Observing The Observers
Pulp science fiction

Pulp (Science) fiction in a Railway Town

Last Wednesday I popped into Wolverton Books, a few miles from home, and of course bought a few books.

I thought you’d like to hear more about this fine used book shop, so on Friday I went back to the shop to take some photos and talk to the manager, Carrie Bollom.

She has been the manager for nearly two years, and the shop has been there for almost ten, in what was once the Railway Company fire station in Wolverton, Bucks. Wolverton books is part of Milton Keynes Age UK.

Wolverton Books managerCarrie Bullom and some pulp (science) fiction.

Carrie started work at 17 in the H.J. Lears book shop in Cardiff, but left aged 24 to have a baby. Then she went to university to get a degree in English Literature. “I don’t do anything much, but I can read”, she says modestly.

“I’d like this shop to be part of the community” she told me. One hot day this summer they gave a regular customer an ice lolly from a big box they’d bought at Tesco next door. The next time he came into the shop he brought them a cake.

She loves it when children come into the shop, where most of the children's books are 50p. It's a shop, not a library, so children don't have to be quiet. Lots of children come in, as do people of all ages. "The shop has many, many, regulars" she says.

Some customers use the shop as a lending library. They fill a carrier bag with books, then bring them all back a month later to go back on the shelves, and choose another bagful to read. They'll be back again next month.

There’s a big and varied selection of books and this bookshop is well worth a visit.

Carrie showed me round the shop. We discussed book categories. It’s not as easy as I thought; if you have a personal story from WW2, where does it go? In history? War? Autobiography? There’s a classics section, but what is a classic? We had quite a discussion on it.

Wolverton LNWR fire station202 Stratford Road, Wolverton.

The shop is staffed by volunteers. “The volunteers are terrific, wonderful” says Carrie. Volunteers who like to read a certain topic will sort the books into an order which means that customers can find them.

One volunteer was sorting out the travel books on Friday. Some were ten years old or more, so outdated; she had removed them from the shelves. Another has an in depth knowledge of science fiction, and I was glad to see that he has not mixed up the scifi and fantasy books as I usually find; they are on separate shelves.

There’s also a couple of shelves of books he has labelled Pulp Fiction Science Fiction, which delighted me. The covers are great on these often cheaply printed books, even though they don’t always have much to do with the stories inside.

When I was there on Wednesday, I found a fine display of pulp scifi just inside the shop, priced at a pound a book. (see photo) A moth to the flame, I approached. It didn’t take long to choose a good handful of books and I went home a happy man.

Wolverton LNWR fire station plaqueFire station plaque.

Stock is all donated. It comes “pouring through the door” and also from the Age Concern furniture store at Kiln Farm, a few miles away.

Sometimes the books are a collection brought it by bereaved relatives and it’s quite sad, Carrie told me; there’s a whole life in these boxes of books.

Wolverton Books is at 202 Stratford Road, Wolverton, Milton Keynes MK12 5RL. It’s open Tuesday - Saturday: 9.30am to 4.00pm.

Carrie told me, “Books are not stuff, they are life”

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