In praise of ‘The Friends’.

As many of you will know, I’m on a bit of an enforced break from the writing at present. I’m currently up to my chin in DIY with a ticking clock against me. But sometimes I need a break from my break.

I was born in New Romney, a little town just down the road from where I live now in Dymchurch. In New Romney stands St Nicholas church. It is an impressive medieval building. One of several old churches of The Marsh that are all worthy of a visit.

romney church

Like most old churches the ravages of time and weather have taken their toll. St Nicholas church is very fortunate to have a group of concerned local residents, the ‘Friends of St Nicholas Church, New Romney’, who contribute a great deal of time and effort towards fund-raising and general support of the church with the sole aim of helping to preserve, maintain and improve the building for future generations to enjoy.(Maybe one or two are also looking to jump the queue at St Peter’s gate when the time comes.)

One regular function is a monthly booksale in the church. It is held on a Saturday. Donated books are sold on tables along the central aisle. There is a hot drinks table and a cakes table. There are tables and chairs for visitors to sit at and enjoy their refreshments and their book purchases. These days there is also live music provided by local musicians that can vary from classical to folky tunes. All this in stunning historic surroundings with the morning sun streaming through the reticulated stained-glass window that dominates the altar wall. Truly civilised. If it were not for the unselfish giving of people like the ‘friends’, something that I’m sure is replicated all over the country, then people like me wouldn’t be able to experience such splendid mornings. Thank you one and all.

Today is Saturday. I went to the book sale at St Nicholas church. I also went to support my mum. My mum is the sort of practising atheist who makes Christopher Hitchens (RIP) seem… unsure of himself. It is a great irony lost on none of us that mum, the raging atheist, does charity work for a church. To be fair to her, she does it for one reason only – the grand old building. Serving on the hot drinks stall also provides her with many an opportunity to be rude to people. Something she clearly enjoys. Love her.21052016913



This is the kind of event I miss when I’m in Turkey. It is such a quintessentially English affair, very atmospheric and evocative. Whenever I attend, I always feel like I’ve walked into an Agatha Christie novel. I spend most of my time looking around waiting for the first murder to occur: death by razor blade in the walnut cake, strychnine in the lemonade, perhaps a bit of ‘loose’ masonary falling from the belfry to smash someone’s skull to a pulp.

While the coffee and homemade cakes are greedily consumed by the faithful – and why not, they are exceedingly good – I first make for the tables of books to play elbows and shoulders with others like me. Modern first editions are my thing. Hardbacks with dust jackets in very good condition or better. Books are 50p each. I don’t want most of what I bought today. (I’ll never read a biography of Osbert Sitwell. I don’t even know who he is!) but when I see a fantastic hardback book in pristine condition for 50p I can’t help myself. I see myself as a ‘book rescuer’. I had a great haul today.ย  One of these is gem of a find for a collector like me. Can you guess which one and why. (Answer at the bottom of the post.)



Deep State (Large)As many of you will know, Acer Sansom #4 Deep State went live for pre-order this week. Anyone who nominated the book in the Kindle Scout programme should have received an advance complementary copy in thanks from Amazon and me. It’s already had four reviews posted and they are very positive. Naturally, I’m thrilled (relieved).

Deep State can be pre-ordered here:ย Amazon UK and here: Amazon USย  Release date 31st May.


I have been managing to do some homework this week for my chosen ‘literary’ career. I’ve written before about my desire to have a go at recording audio versions of some of my books. I’m still dead keen.

Now that the skim of plaster is dry, I’ve spent most of this week sandpapering woodwork, undercoating and glossing, emulsioning ceilings and cutting in on walls in preparation for a couple of days on the roller.





Decorating is not my idea of fun. I find it tedious in the extreme. But it is a quiet job. I found an old cassette player/radio at home and stocked up on audio books from the charity shop across the road from me. I’ve been listening and learning and enjoying being read to. I still think I can have a bash when I have the time.


Answer to my question: Our Game by John Le Carre. Le Carre did not care for the dust jacket of the first impression of the first edition.

our game1

1st impression. It is a bit crap.

Consequently, only about 1000 were printed and most of these were dumped at airport bookstores by the publisher in the hope that they would be bought and flown far away never to return to the UK. Future print runs had a different jacket and the publishing number string on the copyright page indicates later impressions.


2nd impression. And this isn’t crap, too?

The original books are quite sought after by Le Carre fans, of which I am one. That’s how I knew. It was a rare moment when I spotted it. The sort to have the blood racing and the palms moistening. I’ve put it in a box.

PPS The cake of my day could have been well and truly iced if the Robert Galbraith novel, aka JK Rowling, had been a first impression. Alas it is not, but still a very nice, tight copy of an early reprint to go with the others I have of hers until I do unearth that elusive first impression, perhaps at a St Nicholas booksale. Amen.


12 thoughts on “In praise of ‘The Friends’.

  1. I’m eagerly waiting for the release of Sansom 4, have now read all of your books and your writing style had come on leaps and bounds since R&M 1.

    I was put on to you from a post on the Dover page on Facebook and I am so pleased I looked your books up, previously I was reading American authors like Clive Cussler andJames Rollins but now I’m pleased to find some local local talent.

    • Hi Trevor
      Many thanks for your comment. It’s great to know that you’re enjoying the reads and looking forward to the next. I hope you enjoy Acer#4.
      I’m encouraged to learn that there was a post recommending me (?) on the Dover FB page. I must check that out.
      I used to enjoy Cussler, but I foudn that when he started collaborating his books weren’t as good. Just my opinion.
      Best wishes and thanks again for your kind words.

  2. Wow, Oliver! Good to see you today at the Book Sale and thank you for the tremendous advertisement. The Friends are very proud of what has been achieved over the past decade. We extend a welcome to all who find themselves on the “mysterious Marsh”. As for a murder in or around St. Nicholas……….hmmm! Perhaps we could organise a competition amongst the Friends to see who could come up with the most ingenious plot ( with a strict embargo against naming victims!).
    Keep up the good work on the painting and decorating.
    All best wishes – Ann S. (Chairman, the Friends of St. Nicholas).

    • Hi Ann,
      Thank you for your comment. It’s great to get a response from you.
      I had a lovely morning at St Nic’s. Once again thanks to all the Friends for their sterling efforts. I can’t wait for the next booksale.
      How about you canvas for the most ingenious plot and I’ll write a story with it in – maybe a Booker & Cash. Think of the publicity!
      In the meantime it’s back to the brushes for me.
      Best wishes.

  3. Oliver – Ann Stark beat me to it – you could do worse than setting a story around St Nicholas, and perhaps some of the other local churches. Perhaps an atheist going around murdering members of the congregation, or even, atheists being murdered whenever they set foot in one of the social/charitable functions within the church buildings ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hi Dawn,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m already thinking of a plot that could involve the booksale. David Booker loves books. Maybe if he was there and witnessed… I won’t spoil it.
      I think that there could be some mileage in your idea of an atheistic element to a crime. But then Tom Romney would have to get involved. Could be fun.
      Best wishes

  4. Greetings from New Zealand! Your description of the book sale reminded me that even here in rural New Zealand we have similar events. As a student of Russian history I once bought a book written by Prince Yusupov at one of these sales. he was the man who murdered Rasputin! what was the book doing here?? Good luck with Acer! and the next Booker and Cash PLEASE!!!

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Did I ever mention that I spent ’96 in NZ with my family? We loved it. We were staying in New Plymouth. I remember very well a book sale there, but not the location. It was quite a big event. I bought dozens of wonderful books.
      While we were there we would often go off for a couple of days in our van touring around. Every settlement we passed through I visited Opportunity Shops and second hand shops looking for books. I was amazed by how many older collectible books I was able to pick up cheaply. Probably my best find was a UK first edition of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury complete with dust jacket for 20c. Yes. 20 cents. It wasn’t pristine but it was a fabulous find.
      At the end of our year I paid to have them all shipped back to the UK. Bonkers! That didn’t make them so cheap anymore. I still have most of them and they’re still in boxes waiting the day I have a room of my own.
      Best wishes.

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