To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week A.M. Castle, author of The Invitation, shares her past with bookshops and why they mean so much to her.
Why I Love Bookshops by A.M. Castle
The first time I ever remember visiting a bookshop was with my grandparents. I must have been four years old. We were on a day trip to central London. For some reason, they had decided Westminster Abbey was an absolute must-see for a child my age. I remember nothing whatsoever about it, but I did fall madly in love with the bookshop next door.
Here, I found a copy of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle. Her Peter Rabbit had been the first birthday present I had ever liked (as a younger sister I was often duped into asking for Meccano, which I then hated). Now, astonishingly, I had found another book quite clearly in the same series. Designed for little hands, with a beautiful, silky dust jacket and a central picture of Mrs T in her trademark pinny, it was so delicious I just couldn’t put it down. My grandparents must have bought it for me because I still have it to this day.
I don’t recall many other day trips with them, but my passion for bookshops remains as strong as ever. I’m not fussy, any bookshop will do. My first jobs, when I temped in fusty offices all around London, were made bearable by buying the daily treat of an Agatha Christie paperback from the Charing Cross branch of WHSmith. Typing didn’t seem nearly so dreary when I was going home on the Orient Express.
Then, when my first whodunit, Death in Dulwich, was being published, I worked up the courage to ask if there was any chance at all of getting the title stocked in my local bookshop, Village Books in Dulwich. Of course, I was told – and not only that, but the lovely manager Hazel threw me a launch party and has supported my work ever since, as have the other fantastic independent bookshops in the area, Dulwich Books and Rye Books.
Of course, the downside of having such great bookshops on my doorstep is that, just as when I first clapped eyes on Mrs Tiggywinkle all those years ago, I still have a bad habit of falling in love with books. I recently moved to a new house. The first thing I did? Put up a lot more bookshelves.