Whilst my friends were hanging around on the beach during the afternoon, I took the opportunity to take a walk around the town, in search of… well, anything remotely interesting really.
Bognor can boast a pretty impressive collection of blue plaques – apparently James Joyce finished writing ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ here, the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a studio, and no less a personage than William Blake spent some time here too, getting thrown out of a nearby inn for brawling in the process. Aside from that though, wandering the streets of Bognor is not really an experience I can recommend. The town has a certain amount of that eerie, out-of-time South Coast atmosphere that I’ve also enjoyed so much in Hastings, Great Yarmouth etc, but is perhaps unique in managing to combine it with a desolate, nigh-on apocalyptic blandness suggestive of an economic deadzone with scarcely even much tourism to keep it alive. I was hoping it might be kinda creepy, but it was more just sad really – a once notable, historically potent locale, sinking deeper into its sniggersome ‘Crap Towns’ fate. In fairness, the beach is nice, and relatively deserted.
In desperate search of something to kill time, you can perhaps imagine my relief upon spying the Bogner Regis Paperback Exchange – an establishment that seemed less like a shop in the conventional sense, more like a vast depository of mouldering pulp wherein the area’s substantial retirement community can part-exchange their books for new ones on an arcane points-based system for as little as 10p each. Now, I’ve been into hopelessly overstocked second-hand bookshops before, piled high with unwanted volumes that they’re never gonna shift, but this place was ridiculous. The ‘old book smell’ was overpowering. Thank god - time killing mission accomplished. I felt completely at home.
The shop’s front room was stuffed with enough crime and romance and fantasy to see the entire town through several lifetimes, and, as you’d expect, enough Stephen King to crush a man to death. Out the back, a series of airless corridors contained the ‘proper’ literature, biography, non-fiction and the like, shelf space at such a premium that popular authors were simply stuffed into cardboard crates stacked along the floor - a crate of D.H. Lawrence, a crate of Graham Greene, a crate of Daphne DuMaurier etc, each probably yours for about the price of a round of drinks.
As it happens, I didn’t find any ‘proper’ books I wanted to read just at this minute, but it was in the Science Fiction section that I struck gold, picking up the following for a combined total of £3:
(no year on this one - what do you reckon, late 50s/early 60s?)
‘The Leaves of Time’ was hanging on the wall in a ‘collectors item’ type plastic wallet. I asked the man behind the counter how much it was, answer: £1.50. As you can see, it's one of the most beautiful psychedelic SF covers I've ever seen - can anyone identify the artist (no credit is given, but the signature reads "hinge")?
UPDATE: Well that was easy: Mike Hinge (1931 – 2003). His cover to Clifford Simak’s ‘Choice of Gods’, executed in the same style, is similarly awesome.
I also picked this one up:
Full story behind this can be read here. I know it’s likely to be terrible - awful cover too - but as a big Vonnegut fan and a grudging admirer of Philip Jose Farmer, I figured I should at least have a copy on the shelf.
The other business I can recommend in Bogner by the way, is the Mediterranean / Tapas restaurant near the station. It's very good. It’s easy to spot – there aren’t any other restaurants. Didn't some king or other have something unkind to say about this place..?