Just outside Brighton Station, round and down and through the tunnel at the top of Trafalgar Street, there is, on days when the weather is clement, a pavement book stall. I walk past it every fortnight or so (having got the train over from Lewes), usually on a Wednesday on my way to Dave's Comics on Sydney Street. It's rare that I don't take at least a cursory glance at the books on its three or four tables – a mixture of mostly recognisable fiction and non-fiction, for the most part paperbacks, some hardbacks, along with kids' annuals and picture books (and even some DVDs) – but in all the years I've been trotting past I can't recall ever having actually bought anything. Until last month, when I spotted a small box full of science fiction – mainly paperbacks, one or two hardbacks. Given my Damascene rediscovery of SF earlier in the year, I reasoned it would be remiss of me not to stop and have a proper rummage, and after a few minutes came up with four paperbacks I liked the look of. Then the guy manning the stall – not the regular guy, it should be noted – advised me that it was three books for a fiver, so naturally I added a couple more, to wind up with this little lot – largely space opera, all first printings, one a hardback:
Top row, left to right: Born Under Mars by John Brunner, published by Ace (US) in 1967, cover by John Schoenherr; The Infinitive of Go, also by John Brunner, published by Magnum in 1981, cover by Chris Moore; Finches of Mars by Brian Aldiss, published in hardback by The Friday Project in 2013, cover design by Ifan Bates. Bottom row, left to right: Titan by John Varley, published by Futura/Orbit in 1979, cover by Peter Andrew Jones (with interior illustrations by Freff); Kinsman by Ben Bova, published by Future/Orbit in 1979, cover by Colin Hay; Capella's Golden Eyes by Christopher Evans, published by Granada in 1982, cover by Peter Gudynas.
I was especially pleased with the Varley and the Evans – Varley is an author I'm very interested in right now, while Evans is a name I'm unfamiliar with but who comes recommended by Christopher Priest – but they all look promising, and together constitute quite a nice little score, all the more so for being so unexpected. The temporary stall-holder told me the books were his rather than the regular proprietor's and that he had more science fiction in storage, which he would dig out and bring along on a day I would be likely to be passing, if the weather was clement. I've been by the stall a couple of times since – on clement days – but as yet no luck. I live in hope.