A Bookish Week Off: Fahrenheit 451

The Writers Gathering - picture courtesy Beasty

The Writers Gathering – picture courtesy Beasty

Yesterday was all lined up, for me at least, as the logical conclusion to my ‘Bookish Week Off’.  It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was still a great day for many reasons.

For the past few weeks I’d been working with Scott Southey and Amy Carter, proprietors of Southcart Books, the new independent bookshop in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, to present a new event at their shop to mark Independent Booksellers Week – The Writers Gathering.

Scott and Amy of Southcart Books

Scott and Amy of Southcart Books

This was conceived as a chance to not only promote the bookshop, which needs every bit of support it can get locally and from further afield, but also independent writers and publishers in the region, and so I hatched a cunning plan, in consultation with Scott and Amy, for them to host this first open meeting of local and regional writers, authors and publishers. Nothing quite like this has previously been organised in Walsall, as far as I know, so it seemed about time to give it a go. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

Steampunk author and singist LM Cooke (right) listens to Alison Reed of Walsall Writers' Circle

Steampunk author and singist LM Cooke (right) listens to Alison Reed of Walsall Writers’ Circle

Well, surprisingly in my experience, everything went well yesterday afternoon as far as the event was concerned (between 12pm-4pm) due to the enthusiasm and support of a number of writers and publishers of my acquaintance in the Facebook-O-Sphere.

They are Alison Reed (author and Secretary of Walsall Writers’ Circle), LM ‘Linzi’ Cooke (Steampunk author and singist), Theresa Derwin (author and publisher, KnightWatch Press) , Adrian Middleton (author and publisher, Fringeworks), Lucy Onions (author, photographer and singer), Rob Grimes (author and publisher The Penguin’s Head) and Ian Billings (children’s author, playwright, and entertainer) who all read from their work and spoke about it. Scott and Amy of Southcart Books were the perfect hosts, providing light refreshments in between (thankfully) flogging books!

Enthralled: Steve Jones, Theresa Derwin, Adrian Middleton and Lucy Onions

Enthralled: Steve Jones, Theresa Derwin, Adrian Middleton and Lucy Onions

We also had the pleasure of the company of Jan Edwards and Peter Coleborn of The Alchemy Press, Steve Jones, and Ben Morgan and Neil Sehmbhy of The Penguin’s Head, romance novelist Margaret Mayo and many others, including members of Walsall Writer’s Circle and numerous customers who popped in and out throughout the afternoon.

For more pictures, please see the event page on Facebook for links:



Sadly for me, my dear old mum took a fall at home part way through the event, so I had to dash off home like the house was on fire, having to miss the rest of what was a lively and popular event.  I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with my unavoidable and unexpected disappearance, and also Alison Reed and Lucy Onions for covering the bases on my behalf subsequently.  The show must (and did) go on, thankfully.

Also thankfully, mum was ok, albeit somewhat bruised and battered, and is now recovering well.  After all that, I hope to hear a lot more from our guests and more at future events, but that’s another story, yet to be written!

But what about the books, you ask?

On my way to the shop in the morning, I wandered into the Victorian Arcade which I mentioned in a previous post, and having a casual glance at the Acorns Charity Shop book carousel but not expecting much, was pleasantly surprised to find the following apparently unread collection of short ‘Golden Age’ SF novels for just £1.99. Right up my street!

The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction

The last word, however, I have to leave to the Walsall area’s newest and only independent bookshop…

I’ve been to Southcart Books quite a few times now, and have combed Scott and Amy’s second-hand science fiction and fantasy shelves, coming away with the odd bargain here and there since they opened.  They are increasingly good on this sort of thing, and have a growing and rapidly changing selection of genre books, particularly fantasy and also horror as well as a modest but also growing range of comics.

On this occasion, then, I was lucky enough to spot a nice little hardback containing ‘100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories’ edited by Isaac Asimov et al at £3.95 so I said “I’ll have that!”, and it swiftly disappeared into my camera bag.  Thanks, Amy!

100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories

Weirdly, though, I left the shop that day leaving more books than I went away with – five copies of my US publisher Pro Se Productions‘ anthology Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp, in which my ‘hard-boiled space opera’ story Minor Planet Mambo, read by me to The Writers Gathering earlier in the afternoon, features on page 55.  I’ve provided these for the shop’s local authors shelves on sale or return, at my own expense (no, I don’t get a discount from the publishers on these books!).  Signed by me, naturally.

It’s a cracking 28-story multi-genre new pulp anthology by a range of great authors you need to know about, and with something for everyone – so please do pop into Southcart Books and buy one, so I can get my money back!  If they’ve run out, you can get the book and ebook on Amazon (unsigned, natch).

Yours truly, as always, 'Ready to Read!' [Picture by Beasty]

Yours truly, as always, ‘Ready to Read!’ [Picture by Beasty]

You’ll also find, thanks to Saturday’s Writers Gathering, a range of other nice new independent books on the same shelves as mine, in Walsall’s nice new independent bookshop, which is as it should be, isn’t it?

So, his is the end of my Bookish Week Off.  After crackling and fizzing all over the Midlands, this rocket ride through the world of second hand bookshops ended in a crash landing.

But thankfully, no books were burned and the exciting sight and sound of everyone reading their work with such enthusiasm and feeling showed me there has to be a future for new initiatives promoting reading and writing in the town.

Thanks for reading, folks!

Stuart Williams

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