Lament for a Bookshop
A few weeks ago I mourned the passing of Galloway and Porter’s. In Oxford last week-end at the Mystery and Crime conference at St Hilda’s I thought of another much-loved second-hand bookshop that vanished some years ago. I can’t remember its name, but it was on the road leading up from the station and on the other side of the road was a restaurant – Malaysian, I think – with the memorable name of Munchy-Munchy. The shop itself was on several floors, there was a big battered sofa, and lots and lots of books. An amusing feature of the shop was a trompe d’oeil bookcase which containing books that were themselves fictional such as Mr Casubon’s KEY TO ALL THE MYTHOLOGIES and X. Trapnel’s CAMEL RIDE TO THE TOMB (one of a number of wonderful titles invented by Anthony Powell in A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME).
Oxford was a good day out from Birmingham where I was living in the early 1980s and a number of books still on my shelves were bought at that shop. I acquired a volume of short detective stories edited by Dorothy L Sawyers in which the standout story was the chilling ‘The Hands of Mr Ottermole’ by Thomas Burke and on another occasion some of Hilary Waugh’s crime novels for only a pound or two each. Much enjoyed by my mother, these were first written in the 50s and 60s and can claim to be the first police procedurals. They are still very readable.
I went back to Oxford for the first time in ages about eight years ago and the shop had gone. In its place was a shop selling hifi equipment – or was it computers? A poignant moment.