Day One (cont’d)

On Saturday I went to a weekend book stall in the street market. The books here are outrageously expensive (£2.95 and up) but the man has an odd selection and sometimes you have to expect to pay a premium. Also, I once gave him a bag of books and so now we have a complex arrangement. It all started because he once gave me a book free of charge. Refused to take any money for it at all.

“You’re a regular,” he said. And as it was a particularly cheap item, I accepted. Then another time, he did the same. I protested that he was in business but he refused to take any money and waved me away. Now, I always did expect to get a favourable discount of 10-20% of the cover price when I bought from him but to get a book free of charge was intolerable.  This imposed on me a burden that I had to repay so the next time I cleared my bookshelves I filled two bags of books and, passing his stall, I just dropped them off. Now it was his turn to be embarrassed. Good. Then I went back a few weeks later, found a book that interested me and wanted to buy it.

“That’s fine!” he said waving me away – and then we got talking about one of the books I had given him that he was very taken with. This happened again a few weeks later. It was all getting very embarrassing. I didn’t want to have to stop going there altogether. But if he kept insisting on refusing to take my money I would have to.

Anyway, come Saturday, I went along to see what he had and there it was, a book by William Saroyan, hard cover, wrapped in cellophane and priced at £4. Perfect. Not only did I want the book – absolutely had to have it – but it was obviously a prized item so he wasn’t going to let me have it for free. I added two other books and handed them over. I saw his eyes working. We had reached a new stage in our relationship. All told the books came to £10 or £11. “How about £7?” “Fine with me,” I said and walked away feeling we had overcome a particularly tricky hurdle.

And William Saroyan is the perfect writer with which to start this blog – which is what I’ll do next time


Jonathan Chamberlain

Author of Dreams of Gold – the comic novel of the London 2012 Olympics



About Jonathan Chamberlain

I am a novelist and creative writer attacking all genres indiscriminately - Dreams of Gold (humour) - Alphabet of Vietnam (literary suspense) - Whitebait & Tofu (noir suspense) - Wordjazz for Stevie (memoir) - King Hui (biography) - Chinese Gods (cultural analysis) - The Cancer Survivor's Bible (self-help) My literary blog is In Praise of Older Books see My Fighting Cancer website is My cancer information archive is at
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