Reviews & Overviews by Rod Cameron
 
Hay-on-Wye a special village on the Welsh borders
Like browsing in second-hand book shops? Then you will think you have died and gone to heaven!
Hay is a small village on the Welsh borders (Powys) near Hereford. Essentially, it is a book-lovers paradise. There are over 30 second-hand and new book shops, all shoe-horned into a small Welsh border village. There must be over one million books there. I spent a couple of days there, with my wife, during the Sunday Times Hay Festival, however we did not attend any of the events. Our presence there was purely mercenary - books, books, books! Overnight accommodation was provided in an excellent B & B appropriately called "Rest for the Tired", located on the main street over a bookshop specialising in Golfing Books.

But you ask, what is the relevance of this travelogue? What's in it for me as a Science Fiction / Fantasy or even Horror reader / collector? Plenty. If you want to see a broad range of the genres, particularly out of print volumes, then get down there. What follows are a few of the highlights (I achieved burn-out in less than 24 hours). By the way, please take my estimates with a pinch of salt - use them as a guide to the relative sizes of the 'collections'. I didn't do any counting. Neither have I included children's science fiction in what follows, which is an entirely separate can of worms. Prices were variable as you would expect, but there were a lot of very reasonably priced bargains.

Shuttlecraft Books
Specialists in SF, Fantasy, Trek, Who etc. The shop is one room in a house. Stock consisted of about 3000 books.

Richard's Booth's Bookshop
Easily the largest shop in the village, it claims 400,000+ titles. SF & related genres were in two small rooms at the back. Lots. I estimate 10,000+ volumes, including a lot of 1950 / 60s pulp magazines.

Hay Cinema Bookshop
An old converted cinema, this houses over 200,000 books. The SF shelves contained about 4000 books.

Hay-on-Wye Booksellers
Nice collection floor to ceiling in a broom-cupboard? Around 3000 SF books.

Bag of Books (Bookends)
New, remaindered paperbacks. Every book was a £1. There were about 500 SF on offer.

The Bookshop
Five floors of books, over 100,000 books in stock, of which about 1000 were SF

A few additional teasers (I didn't get to them, but the descriptions are enough to make your mouth water) :

Rare Comics & Cards
Specialists in comics, annuals, etc.

The Strand Bookshop & Café
30,000 books, specialising in Natural History, collectable paperback fiction and Sci-Fi & Horror.

The New Strand
30,000 books, specialities include Sci-Fi and Horror.

Oh, and a big apology to all the bookshops I didn't get to - another trip is planned, as soon as I can afford it! If you want to find out more, a good place to start is the web site www.hay-on-wye.co.uk

So, did I buy any books? Of course I did. Some of my SF bargains included :
- Hardback copy of the latest edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia for £15
- Frank Herbert - Eye, paperback collection of short stories, including his comments on the making of the film Dune for £2.50
- Mervyn Peake - Peake's Progress, a large Penguin paperback of selected works and drawings for £3.00
- Greg Egan - a couple of new paperbacks for a £1 each

And did I cross anything off my Wants List? Some yes, in particular the SF Encyclopaedia. But I don't think the way to use Hay is with a list. Rather it is for the ultimate browse. You may not find that missing 4th volume of the series you are looking for (use a web-site for this?), but you will find the 3rd volume of a series that you didn't know existed. Go on, treat yourself soon. You know it makes sense!

Inspected by: Rod Cameron
Date Reviewed: June 2001

Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2012                   rod@rodcameron.co.uk