Monday 24 February 2020

It's a small world sometimes ...

...when a Facebook friend mentions he has an ancient copy of your book in his possession. 

This may not seem like a coincidence to many well-known authors - making friends on Facebook and then discovering someone bought one of your books years ago.  But for someone like me, a relative unknown, I find it one of those synchronicity moments, where you're reminded that the world is actually quite small. 

It's always interesting to hear how one of the books you've authored ends up in another's hands - and even more when it's one as long ago as 1990, especially when it was the US hardback of the book, and especially where it was only a short print-run.

This happened last week. I've been friends on Facebook with someone called Ian for a few years. The interesting thing is we didn't connect because of mutual reading and writing interests. In fact Ian's moniker was Jah Wobbly before the Facebook police ordered him to give what I assume to be his real name.  I thought the 'wobbly' referred to his disability or differently-abled body as that's how we came to be friends - through mutual campaigning groups against cuts to services and benefits for the long term sick and disabled.  I've needed to update this blog though as Ian has put me straight: his  Jah Wobbly moniker came "from an old Jamaican gent that used to drink in the old queens head on the Stockwell Rd London. I won a bottle of Jamaican Rum and (being the only white boy that used said boozer) shared said bottle with a few old Jamaicans, got extremely drunk, got up to put some music on and could hardly stand, wobbled all over the place and they were howling with laughter, came back and sat down and was told that from then on I was going to be called Jah Wobbly!' Ian said his disability came later when he snapped his Achilles Tendon. But Ian is quick to point out he prefers being thought of as 'wobbly' which sounds a lot better than being called disabled.

Anyway, with a moniker like Jah Wobbly, Ian was/still is obviously a punk music lover! When we first connected we chatted a lot about music and shared songs and a lot of bantz, but as is the way with Facebook, settings get changed and altered, and suddenly people seem to disappear from your online life and timeline. 

Then Ian's posts mysteriously started appearing in my newsfeed after a long absence and I left a comment. Facebook algorithms mean that commenting again on friends' posts - friends you thought had disappeared into the digital ether - suddenly re-appear again with a new regularity. I must have had a promotion on for Fall Of The Flamingo Circus and seeing it, Ian mentioned in passing that he had a copy of it somewhere. I naturally thought he meant he'd bought a copy of the e-book and by 'somewhere' I took it to mean on a Kindle or iPad.  Nothing unusual about that.

But then a couple of weeks later a picture of the cover of the hardback copy of this book - only published in the US - appeared with a tag on my timeline from none other than Ian to say 'I knew I had a copy somewhere'.

The print-run was pretty small and I only have one copy left myself of the hardback edition in my collection (one of the complimentary copies I got when it was first published).

This is how our conversation went: 

Me: That's a really old copy Ian! I thought you meant you had an e-copy. That's the US hardback from 1990. Is that when you bought it or did you come across it later in a charity shop, lol? I only have one of this left myself though my mum may have got one somewhere. I do have a couple of the paperbacks still.

Ian: must have been 2nd hand bookshop Kate tis where I pick up most of my books unless its a rare music one I want..I think I brought it coz I liked the artwork and Flamingo's

Me: So you did judge a book by its cover Ian :)

Ian:‪ Hahaha sometimes - so its a rarity in hardback?

Me: Well there wasn't a big print run Ian nor in the UK! But I guess a rare book by an unknown author ain't gonna make you rich, lol! Although that is my best known one :D

Ian: yours is not the only book I've brought like that

‪Me: So I guess you must have picked it up years before we met on FB

Ian: yeah I guess so Kate I do buy loads of books always pop into the bookshop in town

Then Ian shared the back of the book - same as my only hardback copy obviously, except with a lot of added library information.

Then a bit later on the thread Ian said: I remember where I got it from now a library  in the US closed down and the 2nd handbook shop brought a container load of books and I had first pick for helping catalogue them.

Then he enclosed a photo of the actual library ticket inside the book!

So Ian's copy of my book has been on rather a long journey and has a history.  I love the fact that it's had an interesting journey and the fact that Ian was a Facebook friend before and not because of the book which makes it that bit more curious. In the first draft of this blog I mentioned I had no idea what Ian felt about the bits between the covers and that I didn't ask! I said he'd probably long forgotten but that this tale was an extraordinary one in itself - to me, anyway.  Ian put me straight on that too - he says he has a tea chest load of books he's not read yet!  I know the feeling...

So, do you have a 'synchronicity' story of your own? If so, I would love to hear from authors and readers alike!

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