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Lifeline Bookfest, Brisbane, June 9-12, 2012.

Norman Wallis continues relating his adventure at the Caboolture Lifeline Bookfest. The Bookfest is on again at the Brisbane Convention Centre from June 9 to 12.

My resolve dissolved at the rare and collectibles table. Whilst perusing I came across a hardback with a red cover. It was printed in the 1800s sometime; it had that Victorian look about it: the rock solid cover; the almost dusty paper; the antiquated font. The Uncommercial Traveler by Charles Dickens. From memory, it went for less than a dollar — certainly no more. I thought, Why not? Anything that had survived that long deserved to be bought, especially something that interesting and at that price.
When I took it home at the end of the day, I found it was a collection of Dickens’s journalism pieces. There was his account of visiting the site of a shipwreck in Wales. The ship had been returning from Australia with hundreds of crew and passengers, many of whom were returning to the old country with gold from the goldfields. All crew and passengers perished, and Charles Dickens narrates the story of how a local clergyman organised the recovery and burial of the hundreds of dead.
Another piece in the book was an account of a visit to see a preacher give a sermon at a theatre in London. He describes the audience, right down to the sandwiches they were eating; you really feel like you’re there. And I was fascinated by his account of his nocturnal peregrinations around London. And reading it in a book printed in Victorian times certainly added to the ambience.
Once I’d placed the Dickens book in my bag at the Bookfest, that was pretty much the end of my self-restraint. I started finding other books. There was the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers. In the bag. Folk Tales of All Nations, edited by F.H. Lee, a 1936 hardback in mint condition. In the bag. Standard Stories from the Operas, a beautiful red hardback from 1953 by Gladys Davidson. In the bag.
I was Haunted by James Herbert. I was completely guided in English Usage by M. A. Ramsay. It was Horror: 100 Best Books edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman.
Not to mention The Rat Pack by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell; Things a Killer Would Know by Paula Doneman; and Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up At Night, edited by James Patterson. And I confess there were many more besides.
After this shameful display of intemperance, I heaved my sports bag onto the table at the cash registers. One of the volunteers took out all the books – there must have been at least 20 – counted them up and tallied up a price. “Sixteen dollars?” she said, looking almost apologetic. I felt guilty paying that pittance for this collection of gems. You could hardly buy a new magazine for that. So many wonderful and rare books going so cheaply at Bookfests, while so much rubbish in the world is so expensive. I shall be forced to return to the Lifeline Bookfest from June 9-12 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and pick up even more of these fascinating, unreasonably inexpensive books.

– copyright Simon Sandall.