Dames Don’t Fall Backwards

I’m in no way a crime fiction expert, for that you need my friend Dave’s site What are you reading for ?Incidentally, it was this excellent post of his that inspired me to just bloody well get on with starting up my own site, so thank you, Dave – Six things I learnt from my blog.

Anyway, I bought this book for the cover and I’ve never, you know, actually read it. But what a cool, pulpy, noiry cover it is:

As I haven’t read it, in my imagination, this book is the legendary “Lady Don’t Fall Backwards” that Tony Hancock and Sid James were eternally trying to get out of their library. Mixed with a touch of Woody Allen’s detective stories. And Lemmy Caution – what a brilliant detective name right there.

I got this in a library too, from the discarded 10p pile in Anfield library. As an old book aficionado, what I find sad is that Liverpool libraries don’t sell off their old stock anymore. I don’t know what happens to them, but apparently such sales didn’t fit into their new computer system. And the charity shops willing to sell dusty old tomes are getting fewer and farer between – most shops I go in now sell for the most part an identikit collection of still-current paperbacks, loads of biographies and the endless, multiple copies of “The World According to Clarkson”.

So where are the old books going? There’s the (seemingly growing ever smaller) number of antiquarian booksellers, still. And the double edged sword of eBay, Abe books, Amazon marketplace as well as the wonders of the free ebook scans available on demand. On the one hand, what a dream for the book buyer who knows what they are after (and I say this as someone who spent years on end looking in every second-hand bookshop I could see, in vain, for Marc Bolan’s book of poetry). Nearly everything is there, somewhere.

But the rummaging, the stumbling upon the hidden delight, is much diminished. And I particularly love the tangible hidden delight, the extra tucked in between the book pages, the piece of old newspaper used as a bookmark, for example. I have a few such things I will be posting about shortly (as well as my Grandad’s hidden treasure, kept between the leaves of what is most definitely the most singularly sinister book in my collection). As a history-lover I am a sucker for any little marker of previous ownership. Even the library page from my copy of The Weekend Book, and 1950s card markers:

I find it sad that this excellent book sat on the library shelves for 24 years, from 1966 to 1990, only to then be discarded. But I love the fact that I can see this now. Hell, even at school I loved reading the names and dates of previous owners of my school books, as if I’d discovered some particularly interesting archive. This is partly why my favourite subjects are history and physics – what links these two is trying to make sense of time which, to me, is the biggest subject of all. As well as who is buying all those Clarkson books.

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. David Bishop says:

    What a lovely post! Speaking as a library insider, most of the discarded books now go to market via Amazon – there are a few large scale book buying companies who do all the work, then send the library a cut of the profits. Not that they ever amount to very much.

    But this does take the joy out of stumbling onto a rare gem. I’m a regular charity shop searcher, and whilst you do hit on the occasional gem most of the books are more recent/mass produced fare. I wonder what the most popular/unpopular titles would be?

    Really intrigued to read a future piece about ‘things found inside books’. And as for ‘the most sinister book in my collection’ – what is it, the Necronomicon..?

  2. Estelle says:

    Thanks Dave! It’s good to hear that the books still get sold from your library some way or another. Will have to find out what happens here. I have visions of house clearances and the books that would have previously gone to charity shops ending up in skips.
    The sinister book, will be doing that soon, a lot of scanning needed first! It does give me the creeps….

  3. Marc Jones says:

    My favourite Thing-Found-Between-The-Pages-Of-A-Book is in an ancient cookery book at my mum’s house. There’s a newspaper cutting from the Daily Sketch (or similar) with a recipe on it, on the other side of which is a gossip column report about Charlie Chaplain’s divorce from Paulette Goddard (http://www.charliechaplin.com/en/biography/articles/221-the-gamine-paulette-goddard)!

  4. Estelle says:

    Ah, I love stuff like that. It’s great how normal newspapers become fascinating given enough time. I’ve got a book bookmarked with a page from a 1951 Liverpool Echo that I’m going to put in a future post.

  5. here says:

    Hey there I am so glad I found your webpage, I really found you by mistake, while
    I was researching on Google for something else,
    Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a marvelous post and a all round exciting
    blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through it
    all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also
    added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great
    deal more, Please do keep up the great job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *