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I have been devoted to your podcast for over a year; it could be improved only by being more frequent. Every book I have ordered from you has been a delight; nothing disappoints. I receive your emails with pleasure, and that’s saying a lot. Slightly Foxed is a source of content . . . ’
K. Nichols, Washington, USA

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Hurricane Clarice

Hurricane Clarice

The sleeper lounge is old-fashioned British Rail, all tartan carpet, smeared tables and microwave cuisine. Tonight it contains a gathering of solitaries, all of us making separate journeys to London. The man beside me is still working, though it’s nearly ten o’clock. By chance we order the same whisky. We raise our plastic glasses, embarrassed in a very British way. I want to encourage him. He is at war with a pile of papers. But he is wishing me good luck as well. He has been glancing at the author’s face on the back cover of my novel. She does rather stare . . .
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Shop with a Heart

Shop with a Heart

Every Friday afternoon I go to work in our local Amnesty secondhand bookshop, and each week I notice a shabby cover of a book entitled If Jesus Came to My House stuck on one of the walls. Few people see this unusual decoration as it is over the back stairs, with an admonitory notice next to it which reads, ‘This slim tatty little volume sold for £30.’ The book in question was sold by the shop’s Internet team, and serves to remind the staff that they may not know what a book is worth until they start selling it to someone else.
SF magazine subscribers only
Talking to the Major

Talking to the Major

Percy F. Westerman (1876–1959) was one of the most popular writers of boys’ adventure stories from the 1920s to the 1950s. In their brightly coloured dust-jackets his historical tales – books about the Great War or the early days of aviation – sold in their thousands, and in the Thirties he was acclaimed as the most popular boys’ author in a referendum run by the Daily Sketch. By the time he died he had written nearly 200 books, which had been translated into many languages, and achieved sales of one and a half million copies. Many readers of Slightly Foxed will remember the excitement they felt when they first encountered the exploits of Standish, the flying detective, in such tales as The Amir’s Ruby (1932) or Standish Gets His Man (1938).
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The Man in the Lavender Suit

The Man in the Lavender Suit

I’ve always thought journals and letters among the best of bedside books. The entries, for one thing, are just long enough, usually, to end as drowsiness begins to be irresistible. I first came across one of Horace Walpole’s letters in an anthology, and thought it was as entertaining as one of Byron’s. I looked out more of them; they too were as entertaining as Byron’s – maybe even more so. I had recently given up buying, volume by volume as they came out, the great Murray edition of Byron’s letters, on the grounds that they had become too expensive; a decision I now regret with inexpressible bitterness. But maybe there was an affordable collected edition of Walpole’s.
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Flashman’s Nemesis

In Slightly Foxed No.33, Andrew Nixon paid homage to George MacDonald Fraser’s splendid creation, the appalling Flashman; and Patrick Mercer, himself an infantryman, drew attention to Quartered Safe Out Here, Fraser’s autobiographical account of his own service as an Other Rank in the Border Regiment. But both omitted mention of Fraser’s other marvellous creation, the infamous Private McAuslan, the dirtiest soldier ever to grace the tartan of a Highland regiment.
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Adventures in Achromatopsia

The Island of the Colour-blind was given to me by a friend who was himself red-green colour-blind. This discovery, early in our relationship, illuminated several of his quirks: a terrible dress sense, a preference for Dürer engravings over Impressionist sunsets, a comment made on an early date that our shirts ‘matched’ (I was in damson, he was in scarlet – the two shades of red clashed horribly). As a biologist, I thought I knew about colour-blindness, but this wonderfully weird book gave me a whole new perspective on the phenomenon.
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Putting the Hum into the Humdrum

Putting the Hum into the Humdrum

I first encountered John Hegley in the early ’90s, though only obliquely, via a schoolfriend who was hipper than me and had one of John’s early pamphlets. He showed me a limerick about ‘a creature from space/who entered a three-legged race/he was not very fast/in fact he came last/because he was a bag of oven-ready chips’. It may not look like much on the page, but it has three important things going for it: it’s silly; it’s short; and it makes full use of the last line, adding an extra foot to give the surprise a bigger kick.
SF magazine subscribers only
Neither a Borrower . . . ?

Neither a Borrower . . . ?

Every year the registrar of Public Lending Right issues a report on the authors whose books have been most often borrowed from libraries. You can be sure these days that Danielle Steel, Josephine Cox and James Patterson will be up there with the leaders, but it might be more interesting, I think, to discover the name of the author whose books we borrow most often from each other. We need more information about these delicate transactions between friends. I’d also like to know the title of the book which is most often borrowed and never returned, and I’d be disappointed to learn that it was something like A Sensible Guide to Home Plumbing or The Grouter’s Friend . . .
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