Wow. Wow. Oh. My. Blinkity…

…these were not comments made at the London Book Fair.  The chances of finding something even remotely interesting were, well, there’s a reason why fewer and fewer red badges are seen each year.  The usual gripes still apply about booths not being logically laid out, it being difficult to orient yourself inside the venue and what was the deal with the yellow lights in the secondary hall? And why was the coffee so bad?

Fffft. Still, I got to grab some catalogues and get an idea of what new books I’d like to read later in the year. Purely from a book lover’s point of view, I thought that Canongate and Quercus put on an eye-catching spread, as did Atlantic and Faber but then fiction is my thing.  Alma Books, however, managed to trump everyone because they have the new Tibor Fischer, ‘Good to be God’ which will be released in September 08. I’ve recently re-read ‘The Thought Gang’ and if you haven’t yet…

Anyway, caught the District Line from Earl’s Court and stopped off at Sloane Square to do a spot of location-scouting for the film-script I’m currently working on (‘The Wounding‘; no.5 in as many months).  The first draft is done, printed and being revised but I wanted somewhere a little different for the two protagonists to meet up.  He’s surprised her in her favourite boutique but I wanted a place that spoke of who they were in their own heads. Both of them are book lovers – she is multi-lingual and well-travelled – so it seemed reasonable that a bookshop might feature in the story somewhere.

If you’ve been following this blog at all (and a number of you have surprised me by returning), then you know that there was no way that said bookshop was ever going to be a Waterstones.  If the story was set in London 15-20 years ago then definitely because Waterstones was the most exciting range-bookseller then but now?  A Borders? Mmmm… maybe if the story was in Glasgow. So, an independent then. Foyles? No, the location had to feel time-worn and intimate, the sort of place where a friend might discover your substantial collection of books hidden behind the mass of books you’ve already got out on display, a place where there is just a hint of kleptomania. It took a while but I did find it.  To give credit where it’s due, it was a former customer of The Worthing Bookshop who pointed me in the right direction.

John Sandoe Books Ltd.

What to say, what to say… well, from the outside, it looks a little Dickensian. Small, wood framed windows and a low door down a side-street away from the main bustle of King’s Road (just a little further on the right behind the Peter Jones store, across Sloane Square from the tube station).  The first thing I notice when I go in is the table: it is stacked-up with an apparently random assortment of selected books. There are no discount stickers. The only multiple is the new biography of VS Naipaul. Near this stands… Oh. My. Blinkity…

A Harvill Press spinner. I haven’t seen one of those in years. Returns are obviously not a priority here because I manage to find a good new copy in ‘old’ format of Georges Perec’s ‘Things + A Man Asleep’* to replace one that I’d given to a friend years before. The booksellers are using Bertline which which makes ordering books not in-stock quick and painless and so I order Perec’s ‘A Void’ which – credit where it’s due – Random have brought back into print. It’s going to be posted out to me in Swindon. E-books? F*ck off.

I might have just relocated to Swindon but I will be returning to this, my new favourite bookshop.  As I walked away, I remembered the number of stands at LBF that prattled on about e-books.  Not for years yet. John Sandoe’s may well be situated in west London but it’s sufficiently off the beaten track that to be that busy on a Tuesday afternoon speaks well for the future of printed books.  People that love good books, love good bookshops and are prepared to pay a lot to feed that love but where better to buy great books than great bookshops?

* I also bought Cees Nooteboom’s ‘Rituals’ and ‘The Following Story’ (both as slightly more pricey Harvill editions rather than ‘Vintage’ paperbacks; as with anything, looks – that is, presentation – count for a lot).

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