I spent last week in Scotland visiting my old friend Stuart who lives in a beautiful little fishing village called Rosehearty which is located around 45 miles north of Aberdeen. During this time, my genial host took me to several areas of outstanding beauty and jaw-dropping scenery which acted as a perfect escape from the rather stressful business of mentally preparing myself for my new job. One of his excursions included a trip to Inverness for a fine lunch of haggis, neeps and tatties followed by a visit to Leakey’s Bookshop on Church Street.
Leakey’s is Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop and is housed in an old Gaelic church which dates back to 1793. The building houses a vast collection of books spanning all genres and also features a rather scary looking wood burning fire which heats the whole space in winter. There are bookshelves lining every available wall which extend up onto a mezzanine level accessed by cast iron spiral staircases. It truly is the bookshop that time forgot and has a magical quality about it, something sadly missing in today’s soulless corporate outlets. I really can’t recommend a visit to Leakey’s enough if you’re even remotely nearby, it’s a good job I live several hundred miles away as I’m sure I’d spend most of my free time there browsing the seemingly endless stock of vintage paperbacks.
After a very pleasant hour of rifling through the science fiction section, I realised I had a huge stack of books on the floor in front of me and so I began to ruthlessly narrow down my selection. In the end, I left the shop with twenty six titles – a fantastic haul which cost me far less than it would have done if I had bought the same books via eBay or an online book dealer. Needless to say, I was a very happy man on the long drive back to Rosehearty that afternoon.
I’ve had a fantastic break thanks to Stuart (who incidentally runs a rather good Sci-Fi/horror blog called The Fifth Dimension) and travelled home with a much heavier suitcase than the one I took with me. I’ll spare you the holiday snaps (as fabulous as they are) and share a small selection of tasty book covers from my latest stash instead;
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I’ve been looking for the 11th printing of this title from 1974 for a while now and was incredibly lucky to find a copy in extremely good condition despite being almost forty years old. The reason I wanted this particular version was because of the wonderfully psychedelic Ian Miller cover art.
Things edited by Ivan Howard
I missed out on winning this anthology on eBay a few months ago, it sold for three times the price I paid for it at Leakey’s. This is a Mayflower Dell publication from 1965 and contains six shorts from the likes of Poul Anderson, James Blish and Damon Knight. The cover artist is uncredited but the painting is signed ‘Jacks’.
Anthologies are great to collect, especially the early magazine style publications of the sixties of which I have a number. These two books have a couple of things in common; they both contain shorts by J.G. Ballard which would eventually end up in The Atrocity Exhibition and they were both published in the year I was born.
New Worlds, April 1966 edited by Michael Moorcock
Published by Roberts & Vitner Ltd, this collection features Ballard’s The Assassination Weapon in addition to short stories by Moorcock and John Brunner among others. The cover is uncredited.
Impulse, March 1966 edited by Karl Bonfiglioni
This is another Roberts & Vitner publication and contains shorts by the likes of James Blish, Poul Anderson and Brian Aldiss. Ballard contributes You and Me and the Continuum. I initially grabbed this one because of the brilliant cover painting by Judith Ann Lawrence which features yet another human skull to add to my collection.
It’s fair to say that I’m slightly obsessed with Penguin Sci-Fi books of the sixties and seventies and so I always tend to keep an eye open for them when I’m hunting. I never thought I’d pick up such well preserved examples of the following titles at such ridiculously low prices.
Consider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham
This near fine collection of Wyndham short stories was published in 1965 and has a strikingly odd cover by Herbert Spencer, the founder and editor of influential design magazine Typographica.
Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham
Published in 1963 with more strange cover art, this design is the work of John Griffiths.