in the Evergreen Library edition (again I started my collection last year with eleven titles from this book fair); and a lovely set of Lorna Hill's ballet books in almost perfect dust wrappers. I am being a little unkind, though, to dismiss this book fair out of hand as my husband (also a collector) and I can back with an extra 40kg of luggage! (Naturally all books!)

The Palmerston North book fair is never as good for collectibles (only 60,000 books anyway), but better for adding a little to my more modern collections. This year the only exception was a copy of Elinor Brent Dyer's The Lost Staircase with a complete (one closeable tear on the spine) dust wrapper. I also managed to pick up two hardback Antonia Forests (Autumn Term and Attic Term) and a few paperback Monica Edwards.

Surprisingly missing from both book fairs were the usual acres of Mabel Esther Allen and ordinary Elsie Oxenhams. I suppose the collecting business is starting to hot up down here in (previously) book collecting's sleepy hollow. Oh well, there is always next year.  Jane Webster

BALGOWLAH: December, 1999 report
Still without a car, your editor faced a cross-Sydney journey by feet and train. Barbara would meet me at Gordon railway station, as she was on a week's 'book-hunting' holiday in Sydney's north east, stationed at Newport. Gordon is a leafy suburb on the 'North Shore' line, so called as the railway follows the ridges along the north side of Sydney once it crosses the Harbour Bridge and climbs towards Hornsby, the junction with the railway from Strathfield, before heading north to Brisbane. Friday, December 3, was what we locals term a 'warm' day, in the high 80s. Barbara had suggested we meet in the Gordon book exchange which was within a few minutes of the station. I managed to mess up her directions but turned up on time. Imagine my surprise to discover a no.94 Observer's 'Paris' book on the shelves. This was the first addition to the Observer's collection in over two years. Also on view was a 'Worrals down Under' in jacket which I neglected to pick up. (Sorry, Eleana, I hope you soon have it withing your grasp.) We headed off to Balgowlah in Barbara's station wagon, into the afternoon peak hour. Although I knew my way around the area, I managed to miss the turnoff to Balgowlah and ended up in the depths of North Sydney. Even worse, I missed the next turnoff so that we found ourselves heading back the way we had come. Fortunately, I'd allowed plenty of time 'just in case' so we arrived at Balgowlah Boys' High School 10 minutes before the 5 pm opening time.

The fair is held in the school auditorium which you'll find described above, in "FROM WHERE SOME OF BARBARA'S BOOKS COME." . We soon found ourselves inside. I'll leave Barbara to describe her adventure and detail my own journey within. A quick glance over the 'Collectables' tables saw a couple of nice Australian Girl's Annuals find their way into my bag. It seemed better to do that before moving to the large 'Childrens' area. So many people gather around the 'Collectables' that one can barely move. The tables allow about two and a half bodies to pass at any one time, so once you have books in tow, it is easy to become stranded like a beached whale. There wasn't anything of much import on the 'Childrens' so 'Transport' was my next port of call. The old sixth sense must have gone into detection mode as I quickly located the evening's 'pot of gold' - a carton of aircraft material which included several 'Observers'. Added to what I had already grabbed, this made my bag impossible to lift up, so it was a case of dragging it along the timbered floor. This, the full-time dealers tell me, is the sign of a 'desperado in the book dealing game'! Several familiar faces swam into view at about this time. Anita and Rob from Bohemia Books had amassed four large containers of books. Doug MacK was his usual bright, bubby self despite not having found any treasures. Bob V had picked up a quantity of volumes but didn't seem pleased with the paperback prices. Prices varied greatly depending on what tables attracted your interest. The military books were highly priced but that seemd fair as all such material is highly collectable these days.

At the end of the first hour or so we decided to move what we had out to the car. One volunteer remembered my interest in Zane Grey from the previous event. (I collect these for a pal.). "Only one today", I reported. We were soon out the door. Barbara repacked the books and we crammed them into the car, which also contained the 'spoils' of her week's holiday. We returned to the hall, by which time Doug had found me another 'Observers'. I carried that solitary book around for the next 45 minutes before finally finding something really good, 'The 20th Century Fox Story', the rarest of the movie studio series, never having been reprinted. By this time, 150 minutes had passed, so we took our leave, fairly satisfied. Well, as satisfied as a book person can be! John

Here's a bookshop which still exists. Dymock's, George Street, Sydney, NSW. This shot was taken from a late 1940s catalogue. The photographer was working from just above the front entrance. Nowadays, a coffee shop occupies the landing at this end. Prior to the 1960s,  a secondhand department and lending library occupied separate floors. The building in which this shop is situated, the Dymock's Building, is listed and will be preserved. Dymock's is now franchised. Any further  information would be appreciated.

Above: Arthur Conan Doyle's burial spot.(Geoff Towne)
Arthur Conan Doyle's study, as it is shown in his book THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR,
reprinted by George Bell & Sons, in 1907.

Any problems or questions? Email John

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