A man strides the length of the shop to shake my hand.

He fairly sings my name.

Long time no see, he says. I moved away from the area so I don't get to come in any more.

This is strange I think, as I pass him every Sunday on my way to the shop.

Is buisiness booming?! he asks.

Are you slaying the might of amaz*n?! he says.

In a manner of speaking, I say.

This is very odd, I think, for although he was once a regular customer, it must be ten years since I sold him a book.

Booming, slaying, I think, and  then I realise; he is with a WOMAN.

Theo - Ed Taylor

Theo is ten years old and lives in a mansion on Long Island that may once have been the house that inspired The Great Gatsby. In an attic he finds a cache of photographs including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Rat Pack around the pool when it was still working. But the pool is no longer working and there is no food in the house save for some tins of Fray Bentos pies that get fed to the dogs. Theo misses his dad who is English and a rock star off touring the world. Currently he is in Australia. Theo lives with his grandfather and with Colin who is charged with looking after the two of them, which isn’t easy for Colin because Colin is generally, in the manner of an early 80s rock star-hanger-on, ‘out of it’. More hangers-on roam the house. Theo approaches the pantry looking for food, only to hear ‘sex sounds’ coming from the other side of the door. His glamorous, but strung out mother arrives with more hangers-on. Sex noise is everywhere. His father comes home to make a new record at the house, literally propped up by his record company, hanging from the arm of the CEO. He decorates a Christmas tree in one of the big rooms. He lavishes presents on Theo. It isn’t Christmas Theo complains, which is true, but a rock star, one of the most famous people in the world, can have Christmas anytime he likes.

Theo by Ed Taylor (Old Street £12.00) has all kinds of woozy echoes from rock’s catalogue of excesses, and if some of them are naggingly familiar the author’s genius is to refract them through the innocent eyes of a ten year old boy, which he does beautifully. This is a terrific book that transcends its subject matter to become a haunting meditation on childhood.

There is a man standing at the counter asking for a copy of the Joy of Sex.

He has long blonde hair and is wearing a straw pork-pie hat.

He is also wearing a very short see-through net mini skirt, has an exposed midriff and a pair of unlikely tits.

The last copy I owned was eleven pounds, he tells me.

I study my computer screen. I tell him that we do not have a copy and that the new edition to be published in July will cost twenty pounds.

Twenty pounds, he says.

I am looking at the floor. Yes I say.

Why is that? he asks.

I look at my hands. I suppose it must be a coffee table edition, I tell him.

A coffee table edition? he says.

Yes, I say. I look at the ceiling.

Why? he asks, Why must they always meddle with things?

I know, I say.

Pah! he says then and adopts a flounce.

I watch him as he walks out onto the street proudly, head held high, swinging a handbag and I notice that it has started to rain.

There is a man staring at me.

He is standing in front of the till staring.

Can I help you? I ask him.

He shakes his head and stares.

You've been here a long time? he says.

Yes, I say.

I was just remembering, he says, I used to come in here and buy my Goosebump books.

You did? I say.

I did, he says, and you were here then too.

I was, I say.

And that, he says, was a long time ago.


There is a man at the counter buying a card.

He sighs.

I acknowledge his sigh.

I'm reading The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, he says and sighs again.

I nod.

Have you read it? he asks.

I picture the naked woman, a Modigliani, on the cover. I have tried to, I tell him, twice.

He sighs again and shakes his head.

It's just...you know? he says.

I know, I say.

He pays for his card.

I mean, at my age, he says.

He shakes his head again.

We leave it there.