Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Terry Pratchett and a slip in my reading, wading towards bookseller reviews, a ramble from the bookshop.

When it comes to the English comic novel and LOL or anything else for that matter my favourites are Terry Pratchett, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, P G Wodehouse and Richmal Crompton, also because of Good Omens, Neil Gaiman has to come in somewhere too.


Back in the days before the internet and out of town shopping, we, my family that is, had four independent bookshops in Hertfordshire and one of our jobs, my brother, father, stepmother and me did was to chose what we thought were the best new books for these bookshops.

Easy with established writers, but with new writers the only way to decide if you are going to buy a lot or a little of a title was to read the proofs, which we did, back in the day – that is. Back then having bought fifty copies of Watership Down – or whatever it was – basically we then told the customers how good it was, or had red faces and a lot of unsold books.


Nowadays I am a secondhand bookseller living in the world of the internet, so of course if I rabbit on about rabbits, I can’t just order fifty copies, but it occurs to me that in some way I am a professional reader, if not a dear reader, and so I am going to start doing some blog posts in the form of something approaching a book review.

Not only am I a reseller but I am a rereader pretty much all of Terry’s books have been reread by me, the exceptions being Unseen Academicals and Strata neither of which did it for me. Perhaps one of these days, a reread and they will.


Anyway I am halfway through A Slip of the Keyboard inasmuch as I have read the Neil Gaiman forward and The Scribbling Intruder, not sure how I missed reading it before, but I did.

I think it’s a must read for every Pratchett fan, but it is also a book with more about signing sessions in bookshops than I have ever come across before, making it a must read for booksellers.

Back in the day I have been involved in signing sessions as a bookseller, from signing sessions with half mile queues, to signing sessions where major literary figures sat at a desk in a busy town centre bookshop and the only people who approached them asked the questions like, where are the cookery books.    


I Think it was the chapter headed, “Advice to Booksellers” that did it, inspired me to start on this journey which I hope will lead to some book – reviewing isn’t quite the word I am looking for here – but some sort of extension of something I have done for the last forty years, which is help my customers along to the next book.

What I can’t do is ask the first question that I would ask in the bookshop, which is. “What have you read that you enjoyed?” But I can say here, if you have read most of Terry’s novels then you will probably enjoy Slip of the Keyboard, which is as near to an autobiography as you are going to get.            


I can also say we haven’t got it in stock, the pictures are of some of the books by the authors mentioned in this blog that we have got in stock, that’s the way with secondhand bookshops.

But is does lead me on to wondering if there is anything that authors and secondhand booksellers can do together that could promote books and reading, we already have James Patterson Handing out grants to new bookshops and libraries.


At the moment all of it, new independent bookshops, libraries, secondhand bookshops and even the big chain booksellers have been severely reduced in numbers and the verity of available physical books.

For us in the book business this is a worrying trend, a particularly worrying aspect of which is finding a bookseller or librarian who is widely read. Going into a bookshop or library and asking for Terry Pratchett, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, P G Wodehouse, Richmal Crompton or Neil Gaiman, isn’t likely to get too many “who”s as they are all authors who sell well at the moment, but the situation isn’t good out there.

The next step, which is going into the library or bookshop having read all of the Terry Pratchetts and finding someone there who has also read them all and with whom you can discuss what to read now/next with, is often a step too far.


It’s a completely different question to which authors are like Terry Pratchett? Which is easy to answer with. “None.” 

4 comments:

  1. And for that I am thankful. I have tried reading Discworld and gave up but Tom Sharpe and Wodehouse are easier reading for my small brain

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  2. Don start with one of the others, if you know some of the Just William stories you cold try Good Omens, but you may do better to start with the children's series which is a trilogy that has to be read in the order Truckers, Diggers and Wings. I should also point out that the radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is available on Radio 4 Extra and just typing Neverwhere into google will do the trick for that.

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  3. Terry makes a shape in literature that is practically impossible to describe. There are elements of Tom Sharpe (Porterhouse Blue for the Wizards), Fritz Leiber (Colour of Magic regularly nods to Swords and Deviltry) and lots of the best of Avram Davidson and GK Chesterton. For all that, he's very much a creature on his own. I always felt very sorry for Tom Holt, whose early work was brilliantly stunted by the publishers' choosing to do Josh Kirby covers and in doing so performing a terrible disservice to his own vision. People often forget Tom, but Flying Dutch, Overtime and Ye Gods were all brilliant.

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  4. Yep Dave there is certainly a Pratchett shaped hole in the universe that I can't describe

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