Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lost bookshops and Iain Sinclair in Stamford

In Stamford the other day I mourned the loss of secondhand bookshops. I could think of three that have disappeared from the town (though one of them has moved to Uppingham). These days, when most trade in books is done online, there is less point in paying the rent on a shop.

Another of those lost shops was to be found in the Wharf Road part of town. I seem to remember an old warehouse that you entered from the yard at the rear.

When you don't visit town often the buildings tend to shuffle themselves, making individual shops hard to find. But I am pretty sure that the warehouse has been demolished and the site redeveloped. I suspect the modern flats beside the Welland in the photograph above stand on that site.

My reason for blogging about the shop is that I suspect it has been immortalised in Iain Sinclair's 1987 novel White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, where the narrator and three other bookdealers descend upon 'Steynford':
Mossy Noonmann's bookshop, if we afford it the courtesy of that title, was probably the only one open in the whole of the Midlands, from Wolverhampton to Boston, and out into the North Sea. And he was the least likely proprietor. How he come here nobody knew and few cared to guess. ... 
Noonmann was a New Yorker, veteran of Peace Eye Bookstore, who, not fancying an engagement in South East Asia in the mid-60s, had returned to the Europe of his forefathers by way of Liverpool, then, briefly the centre of the universe. A single evening disproved this conceit: Noonmann found a mattress in Westbourne Grove. 
There were minor misunderstandings over rent books, social security paperwork, import/export regulations concerning self-administered resins from the Middle East; there was a misplaced briefcase of ounces, and Mossy decided to hit the road. 
Two hours up the A1 and the Camberwell-domiciled holder of a Heavy Goods Vehicle Licence was ready to turn it in rather than carry Mossy another mile. He walked down the hill into Steynford. He's been there ever since, and never walked so far again.
One must allow for Sinclairian exaggeration (and avoid libel suits), but I remember the proprietor of my bookshop as a large, shambling American who rather fits this description.

And if the shop was as decrepit as Sinclair painted it, it is no surprise that is has long since been demolished.

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