With apologies to C Dickens.
Old Waterstone's is as dead as a doornail.
Bill knew it was dead. How could it be otherwise? Bill's friend Liz worked at Deansgate Waterstone's for I don't know how many years. Yet - so Bill told me yesterday at a playwrights' Christmas gathering (where half of Manc, it seemed, was wearing Santa hats and yelling their heads off in the Duke's down in Castlefield) - when Bill went into Waterstone's recently for books for research, he had to spend one and a half hours looking for them because the staff had no idea where they were, and it was only after that time that they were discovered in the stock room.
Well, it's Christmas, and I didn't like to be negative, so I didn't add my story: that some time ago I began arranging a reading there for myself and some fellow Salt authors. Then in October I got a regretful email: unfortunately the reading couldn't go ahead because the reading room was to be used to store Christmas stock!
Well, we had our drink and then we all said Merry Christmas and goodbye and, undaunted, I went off to Waterstone's to do some Christmas shopping. I looked for a display of the Booker shortlist. I couldn't find one anywhere. I asked an assistant. She looked startled (as if she rarely gets that kind of question) and a little ashamed (as if she'd she'd always been dreading it). She said, 'Oh, no we don't have one of those. It's all Christmas stock at the moment.' (Note that: booksellers do not expect anyone to give Booker books for Christmas: only the 'Christmas Stock'.) Trying to be helpful, she told me: 'They'll be dotted about on the shelves.'
I couldn't remember all of them offhand - and I was interested in the long list, too - so I asked if she could remind me. No, of course she couldn't. She had to look them up on the internet.
You will, therefore, permit me to repeat emphatically that old Waterstone's is as dead as a doornail.