Sunday, July 29, 2007

View from Bath

I've been meaning to blog all week...
Mix together laziness, procrastination and generally having little or no spare time to do all the things I'm meant to be doing - and that it took me two days to remember how to log in - has meant that I've left this till the last possible minute. And I also don't think that I've got anything interesting to say...
It's just over four months ago that I left Pan to work at the Topping Bookshop in Bath. The shop opened just over three months ago. It has been incredibly hard work, and I think that we still have quite a way to go. But yesterday felt like a turning poing : we were busy, we had nice customers and I felt - for the first time - that everything was sort of coming together. We had books that customers wanted; the customers themselves were all really nice. I suppose I had that rare feeling of happiness.
This is not to say that things are perfect. Far from it. But it doesn't feel like the uphill struggle that it did four months ago. This may be connected to the fact that I also no longer have an hour's walk uphill at the end of the day (having moved to five minutes away from the shop).
My colleagues - Kathleen, Vincent, Mark, Robert, Robert & Louise are also nice people to work with. I suppose that's true of most booksellers anyway. We're all vaguely like-minded souls who aren't exactly doing this for the wealth of Midas.
And it's exciting to be at the start of something. Sebastian Faulks did the first reading here, and in a way opened the shop. And we have a great line-up of authors for the autumn, including:
Alan Bennett
Ian Botham
Jonathan Coe
Sophie Dahl
Germaine Greer
Robert Harris
Terry Pratchett
Ian Rankin
And that's just for the Bath bookshop. The Ely bookshop has Robert MacFarlane, Alexander McCall Smith, Paul Merton...
To see the whole list, have a gander at our website :
Until next time...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

it's a god awful small affair...

this was always going to be the title of this blog- as I'm going on holiday and have managed to secure the services of a guest blogger- his identity was to remain a mystery but I was going to tell you that the title of his blog would be 'Life on Bath' and then ask 'can you guess who it is yet?' good joke eh? even though it's one I've used before.

Sadly the title of this blog much more accurately refers to the Pan Bookshop Summer Extravaganza. probably the best event I've ever put on- with better marketing and better PR than we've ever done before but sadly also probably the worst attended event I've ever organized. The authors outnumbered the staff- good but the staff outnumbered the customers- bad.

Why it went so catastrophically wrong I'm not too sure- maybe it was the weather, certainly we were heading to our worst Friday of the year before the Harry Potter sales and so was the cafe next door.

I don't know- I don't want to give up on doing readings but I think I'll go back to just the one or two authors and charge for tickets- at least you're forewarned of impending disaster!!

the Harry Potter event went quite well although I don't think I'd have people partying inside the store again- it's more fun, and easier to control and run the competitions with everyone outside- plus not everyone got to hear the competitions and there were some good haiku's which I rather stupidly overlooked to write down and 3 good Wyrd Sisters songs- the winner singing 'goodbye Dumbledore' to the tune of, you've guessed it. It was a shame, after all their work and nerve, the competitors deserved a bigger audience and more of their attention.

Anyway for holiday reading Damned United, Harry Potter (oops there's my literary pants showing) and The Officer's Prey, a historical crime novel set during Napoleon's march to Moscow and translated from the French, which I've been looking forward to reading for some time and expect it to be big at the Pan Bookshop. Mind you- I thought that about the Summer Extravaganza....

enjoy the mystery blogger

Friday, July 20, 2007

friday the big day part 4 of 4

OK- even I, someone who spent 18 years of their life in Manchester and has 'done' rain, am impressed by what's going on outside. That is rain.

Anyway all the afternoon activities as previewed in yesterdays blog will still be going on- so brave that rain and come on down. Also- as mentioned yesterday- simon sebag montifore cannot make 7.00pm anymore but will still be here from 6.00pm until about 7.15. The rest of the evening really gets underway around 7.00pm with a galaxy of eminent historians, Michael Cady with advice on how to get published, Isabel Losada who can talk about anything and, change of plan again, Judy Krey from the New Kadampa Tradition will be here to chat with anyone about being Buddhist.

this all winds up around 9.00pm and we get the store ready for our Pre potter Party- guests, entertainment, competitions and fun from 10.00m onwards- first come, first served though we can fit quite a few people in the shop but with this rain we may all have to squeeze up a bit!

See you all here.

On a different note and one that adds some perspective to the day, Chris Dunn died last week. I don't suppose any of you have heard of Chris Dunn but he would have described himself as an author, although, in truth, he could probably more accurately be described in a Anthony Powell kind of way as 'something in the city.'
The first time I met Chris he managed to wind me up to an absolutely exceptional level. We were having a library reading group comes to the bookstore day. Chris came, was obviously not a member but when he announced he was a published author the effect was electrifying- everyone wanted to know what he did, his life style and when he said he had sold 100's of books around here (Old Brompton road) everyone wanted to see them. My stock as bookshop manager plummeted as it was apparent that not only did we not have any of these books in but i'd obviously not heard of such a successful local author- how could that be. Chris then mentioned the name of his publisher- it was a vanity publisher. To this day I still think it is to my credit (and to his detriment!) that neither of us mentioned that Chris was only a published author because he had paid for them to be published.
Anyway- years pass and our paths cross again and we get on pretty well- I read one of these books, the first in a series of 12- guess what it's good, not really my genre but I enjoyed it and could guarantee that it was better than many action/thrillers that come out each month. I gave a copy to one of my reps who I knew liked thrillers- he thought it was great- he's now read 7 of them. We tried to get editors at publishers interested, after all between the rep and I we had over 50 years experience in bookselling- i don't think we even managed to get an editor to read it.
Over several, very enjoyable, lunches Chris would keep me informed about how near his books were to being made into series but I never knew whether to believe him, there was always more than a touch of the Walter Mitty's about Chris. I'm not saying these books are great literature and neither would Chris, actually, that's proably not true- Chris would claim they were great literature and I think they may have been his biggest love. He never doubted them and never doubted that if he could just get that one lucky break they'd have been huge. I tend to agree. But there you go- that's the world of books and he accepted that.
But I wish he could have lived to have seen them published by a major publisher and, better yet, with a TV tie-in jacket.
There's no real point to this entry but just to say goodbye to Chris- I and the Pan bookshop will miss him.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

friday the big day parts 2&3 of 4

I really should have kept up-to-date here but it has been very frantic.

it turns out we are to be the venue of choice for the sky news Pre Potter party- now, I think this is a good thing, and at the very least anyone coming to buy the Harry Potter here (i.e my customers) will now get even more fun, food and frolics than they were going to before and, believe me the fun, food and frolics was going to be pretty tip top anyway. But as someone almost entirely made up of cliches I have to say 'he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon-(I can also say 'he who forgets history is destined to repeat it,' ' never assume it just makes an ass of u and me'- I could go on) and I don't just mean sky here but all TV. Then a big chunk of me says, just grow up, stop being such a cynic, relax and have fun. And this is what I intend to do- please come along and join me.


in the afternoon childrens stories for under 5's including Emma Chichester-Clarke

5.00pm Caroline Lawrence, who always does a fantastic reading of her ancient Roman mysteries including props and costumns.

5.30pm Dianne Hofmeyr- from Rome we go to Egypt but I think Dianne is unsure about the costumn bit!

6.00pm- a change of plan, Simon Sebag Montefiore has to go early but will be here from 6.00pm until 7.00- hopefully a little later otherwise I'll try and get Andrew Roberts to say something rude about him.

see you tomorrow

Monday, July 16, 2007

friday- the big day pt 1 of 4

only a few days to go and hey- we've got the biggest event the shop's seen for ages.
the first part of the day from about 10.00am to 11.30am is for the under fives and just for fun- fun with bubbles, fun with foam and fun with fabrics - if you don't know Klutz books come and have a look at some of the best and most original children's activity books around; if you do know them come and have a look anyway. There'll be sample and display packs to road test and you'll know it's all happening as I'll be outside blowing the biggest bubbles this side of Upton Park and disrupting the traffic (but in a hopefully innocent and charming fashion!).

p.s. on a completely different note can I just say that this is shaping up to be the best Tour de France for years- congratulations to Rasmussen for taking the last stage by the scruff of it's neck and taking the yellow jersey but Kloeden's pulling along of Vinokourov for the sake of the team and his it's leader but to the detriment of his own chances of winning will be one of the most remarkable moments in sport this year. if all you know of the tour is the colour and razzmatazz that passed through London last weekend well, that was fun but there is so much more to it. It's the closest event sport has to the unfolding of 'a good book'- plot, sub plot,false leads and strong lead characters, low deeds and high drama, only Test Match cricket comes close to providing an event so endlessly fascinating, if you haven't yet -immerse yourself now, you won't regret it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

new arrivals at the pan bookshop ball- well, fair, well party

ok, for most of my 20 or so years selling books I have spent the vast majority of them wishing to read more non-fiction. Indeed if I have ever had such a thing as a new years resolution it would have been to read more non-fiction. That's easy you say- just pick up a book and read it, except, I just could never get my head around it, whatever I picked up, however interesting never seemed as interesting as the next hot novel or classic I that I really wanted to read. Then about 4 years ago I came to the Pan Bookshop and Robert Topping, in his wisdom, gave me the History section as my fiefdom (this may seem strange- why would a manager give a section to someone to run who not only had read no books from that section but freely confessed to being actually unable to do so- this was not unprecedented when I joined the Topster in Manchester he put me in the language section even though I'm dyslexic- can barely manage my own tongue and was almost thrown out of university for not having an equivalent of a foreign language O level- an exam I finally passed but found infinitely more difficult than my English literature and Philosophy degree- I don't know how Robert has taught his children to swim but it would probably be better not to ask.)
Anyway, this seemed just the spur I needed and of I set off in my autodidactic way to read through the OUP history of Britain, all of it, starting at volume one (of about, I think, 19 all of which i have in hardback and a very impressive sight they make too.) four years later I am up to number 4 and making no clear headway- I'm afraid the good editors at Oxford did not really have readers like me in mind when assembling their great work- especially the one about the movement of pots.
I'm pretty middlebrow - I read Ballard rather than Burroughs and listen to Waits rather than Beefheart- what I needed was a filter. What I picked up was Rubicon; an absolutely brilliant history of Rome - one of the reviews claimed it as a 'history book for our times' i.e. readable and it does a fantastic job of telling the story of the fall of the Roman republic and was exactly what I needed. I didn't look back, Rifles, the history of the Normans in Sicily, histories of London all these went tumbling past my bedside table and I had been right all along- I do feel this is where I belong and now I find it difficult to choose to read a novel and quite soon I think I'll be ready to mount a major assault on the OUP history of Britain again- even the one about the movement of pots.
Anyway- I'm pleased to announce that Tom Holland will also be at our store on Friday 20th July to help celebrate History books in general and particularly how many fine ones have been written this year (and by local authors to boot.)

If you like stories of Rome or even just good storytelling be sure to be here for Caroline Lawrence. That she is one of our best children's writers is beyond doubt but take my word for it that age is no factor in enjoying her excellent series of adventures. Caroline Lawrence will be here at 5.00pm the same day reading from and asking questions about her Roman Mysteries series.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

signed Alastair Campbell

just a quick note today, not, I'm afraid, very exciting unless you happpen to be interested in these two specific events but, hey, that may be excitement for two more demographic groups than usual.

Firstly we are getting signed Alastair Campbell stock but are not really sure how many- I'm holding out for 'a lot' but these things are not always in our hands. They will be available July 18th p.m. (sorry, couldn't resist). If you are interested it may be worth reserving a copy, any personalised messages would have to be paid for in advance.

secondly- I'm sorry but due to a clash of dates we will no longer be having a talk on being Buddhist by Tharpa books on July 20th but if you are interested in the subject do please still come as Isabel Losada is certainly worth talking to and has quite a lot to say on the subject especially her meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Look at that- in two paragraphs and two days we've gone from Alastair Campbell to the Dalai Lama- bookselling eh? It's not dull you know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

a big thank you to liz hurley

Elizabeth Hurley was doing the 'My London' spot in the ES Magazine this week and in the 'home comforts' section she says she loves bath oils and books and that she goes to the The Pan Bookshop on Fulham Road!
I'm pretty happy about this as she also namechecks Luigi's, the italian deli acrosss the way and that's pretty cool company to keep.
thank you Liz.

p.s go to Jo Malones on Sloane Street for the bath oils


Sunday, July 08, 2007

summer fair and harry potter day

Hi Everyone,
I know that most of you will, by now, know that the next and final Harry Potter goes on sale at various stores around the country at midnight Friday 20th July.

Well, I hope I see you all there as our queue has always been- and will be again- one of the most enjoyable to be in: competitions, refreshments and voting- yep, you all have to do some work but will be fun, I promise you. So reserve your copy and design your fancy dress, rehearse your song or intuit your haiku (see bottom of this e-mail for explanation).

Secondly, the reason, obviously, just about everyone knows this is because of the huge amount of coverage that a new Harry Potter generates- there will be more written about this book than any other this year but in the wake of that will be much that is about books and bookshops in general and we thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of this so the day of Friday 20th July has become a Pan Bookshop Summer Fair.
There will be events and activities throughout the day. For me the highlight is where we try to get the world record for how many history writers you can fit into a small corner of a bookshop, indeed we have so many eminent historians visiting us that a new collective noun has to be coined (do you coin a noun- or just a phrase? and there’s probably already one anyway) but this has been an extraordinarily good year for history books and I felt we should celebrate it,

Anyway, if you can, please come along to our summer fair, there really are some fantastic things to do and some excellent, eminent,informative and entertaining authors to meet.

This is the itinerary


A summer extravaganza on the day of the Harry Potter Midnight Launch
A one day festival of, entertainment, education, fun, frolics and fancy dress
And the Best Harry Potter Queue in Town

9am: Shop opens

10am to 12noon: Play with the book fun for pre-school children with Klutz activities and Hodder Fairy Wings

2pm to 4pm: Hear the Book - pre school story time readers including Emma Chichester-Clarke

5pm to 6pm: Hear the Author - celebrate end of term with Diane Hofmeyer and Caroline Lawrence

7pm to 9pm: Meet the Author - eminent historians Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Andrew Roberts,
Kate Williams, Adam Zamoyski, Patrick Bishop, and Alison Weir will be discussing their
work, signing their books and celebrating 2007 as a vintage year for their literary genre

Being Buddhist - a short talk from Tharpa Books

How to Get Published - advice from Michael Cady (bring your first page and
covering letter)

Men, Being Buddhist, and Getting Published - Isabel Losada with advice on all three!

9pm to 10pm: Music - some light blues to finish the day [tbc]

10pm: Shop Closes

11.30pm: Harry Potter Queue - refreshments for all and 3 separate competitions
1 Fancy Dress
2 Harry Potter Haiku
3 Sing a Song of Weird Sisters - sing 4 - 8 lines of a song you think the Weird Sisters
might like to perform to any tune you choose, musical accompaniment at your discretion

Winners judged by the audience: bear in mind you have to parade that fancy dress, recite that haiku and sing that song before your fellow queue members
The Prizes - 1 prize for each competition - will be a deluxe copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows awarded by Hedwig - or, at least an owl that looks very much like him, although maybe a little taller.

Midnight: Pan Bookshop re-opens and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows goes on sale
(at full cover price)

Saturday 21 July: 9am to 10am Hedwig will deliver the book to those unable to make the midnight event

For further details please contact the store.

venue: The Pan Bookshop times: 10 am to 10pm.... then 11.30PM to last customer standing!

158 Fulham Road
London SW10 9PR nearest tubes: South Kensington & Gloucester Road
buses: 14, 414, 211, 345

Contact: the manager Julian Rafot 020 7373 4997