Welcome to Londonist's amble through the city's independent bookshops, pausing every now and again to have a cup of tea, flip through something that looks interesting, have a cup of tea and a natter, and some more tea. Bookshops seem to be powered by tea.
First up: Crockatt & Powell. If they're ringing bells, it might be because you've read their excellent (occasionally misanthropic, often hilarious) blog. Or former employee Marie Phillips's excellent book Gods Behaving Badly. Or seen the beginning of Happy-Go-Lucky, where C&P is the bookshop where the excellent Sally Hawkins has a browse. Or heard about their refusal to play discounting-bingo with the big boys when the last Harry Potter came out, instead excellently donating profits to the local primary school.
(Matthew) Crockatt and (Adam) Powell have created a bolthole from soulless three-for-twos and ghostwritten sleb memoirs. The cosy shop is stocked with choice morsels: the main tables in yer chain stores may be piled high with the latest chick lit and pulp bestsellers, but at C&P they're full of genuinely interesting and thoughtful selections.
Lower Marsh itself is becoming a bit of a destination, with plenty of lovely independent shops opening up (this is where iKnit moved to), and the Camel and Artichoke pub is an official Bookcrossing zone. But before we got too carried away by all the wonders in C&P and the surrounding area, we got Matthew to answer a few questions.
What kinds of books do you sell and why?
That's a really tricky question. We look at all the books out there and buy some of them in for the shop. The result is an eclectic mix with (hopefully) something for most people.
Why did you become a bookseller?
Lazy and lacking in imagination really. I left university with an English degree and wanted to carry on sitting about and reading books. This was the closest thing I could find. First Waterstone's, then Pan Bookshop then Daunt Books then too independent for them so had to start my own place. Sadly these days you have to work like a mad bastard just to stay alive as a small bookshop so I read a lot less and work far more than planned.
What's the weirdest or most serendipitous thing to happen in your shop
Weird things happen to us all the time. Mike Leigh wanting to use the shop in Happy-Go-Lucky was weird. So was having a comedy night with Daniel Kitson. I was on German TV once, talking about Harry Potter (long story). We have been in Vogue twice now - don't ask me why. We dress like a couple of hobos. Then there are the mad people disguised as ordinary customers - they keep things interesting. And we keep an artist in the cellar.
Are there any local myths or curiosities attached to your shop?
We had a Banksy on the side - it was removed by the council before anyone knew who he was. Legend has it shopping at Crockatt & Powell ensures a long life and instant prosperity.
What are you reading right now?
Roberto Bolano's 2666. Bizarre. Boring. Brilliant.
What's your hot tip for our next read?
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Read it before Kate ruins it for you. [We've since taken this advice ourselves, and completely agree with it.]
Which up-and-coming authors should we watch out for?
Jonathan Littell will be everywhere later this year. His novel The Kindly Ones is going to cause a real stir.
What's your favourite book about London?
Anything by Patrick Hamilton. 20,000 Streets Under The Sky if pushed.
If you were a book, which would you be?
Before drink, The Summer Book by Tove Jansen. After drink, David Peace's Damned Utd. In an ideal world Moby Dick.
Independent bookshops: the future?
Like the book itself we are doomed, doomed I tell you!