published six guides, described by Simon Heffer in his review of the last one
(1995) as ..."a scabrous collection of insults, jokes, prejudices and abuses about
bookshops and their owners". Heffer regarded the 1986 edition of the guide as
"one of the great anti-bibles of political correctness". In support of this
view he quotes Drif's gleeful suggestion that the management of a homosexual bookshop
should make a window display of Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys. |
Drif offended many, particularly the self-proclaimed King of
Hay whose capital he described as "a hospice for books that no-one can bear to
see die in public". Litigation was in the air whenever a new edition of the guide
hit the streets.
However, beneath the albeit thick veneer
of abuse and invective lay a serious purpose. Drif simply loved bookshops and
was horrified at their demise particularly, as he saw it, at the hands of the
Bookfairies. In this
regard his guides provide an idiosyncratic chronicle of the decline of the secondhand
bookshop and the rise of the book fair during the 1980's and 90's.
Only Guide that's Been There
"They are dreadful, you are wasting your money buying this book,
it will only tell you how dreadful they are in more detail". So begins Drif's
1995 guide. "The main reasons that the shops are so bad is that they are run by
people who are unconcerned by what customers want, indifferent to when customers
would like them to be open, ignorant of the basics of selling and only interested
in their own status".
This diatribe can't help but strike a cord with anyone who
has driven miles out of their way, to sit for what seems like hours, on the door
step of a bookshop that proudly displays a ‘Back in Ten Minutes' sign.
I think as booksellers we need to be kept
up to the mark. Whilst the eccentricities in which Drif delighted
are a major part of the attraction of bookshop browsing, we need
to get our act together if we are to survive. I still remember
our review in the first guide: ..."UNR (unreliable opening
times) ... hippyish bookshop with bizarre prices". It was a relief
to have at least become REL (reliable) in the next edition but
I aspired to the accolade "WAD" (worth a detour). See
of Drif can be found in "Liquid
City" by Marc Atkins and
secondhand bookshops are to prosper in the 21st century, then we as owners must
become more adept at giving our customers what they want, and who better to tell
us what that is than our customers. So, in the spirit of Drif you are invited
to review the nations bookshops and tell us which you think are the good, the
bad and the ugly.