Friday, 23 November 2012

A day in the death

Christmas, like an entity being beamed aboard the starship Enterprise, is shimmering into ever greater definition at The Bookshop, Welwyn Garden City.  When last we visited this jewel of literacy in the Home Counties, customers were occasionally brandishing lists; now these pieces of paper are near universal, with children's books, and enquiries about children's books, being the most popular subjects.  Luckily, we as a team are pretty darned clued-up on this subject and - if I had ever felt that the hours I've spent reading junior fiction were misplaced (which I haven't) - being flung back into the front line of Christmas book retailing would have reversed this opinion.  It's heartening to witness that, as our customers pursue their individual quests for the Christmas shopping completion grail, they remain - despite their arms being encumbered by several gaily-bedaubed carrier bags and their ears likewise by the Howard Centre's incessant pop music soundtrack - of good cheer in their dealings with us.

My first task each morning has to do with a serious overflow of crime in our neighbourhood.  A large influx of new titles meant that some copies of books which were multiply stocked had to be rested on a trolley until sufficient spaces appear to re-shelve them.  Thus, ironically, this person, who finds the genre eminently resistible (see this post), is obliged each day to scan carefully each single title on the criminal trolley** and correlate it with those on the shelves, replacing stock where able.  It's a peculiar way to start the day, as if with some dark, perverted catechism, as I look along the rows of titles and murmur: Death in the Morning, Death in the Evening, Death a bit Later, Deathly Death, Look at all the Dead People, etc.

My colleagues and I have devised a devious stratagem to hasten the acquisition of crime fiction by our customers; in a simplified version of subliminal advertising, we hold up a piece of paper with appropriate novelists' names written on it (in a seductive font) and then lower it again, really, really quickly.  It's working a treat.As an antidote to this ritual, I was today imagining a new genre - crime blanc - in which concerned citizens report apparent minor misdemeanours to honest, emotionally stable police officers and are reassured that, in each case, there was a perfectly simple explanation and that no infringements had actually occurred.  Mightily relieved, all the protagonists, gather after the working day and share excellent home-made cakes and a variety of delicious hot beverages.  Each book should start: 

'Down these well-maintained streets - admire in particular the imaginative use of tree varieties - a man or indeed woman must go. To do some shopping, probably. Or just potter about'.

**You're right - it doesn't squeal.

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