Friday 27 September 2013


     So...bookshops all over Britain are having a rough time, battered by e-books and the cut-price, omnipotent Amazon.  Right?  Well, yes and no.

     Yes, because it is sadly true that the great names that used to dominate the High Street are now reduced to two: Waterstones and W.H.Smith (if, that is, you can find a book to buy among the greeting cards and games on the shelves of the latter).  No, because it is not true of all bookshops.

     The huge Heffers in Cambridge seems to flourish and, if, like me, you were among the 120 or so assorted authors, agents, publishers and buying punters who spilled out from the innards of Goldboro Books onto Cecil Court in the heart of London last night, you would surely have said, "depression - what depression?"

     The occasion was a party given by owner David Headley to mark what he called "History in the Court," a celebration of historical fiction, a genre in which yours truly can count himself a modest practitioner.  If such occasions are becoming a rare event on the literary scene, then no-one has told the ebullient David.

     It's true that his operation is not exactly typical of book-selling in Britain.  For one thing, Goldboro Books is a specialist operation, selling only first edition hard backs.  For another, seventy per cent of his trade is mail order, his books winging there way all over the world.  Only the remaining thirty per cent comes in "off the street."

     He broke off for a moment from pouring the booze last night to tell me that 2013 had become a record year, with turnover up by £130,000 on the previous year.  Why, when conventional bookselling is struggling?

     Because, he said, he and his staff knew their market and their customers.  Trust had grown up between seller and buyer that was paying off in terms of sales.

     He could have added, however, that flamboyant marketing and a flair for publicity had played their part.  He is always ready to support his authors, as he demonstrated last year when he happily gave a party in his newly expanded shop to launch my book "The War of the Dragon Lady."  Long may his example burn brightly in the bookselling gloom!


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