At the head of the cobbled High Street of Guildford in Surrey stood the unassuming and deceptively small entrance to the bookshop of Thomas Thorp. There was little indication from its appearance as to the vast quantity of books that it held, but as one entered the narrow side corridor and climbed a short flight of stairs into the main vaulted room, formerly the Guildford Constitutional Hall, the enormous stacks came into view.
As a pupil at the local Grammar School just a few yards along the street, Clifford browsed the wonderful treasures of the bookshop at every opportunity, often during lunch breaks - which was strictly forbidden.
During the early sixties Thorps had purchased the crime library of a Harley Street doctor named W.A.C. Romanis (who we later discovered was the father-in-law of the famous British comedian Tony Hancock) and it was from this collection that Clifford purchased his first non-fiction crime titles. Little did he realise that this would eventually lead to becoming not only a collector, but also a bookseller.
Two of the books, for which incidentally we are still asked, were ‘The Other Mr Churchill” by Macdonald Hastings (Harrap, 1963), a fine biography of gunsmith and ballistics expert Robert Churchill who gave evidence in many murder trials between the Wars; and the classic book on Evans & Christie, ‘Ten Rillington Place’ by Ludovic Kennedy (Gollancz, 1961).
From this small beginning we slowly built up a collection of about 2000 titles and it seemed a natural progression to prune the library of both duplicates and unwanted titles. With this in mind and with no intention of becoming a dealer, we compiled a humble Xeroxed listing and inserted a small advertisement in Exchange and Mart. We sold virtually every title. Amazingly one or two of the original purchasers are still on the mailing list today.
When the excellent reference work ‘The Murderers’ Who’s Who” by J.H.H. Gaute and Robin Odell was published in 1979, the authors kindly including our name and address under the section listing Specialist Booksellers. By this time we were issuing small, very basic catalogues.
By 1986 we began to operate a full-time catalogue business devoted solely to non-fiction crime and criminology. Our customers include people from all walks of life – authors, housewives, university libraries, forensic experts, police officers, TV and film companies – many of whom have become good friends. We ship books around the world, to places such as Japan, Israel, Canada, America, Europe and the Falkland Islands.
We issue catalogues from time to time. We carry an extensive stock of books, broadsides, magazines, ephemera and reference works within our specialist range.
For many years we visited the U.S.A. on annual buying trips and this has enabled us to offer a wide range of titles.
When surrounded by a house full of books we often reflect that we have come a long way from those first two titles, purchased in Thorps all those years ago.