Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. Next up is Patrick Wray, bookseller and general oracle at Foyles Charing Cross Road, London.
What are you reading right now?
Smoke and Other Tales by Gerry King.
Name three books on your reading list?
The Purple Cloud by MP Shiel, Cat Country by Lao She and How UFO’s Conquered the World by David Clarke.
What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
I recently discovered the short stories of Robert Aickman so I have been recommending those to people who ask me for related stuff. I especially liked Ringing the Changes, The Swords and The Hospice. He was popular with fans of weird fiction in the 70’s and 80’s but went out of fashion for a while until a documentary by Jeremy Dyson on Radio 4 a few years back seems to have helped to revive his reputation.
They are available in several anthologies of his stories published by Faber such as Dark Entries and Cold hand in Mine. They fit within the weird fiction canon, but I think a broader audience will appreciate them. If you like the idea of ghost stories set in places like Wolverhampton in the seventies, Aickman is your man! He also wrote a couple of novels which are available via Faber Finds.
Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
Not as such, but it is hard to go wrong with New York Review of Books I find. My favourites I read from NYRB are The Invention of Morel, The Post Office Girl, The Jokers and The Black Spider.
What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I think generally there are already loads of good books out there, you just have to look for them a bit sometimes. At Foyles we have a very broad range of literature, including lots of books from small publishers, but that is not the case in a lot of bookshops. The obscure stuff can sell well if it is displayed well and placed in the right context, so I would urge other bookshops to have more faith in their customers and take risks by stocking more unusual, lesser known books.
In terms of things I would like to see less of: working in a book shop one can get a bit snobby about trashier stuff, but in an ideal world trashy big sellers can provide publishers with the revenue to be able to publish new writers.
What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
So many I could mention! I was recently asked if we had any books on how to win the lottery. I suggested to the customer that he write some random numbers down and stare really hard at them. I was once asked whether Moleskine notebooks are made from real mole flesh. Naturally, I said they are
Favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
The 1986 Dennis the Menace annual was a pretty good one.Thanks Patrick! Oh, and we should probably mention that Patrick is also a really awesome artist. You can have a look at his work here.
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