A Spy in the Bookshop: Letters Between Heywood Hill and John Saumarez Smith, 1966-74
While compiling and editing The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street, described as 'a little gem' by the Sunday Times, John Saumarez Smith discovered that one side of that 'elegant and entertaining' (Spectator) and 'thought provoking and … laugh out loud' (Country Life) correspondence, had been to some degree plagiarised from letters that he himself had sent to Heywood Hill, former owner of the shop. His own account of day-to-day life in one of London's best loved and most stylish bookshops had been used to flesh out Hill's glittering correspondence with Nancy Mitford who referred to him as 'the spy in the bookshop'. So here is the real thing. A lively, alarming and candid account of life behind the counter in a fashionable west end bookshop, where all was most definitely not what it seemed, and where deep passions and often irrational animosities flourished and occasionally broke the surface, to the alarm of customers, staff and owners alike. Witty, stylish and full of insights into literature, the book trade and miscellaneous human weaknesses, this correspondence between the new blood and the retired former owner provide further entertainment, and wisdom, about the surprisingly turbulent world of literary bookselling in the very recent past.
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