Monday, 19 March 2012
I am fascinated by other people’s book collections. You can tell quite a bit (but far from everything!) about someone from the books they own, and once or twice I’ve used this as an element in my own stories. As recently as last week, I was writing a scene for my new book, set in the sadly fictional Amos Books in the Lake District, and drawing on what I have learned from various expert book dealers and collectors.
Last September, I had the great pleasure of visiting John Curran’s home, and admiring his extensive and very well-organised book collection. As you would expect of a great expert on Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime is prominent, but John also has some fine examples of the work of other Golden Age writers, as well as some enviable signed and inscribed classics.
Just before Christmas, I called on James M. Pickard, who – like those other excellent bookdealers, Mark Sutcliffe and Jamie Sturgeon, all of whom I can recommend – has a terrific stock of second hand crime novels. James is not just a dealer, but also a collector, and he has a marvellous array of books and artwork associated with Ian Fleming.
I was fascinated to see some of the obscure Golden Age titles in James’ collection. One of the remarkable features of them was the excellence of their condition – very important to keen collectors, since in some cases, a fine dust jacket can increase the value of a book tenfold. Many investors are interested in rare books these days, not least because of the unreliability of the stock market. I don’t myself look on books as investments, but I can understand why some people do. But whether as possible investments or just lovely things to have, James’ stock is truly impressive. If you’d like to know more, take a look at
Finally, after my Sayers lecture, I travelled to the Home Counties to stay with another friend who has a truly astonishing collection. And it is his books that feature in the photos. For any Golden Age fan, truly mouth-watering!