Wednesday, October 31, 2007

As Winter Draws In...

...I find myself returning to the Russians.

There's a brilliant book Canongate have just rescued from out of printness.

The Last Station by Jay Parini imagines the last year of Tolstoy's life. The count (though by now he has renounced his title) is living his last days surrounded by his family and a circle of adoring acolytes. The great works War and Peace and Anna Karenina have made Tolstoy the most famous author alive in Russia and everywhere he goes he is mobbed by people of all classes. But writing novels now seems secondary to Tolstoy's great project of examining Life and trying to live it in the best possible way.

He says people should abstain from sexual relations and devote themselves to higher things and yet, as his wife Sofya is quick to point out, spent much of his youth whoring and fifty years of marriage failing to abstain himself.

He says all people are equal and that the huge divide between rich and poor in Russian society should be abhorred - but he lives surrounded by luxury in a house in the country.

The picture Parini creates of a great author losing the ability to tell the difference between the real importance of his work and the importance other people attach to it is spot on. Tolstoy was a great writer. But he was also as deluded about himself as anybody and prone to paying too much attention to flattering voices. At the same time his struggle to think clearly and with depth about Life and how it is to be lived is beautifully conveyed. Tolstoy is torn by so many conflicting urges and loyalties that the great man becomes the proof of his own teachings, showing himself to be as ordinary/complex as any human being.

I have read Anna Karenina and The Devil but never managed War and Peace. (Twice I made a brave attempt but was defeated by the multiple names of the multiple characters.) This book convinced me that it's War and Peace for Christmas this year...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Pitch

Noticing that Gordan Ramsey's production company are just down the road from us behind the Cut I've got a brilliant plan for C&P global expansion:

With a combination of raw talent, ability, confidence and sheer bloody hubris, Crockatt & Powell the hugely experienced and three star Nibbied* booksellers travel the country offering advice and solace to poor deluded amateurs attempting to fulfill their life's dream. Here are some samples from the pilot show:


And on and on and on and on.
So! What do ya reckon? It's a sure fire banker if you ask us...'
*Waste of space, non-prize.
** TM

It's Back!

Yes, the Magna Farta itself, Roger's Profanisaurus, the World's Sweariest Dictionary has returned. Now with over 10,000 rude words and phrases. A brief and random selection follow. Please do not read on if easily offended by blokeish juvenilia.

asbopolis n. - A claimant-rich conurbation such as Liverpool or Manchester, which boasts a vibrant youthful culture of non-conformist behaviour.

budgie smugglers n. - Extremely tight gentleman's bathing trunks. Noodle benders.

Choreplay n. - Tiresome pre-sex ritual required by selfish women. Frigmarole.

Dowsing Rod n. - A piece of wood that involuntarily twitches when approaching an area of great wetness.

Full Nelson n. - When wrestling oneself, a hold involving one hand, one eye and a funny shaped hat.

gash mark six n. - A state of arousal in ladies. 'A ladies hairy oven must be heated to gash mark six before the gentleman slams in his lamb.' (from Bedroom Management by Mrs. Beaton)

high speed rinse n. - An act of self pollution committed in the shower. Flinging in the rain.

Indian rope trick n. - An impressive erection attained under seemingly impossible circumstances, eg. after twelve pints and/or six wanks.

J-t tomorrow. (Maybe)

(Words in italics are for cross-referencing but you'll have to buy the book for that - £8.99 - Bargain of the Century)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Floggin's to good for 'em

People who spit out chewing gum onto the pavement which then ends up on the soles of our customers feet and ultimately onto our nice carpet deserve to be executed. Simple as that.


I open the box from Tiptree expecting some goodies only to be confronted with Crystal by the esteemable and pneumatic Katie Price and The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein: 'A heart-wrenching memoir... brilliantly illuminates a family struggling valiantly to beat impossible odds' according to the New York Times.

What the...?

Jordan and misery memoirs? Who ordered this?

Matthew! Have you started smoking crack now? Have the squatters next door grasped you to the bosom of their anti-social insanity? Is this the end of our partnership?

Oh. The invoice is to Eric Morton of Didsbury, Greater Manchester. Sorry Matthew, an honest mistake.

Mr Morton, we have your books.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ooops I did it again...

LAst week we had a pop-up book arrive of the classic Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business.

There was a tab to pull that should have meant poo dropped from the bottom of a cow. I pulled the tab and nothing happened. I pulled harder and ripped the tab off.

I do this kind of stupid thing all the time and have broken loads of stuff at C & P since we opened.

Adam, sorry mate, I've done it again.

You know the little spotlight in the hallway? The bulb has gone so I thought I would change it. But I seem to have broken it instead...

Maybe you can fix it? I don't want to touch it again in case I do more damage...

Dr Rick just called... say the first review of Tree Of Smoke has appeared in a UK paper.

Remember campers, if you like your Truths cold, hard and crisply detailed as a mathematical formula then this ain't for you.

But if you think Truth lies somewhere South of Confusion you're in for the ride of yer life...

(BTW If you do emabrk on this awesome fictional odyssey and find yourself lost then there's always Dr Rick's map to guide you. Give us an e-mail or a call and I'll put you in touch with the Doc who might just be able to sort you out a copy!)

Break on Through Sergeant Storm!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Competition

So, you're a bookshop in one of the most prominent positions tourist-wise in the capital just by the big wheely thing on the river. What do you put in your windows? What sort of books do you think might entice passing visitors to pop in for a lovely momento of their stay? What do you think would be eye-catching, jump out and scream, 'Shop Here!'?

Answer: A 3 for 2 promotion of re-jacketed, retro, paperback Penguins in one of your huge windows. A 3 for 2 promotion of 'reading around the world' paperbacks in another of your big windows. And a big pile of the Lauren Child illustrated Pippi Longstocking in the third of your big windows. (And 1 copy of The London Eye Mystery)

Now, the re-jacketed Penguins are very handsome and the reading the world promotion is very interesting and the Pippi Longstocking is gonna be huge this christmas BUT, In The Windows! By The Big Wheely Thing! Are You Mad! C'mon People, This Ain't Rocket Science!

'Do you have any victorian literature?'

'Er, yes. It's over here in our victorian literature section. The books are arranged chronologically.'

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Polish Booksellers

If they look anything like the young woman asking for a job today while buying South of the Border, West of the Sun then all I can say is - Welcome to our Eastern European chums. Me Casa Es Tu Casa. Come on in, the water's lovely. Bienvenue unt Wilkommen. Ola! Would you like a cup of tea?

(Apologies for the language mistakes and misogyny)

Monday, October 22, 2007


Reading further could lead to financial ruin.

Reading further could lead to laughter-induced hernia.

Reading further could lead to divorce or relationship difficulties.

Still here?


There's a series of books. Agatha Raisin? By M.C.Beaton.

If you like McCall-Smith and Boris Akunin then there is a fighting chance you will LOVE these.

But you will want to read them all. The list of addicts registered at C & P is growing.

"It's a cliche and all but that's just the way it happened. A friend introduced me to Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. It made me laugh and feel all warm inside. One more can't hurt I thought and bought myself Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet. Now my husband has left me, my children don't recognise me and I live in a box outside Waterloo Station. JUST SAY NO to Raisins."

Name and address supplied.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

This is What Print on Demand is all about...

A good customer of ours comes into the shop, buys a book and then flourishes another at us.

"This is brilliant! Why don't you have it in stock?"

We take these moments very seriously. We see Crockatt & Powell as a joint effort between us and our customers - if you've read a great book then tell us all about it. We try, but we can't read everything.

In fact Adam was aware of the book in question and had already ordered a copy - from the States. It is out of print here. In fact it gets worse. Not only is it out of print here the book is part of a quintet and only the first volume is available from the US.

The book in question was Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif. As you can see from the Wiki entry this is a man whose work is of direct interest to anyone with even a passing interest in the state of the Middle East - ie just about anyone that thinks about anything...

And they are out of print.

A Load of Bolano

Someone sent me a link to this article in the New Yorker about Roberto Bolano.

The Savage Detectives is one of the best books I have read so far this year...

Two comments by Mr Bolano particularly caught my attention:

"BolaƱo’s fury toward the literary mainstream—deeply felt and bordering on puerile" - remind you of anyone?

And he called Isabel Allende a “scribbler” whose “attempts at literature range from kitsch to the pathetic.”

When you're in a hole...

...stop digging.

Oh what a beautiful morning

Damn, if I wasn't so hungover from my middle-class binge-drinking or indeed too obese from a toddler like inability to walk past a branch of Greggs without scoffing 14 chicken pies due to the pressures of everyday life and therefore too wheezy to have the energy too, I really, really would break into song.

A cracker in the capital today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's half past six...

Minutes to go: 30

Number of Booker related enquiries: 1

Number of Booker related purchases: 0

Money through the till: A number beginning with 8

A good day: You betcha

Booker prize: No thanks


...we are not watching the football on Chinese TV over the internet!

If we were we would know there was a delay (judging from the time between when we heard a cheer from the pub next door and actually seeing the goal) of around five minutes.

I missed the first goal because I was selling a copy of Rupert Brooke's Letters From America at the time...

It's a quarter to three...

God in employment tribunal shock

God's spokesman on earth, Jesus H Christ, said to reporters, 'Well if they're not prepared to do the Lord's work on the Lord's day I'm afraid they just have to go'. God was not available for comment.

Click here for the story.

Quote of the day

'Never get old lads, it's a fuckin' nuisance.'

The Decline of Western Civilisation

The case for the prosecution. Articles 435 & 436:

'Obesity, the authors concluded, was an inevitable consequence of a society in which energy-dense, cheap foods, labour-saving devices, motorised transport and sedentary work were rife.
In this environment it was surprising that anyone was able to remain thin, Dr Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council said, and so the notion of obesity simply being a product of personal over-indulgence had to be abandoned for good.
"The stress has been on the individual choosing a healthier lifestyle, but that simply isn't enough," '

Dave used to be called UKTV G2 or some such mouthful. It probably needed a rebrand but god's holy trousers what PR genius came up with the idea of calling a station 'Dave'.

We are all truly doomed.

Je ne regrette rien

Well, post-booker, a few bridges burned, a few noses out of joint, a bilious hang-over and a stark realisation that I'm not One Of Them. The relationship and interests between Bookshop Owner and Publisher are just too inherently antagonistic. The stark truth is they're trying to squeeze as much money from us and we're trying to squeeze as much money from them.

Yes, of course everybody just looooooves books and isn't it wonderful to hang out in cool soho hangouts but my freeloadin' and schmoozin' days are now officially over. Conflict of interests m'lud. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. And I'll always remember Stanley Kubrick's library - the greatest book launch in the history of book launches.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Into the belly of the beast

Apparently there's some book related event tonight so let me be your intrepid front-line reporter as I attempt to crash the publisher's parties over in deepest darkest Soho and quaff as much free wine as possible before wobbling home and scoffing the inevitable kebab.

However, should my mouth get away from me and blurt the wrong thing at a most innapropriate and delicate moment while standing next to Ian McYawn, when the kidnap videos turn up on YouTube try looking under the basement of the Groucho club first... You've read the Cement Garden haven't you? Or will it be more like The Innocent? (Gulp!)

Who's nominated again?

Waterstone's Get Off My Cloud! And take that awkward apostrophe with you!

How long do you have to NOT be an employee of Waterstone's before people stop calling you "former Waterstone's booksellers"?

I left those bastards years ago. Adam and I both worked for the Pan Bookshop far more recently than Waterstone's.

Radio Whore

Media slag Crockatt struck again yesterday afternoon with a virtuoso performance on Radio Four.

Never one to decline an invitation to predict the future our valiant hero let rip.

Those of you brave enough to listen to a program about IT all the way through will hear Crockatt articulate Jason Epstein's vision of the book trade somewhere near the end. They went on to speak with a man from the Booksellers Association who did a good job of not calling me a twat on air. Suffice to say I was right and he was wrong.

(You can listen to the program on the net - it was called click on and it was at 4:30pm - go to radio four listen again and do so if you are so inclined)

Art Joke

Did you hear that sculptor Anthony Gormley has decided to move into film? Same old Gormless though, he's cast himself in the lead role.

(Courtesy of Philip 'Campag' Greenwood)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Freud said about the Irish is: They're the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis

I'm half Irish. I wonder which half. The good one or the bad one?

(Para. Matt Damon in The Departed. Currently showing on Sky Movies)

ps It's true.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Live streaming from China

I'd assumed I could watch the England game on the BBC website. Wrong. So a google search later and a quick bit of downloading and I'm watching some Chinese broadcaster through my laptop. Unfortunately the commentary is in Chinese (naturally) and although I can play the 5live coverage alongside the video the footage is a minute and a half behind. Oh well.

Yes **** ******, we do stock your books

Reasonably well known author in the shop first thing heads straight for the fiction section to see if his books are there and very quickly slopes off looking a bit dejected because they aren't.

They're in the crime section instead. But he didn't see them. Oops.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Who needs sleep anyway

For one reason or another I have found myself staying up into the small hours watching tv. Wednesday in particular was quite a late one but I had the company of two films until my eventual turning in time of 04.25. The first was an acclaimed British film that I had intended to see when it came out. London to Brighton is a about a prostitute and a young girl on the run from a psychopathic gangster and a nasty pimp. It started promisingly but finished as just another grubby exploitation flic. To be avoided.

Straight after was Blue Collar one of the best films of the 70's and consequently one of the best film's ever. A mighty, angry and funny look at working class life in America with Richard Pryor turning in a stand out performance. They really don't make films like that any more.

My thoughts turn to movies as we've agreed to start a Crockatt & Powell Film Night once a month from next february. One of our regulars teaches film locally and has a huge library of movies so we're going to have a programme of adaptations of books or book related films with a small introduction by him followed by a viewing. Cool, huh? Gives me an excuse to buy a video projector... (Absolutely NOT to play games on or anything)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jimmy Hill

Plunged into depression on Sunday after losing to Portsmouth. Only started to pull out when I received a call, followed by an e-mail with this photo attached...

Yes, that is Fulham and Match of the Day legend Jimmy Hill dancing on the pitch at half time with a copy of The Fulham Review - as published by Crockatt & Powell - under his arm. At the end of MOTD 2 they have a funny section called Two Good Two Bad. So there he was on national telly, dancing around with our book!

We got this spectacular still shot from a bloke called Jon Hall. More excellent football related photos can be found here.

We were selling copies outside the ground when Richard spotted Jimmy and gave him a complimentary copy. He obviously liked it as he has a good firm grip on it.

How about that then eh? First book published and the cover is shown on national TV to an audience of millions.

The Fulham Review was written by Richard Allen and Martin Kane. Support our cottage industry and buy a copy here today...

Monday, October 08, 2007


My dad keeps sending me stupid jokes by e-mail. Most of the time this is annoying but occasionally some gems come through. This is a collection of Tommy Cooper's but I can equally imagine the drawl of Steven Wright saying the same lines.

Two aerials meet on a roof, fall in love, get married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant.

Man goes to the doctors with a Strawberry growing out of his head. Doctor says "I'll give you some cream to put on it"

A man takes his rottweiler to the vet. "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?" "Well" says the vet, "let's have a look at him".
So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally he says "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? because he's cross-eyed?" "No, because he's really heavy"

"Doctor, I can't pronounce my F's, T's and H's." "Well, you can't say fairer than that then"

So I went to the dentist. He said "Say Aaaah." I said "Why". He said "Because my dog's died"

I got home and the phone was ringing. I picked it up and said "Who's speaking please?" and a voice answered "you are"

I rang up my local swimming baths and said "is that the local swimming baths?" He said "it depends where you're calling from"

I rang up a local building firm "I want a skip outside my house", he said "I'm not stopping you"

Apparently 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. There are five people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my mum or dad, or my older brother Colin, or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu, but I think it's Colin.

I was in my car driving along and my boss rang up and said "You've been promoted" and I swerved. He rang a second time "You've been promoted again" and I swerved again. He rang up a third time and said "You're managing director" and I went into a tree. A policeman came up and said "what happened to you?" and I replied "I careered off the road"

So I was getting into my car and this bloke says to me "Can you give me a lift?" I said "Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it"

Two cannibals eating a clown. One says to the other "Does this taste funny to you?"

A man walked into the doctors. The doctor said "I haven't seen you in a long time" The man replied "I know, I've been ill"

A man walked into the doctors and said "I've hurt my arm in several places" The doctor said "Well don't go to those places"

I had a ploughman's lunch the other day. He wasn't very happy.

I bought some HP sauce the other day. It's costing me 6p a month for the next two years.

A man came round in hospital after a serious accident. He shouted "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs" The doctor replied "I know you can't, I've cut your arms off"

I went to a seafood disco last week and pulled a mussel.

Our ice cream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say he topped himself.

Two fat blokes in a pub, one says to the other "Your round". The other one says "so are you, you fat b*****d"

(Who remembers watching Tommy Cooper die on stage. I can)

Sooooo comfortable...

You know when the duvet is exactly the right weight and temperature and the pillow is exactly the right fluffiness and every part of the bed is exactly the right shape for your body and you're just so damn comfortable that it feels like your floating on a warm cloud and that you could quite happily stay like that forever...

Well, Manny the veg guy must have been feeling the same way this morning 'cos he ain't here. I don't like it when he's not here. It's too quiet, even though he does have a terrible radio station blaring all morning.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I Need Help (Oh Gawd) I Want To Read A Book That's Funny, That's Going To Make Me Laugh Out Loud...



What is funny?

I thought We Need To Talk About Kevin was funny.

Thomas Bernhard's The Gargoyle made me laugh out loud.

Jimmy Carr's The Naked Jape saved the day. Thanks Jimmy. It's a tough job (being funny not bookselling) but someone's got to do it...

Friday, October 05, 2007

A burning question

Matthew and I were having a disagreement about whether they burn the coffin as well as the body in a crematorium. I thought not as did Charlie from Scooterworks. Matthew thought they did. However, he was basing his opinion on the scene in a James Bond film when Sean Connery is in a coffin and jets of flame start appearing so probably not too reliable as info.

But the ever reliable Wikipedia has the answer - yes, they do. Burn the coffin too, I mean. It's the law apparently.

One Bloody Thing After Another

The end of the week is fast approaching. A good thing for many reasons. It's been the kind of week that leaves you feeling as though life is just what it says for the title of this post and we play Portsmouth on Sunday - with luck we will sell a bundle more of the Fulham Review dahn the public 'ouses 'side the banks of Old Father...

I was thinking of ways to describe living in London next door to a couple of squatters who think it's a good idea to have band practice at 4am thus waking you, yr wife and small child up after their dogs growled at yer wife in the garden last night when she was trying to take the washing in AND Radio 4 want to record you for a discussion program about POD AND I have a bookshop to run - a seething cauldron of conflicting desires was the phrase that popped into my head as I FINALLY drifted off to sleep...But seething cauldron is SO cliched...

Then I wake up and it's a beautiful day, the kind of crisp and sunny autumn morning that makes you LOVE being alive.

And then there's a flash of colour as a blue tit seems to fall out of a tree, swerve to a perfect landing on the pavement in front of you as yr walking super-fast through the wilderness of back streets behind Elephant & Castle. Everything stops for a heartbeat. We look each other in the eye. Then the tiny reminder of all things bright and beautiful is off into the bushes.

And then there was Wednesday and Dr Rick's Amazing Map for Tree Of Smoke.

This work of art needs to be seen to be believed. It made my day on Wednesday and was a vivid illustration of the joys to be found in a shared love/obsession with books...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Late and Dark


This is the first time this year I will have closed up in the dark.

What shall I read now? After Denis every novel I try seems weak and rubbish.

Any suggestions for a jaded bookseller fighting off a SAD attack or shall I just read essays and non-fiction for a while?

The only way is up

'Foyles. That's by the London eye, innit'

'Yeah, about 1oo yards to the east.'

'East? Depends which way your facin dunnit?'

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mr Cheng - Crockatt & Powell Booksellers

It is an offence to open mail belonging to other people. As a result I waited about six hours before opening the A4 letter addressed to Mr Cheng - Crockatt & Powell Booksellers.

It was a letter from Lambeth council informing Mr Cheng (who he?) that as of October 1st it will be "illegal for you to sell tobacco to a person who is under 18".

Lambeth Trading Standards will be ensuring compliance by carrying out random test purchases.

I look forward to the day some spotty kid comes in and tries to buy fags in what is quite obviously a bookshop.

"You're in the employ of Lambeth Council" I will cry.

"How did you know?" They will respond.

"Because only Lambeth Council are able to reach such heights of idiocy!" I will yell as I fling the poor kid across the street...