A Literary Heavyweight

It was about ten years ago we stretched ourselves and bought this house. And, I have to say, it’s been a good place for us.

A hundred years ago it was put up as a purpose-built home and shop. The main building is rather like a pair of semis, because there are two front doors. On the left is the big front door, on the right the entrance to the shop itself. For those of an historical bent, it was a butcher’s, and my delightful little brewery shed behind was the slaughterhouse. Ideal for a man contemplating murder, naturally.

I publish books. Then I get given copies. These are the hardbacks.

I publish books. Then I get given copies. These are the hardbacks.

But there was a lot of work to be done when we moved in. First we had to replace the kitchen floor where the damp had got to it. The raised floor collapsed (we moved a fridge onto it, and it fell through the floorboards). Next, when the kitchen was done (i.e. hygienic), we attacked the sitting-room. I wanted that done before I went to that year’s Bouchercon. This room was a little different, because it was put up in the 1970s or so as an extension. It’s huge (25 feet by 12 or so), a single storey addition thrown up because the owner had a full-size snooker table and was determined to use it.

However, by the time we arrived, we had plans for it. We took down part of a south-facing wall and put in French windows; the antiquated (i.e. bodged) electrics were ripped out and replaced with modern ones that made use of hi-tech cabling; and a result of that was a really very good sound system and TV. Yup, we were very happy.

But then our world fell about us. Nearly.

We were out one day, and when we returned, my daughter asked to watch TV. To keep her quiet while we prepared supper, we agreed. And she wandered in, sat down, and burst into tears.

The ceiling had dropped two inches, and she thought it was about to fall on her head. Actually so did we, as we (very calmly and quietly) coaxed her from the room.

So what had happened?

Life is not all hardback editions! Here are the paperbacks. Some in two editions now.

Life is not all hardback editions! Here are the paperbacks. Some in two editions now.

It’s my fault, actually. You see I didn’t get a surveyor to check the place out. If I had, I’d have learned that the guy who had owned the house was a bit of a jobbing builder. He didn’t want to go to the effort of knocking holes in a granite wall to support the joists, so he had them run north-south instead.

It would have been better if he’d been a little more structural, perhaps. Full-length timbers to reach across that space would have been better than the half-length ones he used, which he nailed together to extend them. Oh, and if he’d had time, he should have had the ends resting on the walls, rather than on the plasterboard panels. But that wasn’t the real problem.

It was me.

I’ve published more than 30 books. Yes. Since I’m an author and can’t afford a social life, I find I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer.

Anyway, all these books have hardback and paperback editions. Many are published in, oh, German, Dutch, French, Greek, American – you name it. And all these delightful publishers send me copies of their editions. The Americans made an error and sent me double quantities of the first three titles. Isn’t that nice? And the Spanish changed the cover three times, so I have several copies of those titles.

A selection of foreign titles.

A selection of foreign titles.

And I never even thought about it. Well, you don’t, do you? You just pick up the latest parcel, box them up, and store them somewhere safe and dry, grumbling about the weight.

Now, my house used to have four streams passing underneath it. That was what the diviner said, and the JCB confirmed it. So dry storage has always been rather at a premium. The best place to store books is clearly… Yup, you’re ahead of me. They all went into the loft space.

The loss-adjuster agreed that the collapse was an accident. Clearly it was, because my inability to consider the weight of 30 titles with at least 20 copies of each in each edition is an accident of birth.

So if you are like me and put your faith in the strength of your attic’s beams, just take a word of advice. Get the damn books down now. As an afterthought, perhaps this is one advantage of ebooks?

Anthologies and short stories

Anthologies and short stories

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