Thursday, 10 February 2011

All praise the t'internet...

I've been reading all sorts of little bits and pieces recently. Short books and easy reads, tv tie-ins and paperback novelisations, loads of the sorts of books which tend to accumulate in precarious piles in what I laughingly call my study, picked up for a penny plus postage from Amazon Marketplace or on eBay for a pound. Stuffed into second hand padded envelopes, sealed shut with masking tape and with my name scrawled over the top of somebody else's address in huge black felt-tip letters.

Which is one of the best things about the Internet actually. Once upon a time, books I vaguely remembered from my childhood remained forever beyond reach. There was no way of checking the exact title of that book about the two kids hiding in a museum, never mind actually owning a copy. And the only place to buy old books was in second hand book shops, a bus journey away, with no guarantee of anything beyond multiple copies of Catherine Cookson novels and little chance of the sort of thing I wanted to read - pulp science fiction and schlocky horror.

As a result I read and re-read the same 100 or so books over and over again, occasionally adding to that total via jumble sales and presents from relations. Come the internet though...

In the past week parcels have arrived with copies of old Fu Manchu novels, Secret Army novelisations, Sexton Blake short stories and Dads Army annuals. Last week brought a Roald Dahl, a biography of Peter Purves, a pile of magazines and a strange looking little book about killers on Victorian trains. All of which I'm currently reading in my usual half a dozen books at a time style ands which I'll probably mention on here over the next week or two.

And the insttant gratification of it all! Read a blog review of an ancient kids' book or the biography of an obscure 70s sitcom star and two clicks later you're on eBay or Abe or Amazon or Play, typing in your credit card details and buying the book. It may take a day or a fortnight to get into your hands but the ease of purchase and the speed is the thing - maybe it;s just me, but once it's bought I think of a book as mine even if I can't actually read it yet.

Best of all are those purchases you forget about until a bulky parcel arrive sin the postie's hand and it tunrns out to be a passing fancy you can't even remember buying. Bliss!

From the current pile of recent arrivals I just finished the Secret Army book, Kessler, which was excellent - very much John Brason's view of the character and series rather than the one strictly seen on screen but none the worse for that. The story is slight, to be honest, and secondary to a fascinating study of a fictional character who was so well written that it's far easier to believe in his actual existence than it is for many real Nazis in genuine history books. I'd probably never have got a copy of this from a secondhand bookshop - thank God for the internet...

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