PBOTD 16th June: Veronica Westlake - The Intruders

I suppose there must be some booksellers who don't actually collect books: who do it because they've found a business model that works, but the thing they're selling happens to be books rather than super-widgets. I was not one of them. I am a collector, and one of the most tantalising things about selling books on your specialist subject is that you can't keep all those delicious books that you don't actually have in your personal collection. People often said to me "I don't know how you can - I'd want to keep them all."

Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954, illus Sheila Rose

I've always found that the need to pay the bills concentrates the mind wonderfully when it comes to deciding what to sell (the answer is, pretty well everything). And I have quite a few  books anyway, so if a paperback copy comes in of something that I already have a lovely first of, I'm not going to mourn its passing. There are other books I don't collect - generally American authors, because there are thousands of them, literally, and that would be a slippery slope so profound it's best not thought about. One American collector I know has a collection which has taken over an entire floor of her house. I have a not particularly huge Victorian townhouse, and it's not up to entire floors of books.

But then again, there are books that I really, really want, and I would allow myself the occasional pick of the books I'd bought. How much would depend on how the business was going. If my cash flow stunk, I sold everything. Food shops are generally unimaginative, and not prepared to swap your weekly food supplies for a pristine dustjacketed copy of Jill's Gymkhana. 

Every now and then though, the financial horizon was a bit more sunny, and then I'd pick a couple of books from stock. I did do this at Christmas too - I'd pick a book I had my eye on, and if it hadn't sold by Christmas Day, it was mine.

One book that never, ever turned up was today's PBOTD - Veronica Westlake's The Intruders. It's probably the rarest of her books, and in ten years of bookselling, I never saw one. In the end, I bought one by the conventional route. It's fair to say it's not the best of her books, and it wasn't ever going to dislodge her The Ten Pound Pony in my heart, but now I have all the pony books she wrote, and I am content.

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