I have received a message from Bob Adey, doyen of locked room experts, telling me that Chris Peers, a second hand book dealer specialising in crime fiction has just died. I don't know any more than that, but I'd like to take this opportunity to express my shock and dismay at the news, and offer condolences to his family. Chris, who I believe was in his mid-fifties, was a familiar figure at second hand book fairs up and down the country, and he will be much missed.
I've bought quite a few books from Chris over the years - his prices were always reasonable. These included Nightmare by Lynn Brock, a book I've never seen anywhere else before or since, and which I'd never even heard of prior to having a chat with Chris at Ilkley Book Fair a couple of years ago. It proved to be a fascinating and extraordinary novel, a genuine one-off that deserves to be better known.
Chris also gave me some help in my researches about the Golden Age. The last time we met was at a book fair in Haydock last autumn, and he was in excellent form. Chris, like me, was a Manchester City fan who had supported the team through many dark days and who, like me, and most long-suffering City fans of similar vintage, could not quite bring himself to believe that City are currently the most successful team in Britain. We had a long chat about soccer at Haydock, as well as about Golden Age fiction,and of course I never imagined it would be the last time we'd speak.
There is a small community of second hand book dealers in Britain who specialise in crime fiction, and very friendly people they are too. Part of the pleasure for me of visiting a book fair is the chance to catch up with them,and also pick their brains about the Golden Age - as well as about the life of a second hand book dealer, research that comes in very handy when I'm writing about Marc Amos in the Lake District Mysteries. Many of the Forgotten Books that I feature are bought from this group of dealers - The Young Vanish, featured yesterday, for instance, came from the always reliable Jamie Sturgeon. This small community has lost a good man, and it's a sad day.