Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Graeme Roberts (only a death seems to prompt a post)

It's a sad fact of life that you older you get, the less time you seem to have to cover all the tasks you set yourself. As a result this blog has been sadly neglected. This year I have allowed such uplifting events as attending the memorial service for Lord Kitchener in Westminster and talking to the visitors from our twin town of Plaisir about the Royal Naval Patrol Service pass by without comment. Some events, however, are so hard hitting that time must be found.

Graeme, courtesy Andrew Wood http://www.facebook.com/andrew.wood.5680
I lost a friend yesterday. Graeme Roberts was a bookseller, a unique one in my experience with a divi's eye for any sort of collectable book and a vast experience of sci-fi. When I first knew him he was trading as Magpie Books at 53 Brushfield Street, Spitalfields and then at The Clerk's House at 118½ Shoreditch High Street. Based in the wilds of Suffolk I had known him only remotely since the early 1990's as a fellow bookseller but I got to know him properly with the coming of the world wide web. The internet gave us much better opportunities for contact, for the exchange of views on books, on bookselling and on the world in general, which had not been possible when buying and selling from each other by post.

In the late 1990's, concerned with the increasing avarice of some of the major bookselling websites, a small group of us, led by Graeme, explored the possibilities of a cooperative of independent booksellers. That group came into being and briefly flourished but the nature of cooperation was always going to be a difficulty with such independent and somewhat eccentric people as booksellers and it gradually declined.

During this time Graeme had left his roots in the east end of London for West Yorkshire and after a spell near Todmorden ended up at Hebden Bridge. Graeme had some relationship and financial difficulties and I lost touch with him for a while but I am pleased to say that we picked up the pieces again last year and were in infrequent but regular touch. He was due to visit his mother's grave in Essex and had promised to bend his route to come and stay and be introduced to our local micro-brewery.

Graeme was outspoken, a trait which sometimes got him into trouble but a trait which made him who he was, a genuine man with no pretentiousness. He made mistakes - don't we all - but he made efforts to correct them and although in his last few years he was probably less financially secure than at any other time of his life, I hope and believe that he was content, amongst some real friends at Hebden Bridge. Rest in Peace, Graeme.





4 comments:

lee richardson foster said...

Hello.
Through a strange twitter coincidence I have just heard about Graeme's death. I work in a coffee shop in Hebden Bridge and Graeme was one of my favourite regulars. I know it's a cliche but I was only talking to him the other day. He had a wicked sense of humour and a refreshing view on the often staid cliques that exist in Hebden. I had no idea about his bookish background and didn't know about his love of sci-fi which made me doubly sad as I was educated by my dads vast sci-fi collection. Me and Graeme could have wiled away hours talking about this. I guess it never came up in conversation.
Thank you for writing those kind words. He was certainly unique and the world is a drabber place without him.
All the best.
Lee Richardson Foster

G. A. Michael Sims said...

Thanks, Lee.

For anyone that would like to know from Graeme's daughters:
Graeme Roberts funeral will be on Friday 31st August at Park Wood crematorium, Elland at 1.30. It will be followed by some kind of gathering in Hebden Bridge, details tbc. Please bring your memories, songs and photos. Please pass this information on to anyone who wants to/needs to know. All love Kate and Jen

G. A. Michael Sims said...

Further from Kate re. funeral:

This will be followed by music and laughter I hope, in the Hole in the Wall, Hebden Bridge from 3. Can someone put the address up as I don't have it please (appears to be HX7 7DD - MS). Bring your tunes and memories. Instead of flowers, we wondered if people would like to donate to the rehousing Winston fund, since his new home may need some help with his expenses.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I was told of Graeme's death only last week by bookseller Andy Richards, key member of a disparate group of individuals united only by their interest in genre fiction in 80s London and a testosterone-fuelled desire for petty bickering. Graeme, who worked in the city at the time, was one of us, as were Andy, Richard Lewis, distinguished publisher of the (fuc)Kinnell line of sf and horror hardcovers, Hunter Tremayne, Nick Reynolds, Di Wathen, occasionally Gamma, who tended to be present in body if not in mind, and a few others who met informally at book signing sessions held at the Fantasy Inn in Charing Cross Road, at an early incarnation of Forbidden Planet still unburdened by the stigma of being associated with the sale of Dr Who sonic screwdrivers for £59.99 and the diminishing cultural gravitas of a marginalized book department, the popular Cafe Muenchen where some of the best signing sessions were held (David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, James Herbert, Clive Barker etc) as well as pubs and sf conventions throughout the land.
Bon voyage, Graeme. The universe and Bayern Munich salute you. In the words of Arthur Schopenhauer: "After your death you will be what you were before you were born".