Thursday 27 August 2009

Oh Dear

Dear Blog, I'm really sorry I've been ignoring you recently - but I've been really BUSY writing. Well, no that's not strictly true - I've been a BIT busy writing (Midnight Feast) but I've also been away. Yes - again! Don't nag. The Toyboy Trucker and I snook away for a few days, okay? And that's why I'm posting this and why you've got a Proper Literary Person as an illustration today. All will be revealed, promise...
love, Chris xxxx

This is cross-my-heart true:-

While on hols last week and browsing (i.e. rearranging my books face-out in front of other people's who don't need the royalties as much as I do) in a bookshop I witnessed the following...

Bookseller (wearing bookseller badge) deep in conversation with junior assistant (wearing bookselling assistant badge) about the merits of Katie Price's "Sapphire" which was currently splashed in its dozens over three shelves of "Number One Best-Seller" was interrupted by a middle-aged female customer.

Customer: Excuse me, where can I find Somerset Maugham?
Bookseller: Somerset Morn? Sorry, never heard of it. Who's it by?
Customer: It's not a title. It's an author.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: What's she written?
Customer: He's a man.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: What's he written?
Customer: Lots of things. Cakes and Ale? The Painted Veil? The Moon and Sixpence?
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: Which one are you looking for?
Customer: Of Human Bondage.
Bookselling Assistant: Have you tried Erotica?
Customer: No. Doesn't he have a section of his own?
Bookseller: Is he in the Top Fifty? Does he write crime?
Customer: No, his books are classics.
Bookselling Assistant: Ah, classics. Like Dickens? We've got some Dickens classics - and lots of Jane Austen.
Customer: More recent than them, but yes, maybe in the same area.
Bookseller: No, I don't think so. How are you spelling Morn?
Customer: M-a-u-g-h-a-m.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: That's a funny spelling. I've never heard of him.
Customer: But do you have any of his books?
Bookselling Assistant: Not if he's not in with Dickens and Jane Austen. Do you want me to look under M in contemporary?
Customer (exiting shop looking defeated): No thank you.
Bookseller (watching her go): Have you ever heard of Somerset Morn before?
Bookselling Assistant: Nah. Can't have written much, can he?

Oh, dear......


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Glad you had a lovely holiday.

I'm giggling at the thought of you rearranging the shelves in a bookshop.

It says a lot when booksellers know the ins and outs of a Katie Price novel and haven't heard of Somerset Maugham. No wonder the poor customer left. Probably off to order it from Amazon or The Book Depository.

Groovy Pumpkin said...

Oh dear indeed!

I used to work in Borders, part time until recently, in Southampton and I'm sure the customer would have had much better service (hopefully anyway).

As a member of staff it is always a good idea to just go and check on the computer and try not to make yourself look like a complete idiot in front of customers if you haven't heard of a particular author or book.

Although, having worked there for nearly 2 years I must own up to not knowing W. Somerset Maugham and have now since looked to see what he wrote, and I actually do recognise some of the titles after all - how embarrassing!

Well, I'm reading your own 'Tickled Pink' at the moment and must say I'm finding it to be FAB!! Can't wait to read 'Moonshine'.

Keep up the great work!

Jane :-)

Christina Jones said...

Debs - thanks and I ALWAYS rearrange my books wherever I go - I have no pride! Yep, I thought it was quite sad too - and it made me feel very old because I was tutting a lot throughout the exchange. Sigh...

Groovy Pumpkin - it wasn't Borders! Promise! Or Southampton. And I was a Blackwells bookseller in my yoof and hadn't heard of half the things I was asked for but we were always told pretend we knew and then Ask or Look It Up so as not to look a complete prat. Oh, thanks so much for liking Tickled Pink - I did have fun writing it and am still in love with Ellis AND Flynn - could never choose between them... Do hope you'll like Moonshine too. THANK YOU so much!!!!

Chris Stovell said...

Classic! I love it - especially the 'Have you tried erotica?' What a good idea, about rearranging the bookshelves, I love the cover of 'Moonshine' so whenever I come across it I shall make sure that everyone else does too. What a shame if some copies accidentally obscured 'Sapphire' hehe!

I used to work in a bookshop and prided myself on being pretty smart... until some teen came into ask me for a book about Tupac. The shame, the shame!

Christina Jones said...

ChrisH - thank you - and thanks for the kind offer of "rearranging" Moonshine... Will be needed come January when the paperback is out - I'm relying on you! Oh yes, and I always cover up books I don't like too - I'm a Bad Person. Yes, well remember a similar shameful early bookselling moment in Blackwells on discovering Keegan Paul was a publisher and not an author having just assured the enquirer that we had all his books in stock... ouch...

Colette McCormick said...

Somerset Maugham in the erotica section? The mind boggles.

Christina Jones said...

Collette - maybe he'd laugh? Somehow I doubt it...

Anonymous said...

LOL Oh dear!! Very amusing tale. What on earth would their boss say if they heard that conversation??

Oranjepan said...


*thinks twice*

Thanks, you've just inspired a short story!

Susie Vereker said...

Oh, Blimey. Poor WS Maugham. You wd've thought they could look him up on their computer.
In a London bookshop, I confess I did once move a pile of my books to a table marked Writers Abroad - I put them on top of a famous author's. As you say, he didn't need the royalties.

Sheila Norton said...

Shock, horror at the bookseller and assistant! They should, as Groovy Pumpkin says (lovely name, GP!), at least have looked on the computer.

Chris, I always, always, used to rearrange my books in bookshops, like you,(always presuming I could occasionally find them there),until I read somewhere that when the staff see that it has been done, they always know the author (or their friends) have done it, and it p***es them off big time, to the extent where they might not even want to stock their books again! (!). Just thought I'd warn you! (Although it obviously hasn't happened to you, as your books are still in all the shops!).

Glad you had a nice break. xx

Phillipa said...

Yes, Happy Birthday Chris and happy writing too!

I love the story and sadly, all too common, I fear. I went into a very fanous Oxford Bookshop earlier this year and asked to be directed to Evelen Waugh biographies (You know what's coming, don't you?)

Polite, posh sounding young assistant:

"I think we have some books on her work ..."

I wouldn't mind but this is the most famous bookshop in Oxford - in the classics section - dear old Evelyn probably used to shop there for Gawd's sake!

alzamina said...

love it - can just picture it. Can't be doing with Katie Price / Jordan / etc books. Far to many Biographies in the book charts at the moment!

Just sitting here shivering at the moment having returned from the lovely warm area of Costa Adeje in Tenerife with a very brown 6 year old who had to be surgically removed from the pool and beach!

Re reading Moonshine again now and waiting for Midnight Feast.

Jayne said...

oh no!!!! Good for you with the rearranging and I'm gobsmacked at the staff in the shop!!! Not much knowledge is one thing....but no interest or embarassment is something else entirely!

Christina Jones said...

chicklit reviews - mmm, I think one of them was "the boss" actually - which is even more worrying...

Oranjepan - glad to be of some use to someone! I'm grinning now...

Susie - lovely to see you here - and I think they were far too engrossed in the dozens of Sapphires to bother looking up WSM. Oh, good for you for the book-moving! We need all the help we can get!

Olivia - thanks for the warning about the re-arranging although hopefully the chains order centrally and therefore the staff won't get much say in it. I did get caught doing it in Waterstones once and the assistant was so impressed that I was a Real Writer that he helped me!

Phillipa - thanks - and now I'm laughing! Actually, I got sacked from That Famous Oxford Bookshop - but not for not knowing about EW! Okay - it was for misuse of the service lift if you really have to know!!!

Alzamina - glad you had such a great hol. Agree too many celeb biogs in the charts - sigh... Thanks so much for the major plug for Moonshine! You're a star!

Mummy - yep, it was a bit jaw-dropping. Sad sign of the times, though? Gawd - I'm getting OLD!!!

ptasia said...

Now that's just to good to be true, i.e. real. But it must be... Oh, dear. Maybe at least they later googled or wiki'd (wikied? Not sure about the spelling) him? Actually, I would have thought The Painted Veil would have rang some kind of a bell because of the movie not so long ago. Naybe it was too artsy though...

Christina Jones said...

ptasia - hmmm - you can't make this sort of stuff up, can you? Doubt if they'd have known who wrote the novel of the film either - they were THAT young... sigh...