Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Somerset Maugham Incident

Yesterday, in one of my local charity shops, as I drew near the book shelves, I heard a conversation going on between a man and a woman of a certain age (i.e. around my age, maybe a bit older). The word 'Landor' (as in Walter Savage) came into it - a name not often heard in these parts - so my ears pricked up. As the overheard conversation developed, I realised that the woman was on the phone to someone, perhaps her son, and was conveying the message from the man that he'd found a Somerset Maugham first edition, if he (the one at the other end of the phone) was interested. He wants to know what it's called, the woman reported back. As she couldn't catch the title, he held the spine of the book towards her. Ah, wait a minute, she said down the phone, it's A, H... A.H. King, it's a book about Somerset Maugham by A.H. King. No, the man with the book gently corrected her, it's a volume called Ah King. He turned to me at this point, having noted my interest. No, I've never heard of it either, I said...
 They bought it anyway - it was probably a bargain - and I bought a selection from Mayhew, edited by Peter Quennell, to replace my rather ugly edition from the Sixties. But that strange name - Ah King - stuck in my mind, so I duly checked it out. It's a collection of short stories about colonial life, and it really does sound rather good, especially the story called The Book Bag, which is rated by Maugham fans as one of his best. I'm beginning to wish I'd found it first, but at least it's reminded me of Maugham, a writer I've barely read anything of (and that a long time ago) - I think I'll seek out a selection of his short stories...

3 comments:

  1. One can easily get his short stories ... we have them here in four volumes ... I have read them twice & look forward to reading them again ... great stuff.

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  2. Thanks Anne - and I actually found Ah King cheap online, so it's on its way. If I like it, I'll carry on...

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  3. I used to devour Maugham's short stories as a young girl in the colonies. His steamy melodramas of a broiling, febrile empire were so much more exciting than the real thing (church, boiled milk, vests, Latin).

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