Tuesday 13 October 2009

The Secret Bookshop

There's a secret second hand bookshop in the town I live in. It's hidden away in a narrow passage that runs up the side of the castle mount. I stumbled upon it a while ago but it never seemed to be open. Then one day it was open, and I went in for a look around. There wasn't a great selection there, or more likely at that point I wasn't as into books as I am now, and I promptly forgot about the place. (I think it's also the base of the local listings magazine – there's an office upstairs and they seem to advertise the magazine in the window.) But today I went for a stroll up the high street to look in a couple of the other bookshops in town, and was just heading back when I suddenly remembered it.

I doubled back, went in, and straight away saw a first edition of Kingsley Amis's Girl, 20. Price clipped, but otherwise in great condition. Seven quid. And then I saw a first edition of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley Under Ground, the second Ripley novel (and possibly the best, although my favourite is Ripley's Game – and yes, I do have a first edition of that). Now, I already have a first of Ripley Under Ground, but this was a nicer copy – my copy has a sunned (faded) spine, which is typical of this book, but this copy didn't. And it was twenty quid. And right next to it was a hardback of a Patricia Highsmith biography (Beautiful Shadow) I've had my eye on on eBay, for eight quid.

I bought the lot.

Why buy a book I've already got? Well, as I say, it's a nicer copy. I might sell my other copy; I might not. But I think it's more to do with knowing that there would have been another, better copy of Ripley Under Ground in my town, for someone else to pick up at what is a rather good price.

That probably makes me really weird.

Of course, they'd have to find the secret bookshop in the first place.

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