I was thinking of bidding for some Conan novels on ebay. So I went to my books and had a ruffle through them to see if it was worthwhile my bidding for them. It turns out not as I have some of them, and would only be getting a couple of books (which I’ve read anyway as I had them originally and sold them off) and would end up getting some duplicates, which I don’t need.

I regret getting rid of books – I bought Ian Rankin’s first novel when it came out and it’s apparently very rare nowadays, but I didn’t like it even though it was a fair read; it was some meandering nonsense about the growing pains of some boys from the fictional town of Carsden, which would have been based on the real town of Cardenden – but there you go. (I suppose it goes to show that Ian Rankin is a good writer as I can remember some things clearly about it, most notably – for some odd reason – their lying on their backs in a park discussing masturbation.)

On going through my books I noted a few things. One, I miss second hand bookshops. There aren’t any near me. A lot of the books I was picking through were bought from second hand shops. I got a lot of Star Trek novelizations and novels from second hand bookshops; a few from library sales too seeing as some had plastic covers. Robert Heinlein, Clifford Simak, odd SF collections, all these and more were acquired. There are charity shops but they aren’t the same.

Two, I’m down on Robert Howard books. I have about thirty including the Conan ones and there should be more than that. On the plus side I have more Philip Jose Farmer books than I thought I did; around twentyish including a couple I’m sure I haven’t read. I also took a note of the Doc Savage books I have in case I bid for more on ebay; again I don’t want doubles. I have around twenty. For some strange reason only one double novel. I did buy a fair few – or thought I did – but didn’t realise I got rid of all except one (The Fortress of Solitude/Czar of Fear), plus I only have one Omnibus edition. I remember getting a few of those too. Again twentyish Doc Savage novels, including two or three that were written in the nineties, although I don’t have the one written by Philip Jose Farmer, Escape From Loki. I also saw one Spider novel, two Shadow novels, the first of the Doom trilogy in paperback. I came across my old manual typewriter too but couldn’t get it open. A lot of TV stuff: the aforementioned Star Trek, Highlander novelizations, Babylon 5, X-Files, Red Dwarf. I really need to sit and rummage through them some more.

Three, the diversity that used to be in book shops is something which was taken for granted and seems to have diminished. i don’t think we have greater choice nowadays, just greater volume. I have lots of odds and ends that I picked up new in shops that would never see the light of shelf space nowadays. There was the equivalent for second hand books too: odds and ends that never appeared anywhere else except second hand book shops. I know the internet can bring you anything but there are times you want to handle the goods and inspect them before handing over money. And I suppose there are just times when you want to browse. Some of the stuff I had never heard of before and probably wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t held it in my hands and browsed through it first, giving it a chance to pique my interest and make me chose to buy it.

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