Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Gorey has an E in it - by Ruby Barnes

I remember many summer holidays from my childhood. While my school friends were off burning their fair skin on the Costa del Sol, us lot stuck to the delights of the British Isles. My father was afraid of flying and my mother had a Scottish complexion that couldn't take bright sunlight or temperatures above a warm English summer's day. That was the reason given for our reluctance to leave the island. Or maybe we just didn't have the money.

Pinewoods at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England
English holidays, old-style

Our first family holidays involved camping in tents. Later we progressed to a caravan towed by whatever monster of a banger my father had recently purchased from a dodgy dealer. Then we upgraded to renting a mobile home (yes, old-fashioned British people go to trailer parks for their holidays!) on a large serviced site next to the sea in Norfolk, bringing kayaks on the roof rack of another dilapidated car and paddling around the salt marshes behind the dunes when weather permitted. Other times sitting on the harbour wall and fishing for crabs with whelks for bait. Of course it rained - a lot. Bad weather entertainment consisted mainly of reading. Fortunately we were all bookworms.

Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England
Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England

Fast forward to today and the current Ruby generation decided to stay on our island for this year's holidays. The island of Ireland, as we've fled the UK following various incidents with axes and tomato ketchup (or maybe that was just in one of my novels, I do get confused between fiction and reality). The realities of supporting Marble City Publishing and managing cashflow did influence our decision not to return to Switzerland again this summer, or Tenerife or some other mosquito-infested destination. Mrs R's Auntie Minnie provided us with a fast-track springboard to the advanced domestic holiday experience of her mobile home on a private seaside site. (Yes, trailer park holidays are a sought-after venue in Ireland as well!)
Three bedrooms, power shower, all mod cons. Okay, the mobile home was the same one Mrs R had stayed in as a child but it had charm. And the local shop had wine. After a few days of huddling behind the windbreak on the beach, listening to the pouring rain on the roof, reading all the books we had brought and separating the feuding ninjas as they fought over board games, we decided to head into the nearest metropolis.
'Is that how you spell gory?' Eoin asked me as we drove into the Wexford town of Gorey.
'No,' I said. 'This Gorey has an E in it.'
'But doesn't gory mean blood and guts?' Eoin responded.
'Yeah, like ninjas cutting the heads off zombies with their samurai swords?' Alannah added.
'Let's find out,' Mrs R said and we parked up.
After a nice lunch in a bistro we wandered the rain-lashed streets, looking for a bookshop to fuel our reading requirements. Both the kids had latched onto a couple of authors and were looking for more titles by them.
'Here,' said Mrs R. 'The Book Café.'

Zozimus at the Book Cafe, Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland
Zozimus at The Book Café, Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland

It was the kind of place Mrs R has always dreamed of owning and running. A quaint café attached to a bookshop. In we walked, past the cakes and buns, through to a higgledy piggledy display of books.
'Ugh,' I said. 'It's a secondhand bookshop.'
As an author, I'm perversely disinterested in bookshops. I can never lay my hand on something interesting, my memory goes almost blank, any title that springs to mind is out of print and the piles of promoted titles leave me cold. Secondhand bookshops, in my limited experience, are worse still with mouldering piles of unwanted paperbacks that people have discarded as not worth reading again.
Reluctantly I followed Mrs R in. As I was pretending to browse the shelves I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation between a man sat at a desk (presumably the bookshop owner) and a couple who were buying something.
'I choose all of them individually,' the owner said. 'Each title is hand-selected by me.'
'Where do you find them?' the woman asked.
'All kinds of places. Car boot sales. Charity shops are a great source of good books. I only pick the ones I know will be interesting to my customers.'
My pretense at browsing became a little more serious. I noticed that the mismatched books on the shelves, looking like an untidy home bookcase, were meticulously ordered, alphabetically by author surname. Then I noticed the genre was strongly managed. I moves to another area of the bookshop and found several thrillers that I remembered reading. Sifting through my memories, I recalled author after author whose books I had enjoyed and soon tracked down the titles I had read. Opening the covers, the price was written inside in pencil. Some were €3, some were €4. A gathering and hoarding urge came over me. I would buy every book I had ever read. After picking up and putting down book after book I came to my senses and just enjoyed the experience.
It was only when we returned to internet land that I discovered exactly what this Aladdin's Cave was. Zozimus is the name of the shop behind the café. It has an inventory of over 30,000 books across a wide range of genres, with everything from bestsellers of yesteryear to first edition rarities. http://www.zozimusbookshop.com/about-the-shop/ The owner's name is John Wyse Jackson and he has an interesting pedigree in bookselling, as well as having written and edited several books himself.
We left the bookshop with one title each. I found a hard to come by copy of The Fallen & other stories by John McKenna. John was one of my writing tutors at NUI and had won the Irish Literature Prize for First Book with this publication in 1993. As I paid the €4, I asked the owner if he ever wanted to keep any of the books he found.
'Oh yes,' he said. 'I just take them home.'
He handed me my McKenna book and I hoped he would mention what a great talent the author was and I could share a few stories of John's wit, ride on his coat tails and become new best friends with the bookshop owner. But he didn't.
Anyhow, in other news there is a new thriller coming out soon. Kill Them Twice, co-authored by eveleigh & turner. If Kill Them Twice should ever make it onto John Wyse Jackson's shelves then I wonder would he place it under E or T? By the way, that turner chap seems to bear a remarkable resemblance to someone I know ...

Kill Them Twice by eveleigh and turner
Release date 4th September 2015

3 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

There is nothing more exciting in life than to find a bookshop. Especially when it's raining and ghere's nothing else to do

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Sounds like the bookshop from heaven! There are so few of them like this. I've often fantasised about having a combination of new and second hand books in a shop (the way you get old and new jewellery sometimes, or vintage and new art) but I don't ever really want another shop (been there with a craft and pottery shop, done that and got the grey hairs). But specially chosen old books, new books that the owner knew about, liked and recommended - and a cafe too, would be paradise. The closest I've come to this was visiting a dedicated local history bookshop somewhere in the south of England. Impossible to get out without buying something. This also addresses a wider issue, I feel. As a rural dweller, I do a lot of shopping online. Essentially, I don't much like shopping. But specialist shops are another matter. Most big chain bookshops, in my experience, don't do much for me that I can't get from Amazon, cheaper, quicker, and more easily. But a really knowledgeable indie seller - with added coffee. I'd go every week.

@Ruby_Barnes said...

Yeah Wendy and Catherine, it was quite a find and I'm looking forward to getting back there sometime!