Jan 24

True Crime from Hall of Books

True Crime


True Crime – Sweeney Todd


True Crime collection just being uploaded online, with a number of paperbacks and hardbacks also now in a our shop at Oswestry Indoor Market.

Book Clearance

We are often asked to help clear books when people are down-sizing or when relatives pass away. On this occasion a house had been sold and the contents had to be removed quickly. Clearly, the owner had been an avid True Crime fan and had amassed a large collection of several hundred books, both hardback and paperback. Some are run-of-the-mill but many are quite scarce. Condition is variable but the best are now online, with the remainder in our shop.


True Crime – Little Gregory


A Fascination

True Crime remains a fascination for many. Why killers kill, how the police go about their business, how criminals are caught and how they escape justice. This collection covers a wide range of topics and spans the early to mid 20th century, through to the present day. There are also autobiographies from Judges, Barristers, Policemen and some Criminals too.


True Crime – Encyclopaedia Of Modern Murder

Almost every aspect of the criminal is included in the collection : alibis, arson, blackmail, con men, dominance, dual personality, headless corpses, hired killers, killer couples, ladykillers, manic messiahs, mass murderers, parent killers, perverts, protection rackets, sabotage, stranglers, see-walking slayers, train murders, victims and vital clues. Plus details of famous court cases and celebrity, or should that be notoriety!

Contact Us.

Please contact us – info@hallofbooks.com – if you would like to know more about this collection.

Hall of Books for secondhand books and sheet music online: from the interesting, unusual and rare,?to the hard-to-find, collectible and out-of-print?.. plus a lot more in between!


Jul 15

New Additions

New Additions

It’s been a while since we last added something new to the blog but it has been a pretty hectic few months ferrying children to school and University, as well as re-organising our stock and storage facilities.

On-line sales remain very strong as we add new additions on a?regular?basis, with around half of our books now going abroad. We are still overstocked, however, and yet ?more new additions (books and music) keep arriving almost daily! As I type this a colleague has just popped in with a bag sheet music!

Quick Sales

One particular collection has turned out to be quite significant with books selling as soon as we listed them – one even sold within an hour of putting it on Abe Books; a record for us!

Blog - New Additions

Concrete Island by J G Ballard

It started with a lady of a certain age arriving in the shop in Oswestry Indoor Market and asking if we bought books as she was moving house and down-sizing. What was significant was the fact that she was so bubbly and had an American accent.

Wide-Ranging Interests

So I went to have a look. It turned out that both she and her husband, who had passed away, were research scientists specialising in cancer. Although long retired she still spends a day a week at the Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry. However, it was clear that while their professional interests were very specific, they both had wide-ranging reading habits: art, music, crime fiction, gardening, travel, cooking, sci-fi, architecture, poetry……..

Blog New Additions

What was remarkable was the number of signed first editions they had collected over the years, plus the fact that most of the books appeared virtually as new – read once and then stored carefully in purpose-made bookshelves.

Blog New Additions

It turned out she had been born in New York and came to the UK in 1960. Her mother had been an artist and her father an architect. Which explained some of the books, as well as a particularly interesting collection of modern art; not to mention the house which was a Tudor cottage with a very nicely designed (and built) modern extension.

Now Online

We agreed a price and I took what I could. She had decided to keep a selection for her new house, but that still left a significant proportion she wished to dispose of and I pointed her in the direction of a couple of other local dealers who might be interested.

We have started to add these books to our inventory and more new additions will follow over the next few weeks. Please contact us if you would like more information – info@hallofbooks.com

Blog - New Additions

Nov 22

Two Years In Oswestry Indoor Market

Two Years

Oswestry Markets

22nd November 2014 and we’ve been in Oswestry Indoor Market for a whole two years! Another interesting year has flown by and Christmas is just around the corner yet again. Sales are starting to increase, both online and in the Market, as people complete their festive shopping, and we look forward to the increased opening hours in the run-up to Christmas Day.

An interesting year

Looking back over the last 12 months it has been an interesting year. Despite what the politicians say, any increase in national prosperity has yet to trickle down to Oswestry. The property market remains flat, we still have empty shops in the town and people remain cautious about what they spend. The Council on the other hand has been busy ‘investing’ our money for us and the new ‘Oswestry Gateway’ roundabout and the livestock market developments are set to transform the far western boundary of the town. We can also look forward to several new supermarkets now that planning approval has been granted. If they are all built Oswestry will have more supermarket square footage per head of population than any other town in the UK. Whether we need it all is another matter. And how it will affect trade in the town centre, not to mention the Market (which has been in existence for over 1,000 years), remains to be seen.

Strong sales

French Countryside Cooking

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom and Hall of Books has had an excellent ?trading year, with secondhand books and sheet music selling strongly throughout the UK and Internationally. Sales in the market have been slightly down on last year but that has been more than offset by the quality of the books we have been able to acquire through the shop and which we can sell online. Online sales have increased month on month and several of our most collectible (and expensive) books have sold well during the year.

The English Gypsy Caravan: Its Origins, Builders, Technology and Conservation

Regular Customers

We have built up a large contingent of regular customers who collect books and music on a wide range of subjects. Music remains one of our strongest sellers in the shop but we have customers who are always on the look out for books on Railways, Spirituality, Psychology, Philosophy and even Black-Smithing and Wood-Turning. It never ceases to amaze me what people are interested in. The day a chap came in and said in a loud voice: “Do you have any EROTICA,” was interesting! Old ladies blanched and looked very worried, while several people exited the shop in a hurry! I explained we did not handle that type of material and the man left somewhat disappointed.

More books than we can shake a stick at

We have also acquired even more books. It is so hard to turn down the chance to have a peak at what people are looking to move on! However, we have reached the point where we no longer have any space left to store anything. In the new year we will have to have a radical sort out and have a bulk disposal sale. Anyone fancy 40 banana-boxes of quality ?paperbacks (over 2,000)? So many people are down-sizing or are looking to dispose of collections left by deceased relatives. They don’t know what to do with the books but they feel they should have a financial value and they don’t want to just give them to the charity shops (many of whom are stuffed to bursting point too).?Unfortunately, secondhand book sellers have all but disappeared, particularly in this area. And we have now reached capacity.

Other highlights

Wilfred Owen

It has been a great year for all sorts of other reasons too with Oswestry celebrating Wilfred Owen’s life,?us attending a fantastic Book Arts Open Day and also a bookbinding course at The Grange in Ellesmere (run by the wonderful John and Rosie). We also celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary!

The Grange Ellesmere

The Grange

2015 and the Future

2015 looks set to be another interesting year. If trade remains only as-is it will be another good year for us. The Indoor Market is very stable and there is little ?turnover in traders, some of whom have been here for many years. Yes, a little more foot-fall would be nice for all us, but, with online sales continuing to do well our little business ticks over nicely. Two years in Oswestry Indoor Market will, we hope, turn into three this time next year! Many thanks to all our customers for buying from us and for all the friends we have made.

Hall of Books for secondhand books and sheet music on-line and in Oswestry Indoor Market.



Oct 19

Normal Service Resumed

Normal Service Resumed

Our shop

Oswestry Indoor Market

Normal service resumed! Apologies for the lack of posts and the disruption to the normal HoBlog service recently. We had a nasty dose of hacking with several people attacking the site and rendering it unusable. It has taken some time to get it working again but normal service has now been resumed!


Not sure why people do this, probably just because they can. Hall of Books is?only a small business with little commercial value to anyone other than ourselves. And hacking WordPress can’t be much of a challenge. Still, one of the joys of an online retailer! Hopefully, with normal service resumed, we’ll be left alone to get on with things peacefully again.


Omar Khayaam

On a more optimistic note, online sales have been strong over the Summer and into the Autumn with books and music travelling far and wide. The Market has been quieter than last year but shows signs of picking up as we move towards Christmas.


E. J. Moeran

We have acquired even more books recently, with collections coming from a school in Llangollen, a private family collection that started out life in Irlam near Manchester and then migrated to the Welsh borders, and even a lovely collection of musical biographies from a composer’s personal library down in Bedfordshire. We really can’t take any more books at the moment but we would be interested in sheet music should some crop up. Demand through the Market is high and we would consider both popular items as well as classical and choral. There is a very active music scene in this area.

With normal service resumed we will try and be more active on the blog front over the coming weeks!


Mar 29

Welsh Language Books

Welsh Language Books

Alun Jones

Being right next to the Welsh border we often find a number of Welsh Language Books in the collections we acquire, and, occasionally, we are offered whole Welsh Language collections. Inevitably, given the strong Chapel tradition across the border, a number of these books have a religious flavour but it is surprising the breadth of themes that are covered in the Welsh Language Books we have acquired. Everything from Bardic poetry books to a Welsh language translation of a book about Belsen!


Siop Cwlwm

Lowri Roberts

Here in the market, Lowri Roberts runs the Welsh shop – Siop Cwlwm – which specialises in new Welsh language books, cards, gift items and the like. We have an agreement with Lowri that we won’t sell Welsh Language books from our shop but we have arranged that she will sell our Welsh language books for us through her shop. The fact that she speaks Welsh (and can understand what the books are about) and has an existing customer base of Welsh speakers, makes this a practical arrangement for both of us.


Some of the books we have acquired are quite scare and these we have put online, but the majority of the books are on offer through Siop Cwlwm. They cover a wide range of subject matter from Poetry to History, Religion to Children’s Books, and they range in age from Victorian hardbacks to modern paperbacks. Please contact Hall of Books or Siop Cwlwm if you would like any additional informtion.



Nov 30


Music - Eric ClaptonWe’re one of the few secondhand booksellers left that also has a large selection of sheet music and music-related titles in stock. Music sells steadily but slowly online, however, in the shop it sells strongly, with a number of regular customers buying several items at a time. Some people collect sheet music for the artwork, which can be stunning, and some people buy it because they want to learn a new piece of music or remember something from their youth. There is something quite nostalgic about seeing song-titles that you remember from 30, 40 or even 50 years ago and we often get people gazing misty-eyed at items that transport them back in time. We even have one customer who collects signatures of famous musicians and he likes to acquire a relevant piece of sheet music with the artist’s photograph or illustrations which he then frames along with the signature.

Music - Prokofieff

1,000s in stock

We have bought several collections of music over the years and currently have around 1,000 items on display in the shop with another 1,000 or so online. We also have a further 5,000 items in stock waiting to catalogued. Everything from heavy-weight organ pieces to pop, classical study scores to jazz, choral items to ‘how-to-play’ titles.

Music - Singing TogetherSold

We’ve sold several interesting pieces recently including Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ several BBC Singing Together school children’s song books from the ’60s and ’70s and ‘Moonglow’ scored for full brass band, which went to the Porth y Waen silver band.

Music - Moonglow Annie Schoberlechner

Included in the one collection we acquired from Boosey and Hawkes, was a folder of handwritten music and illustrations. On closer examination it is a complete ‘how to play’ book for children, written by the composer Annie Schoberlechner from Austria. It is a particularly poignant piece, sent by Annie to Boosey and Hawkes in 1939. It includes her CV where she clearly states that even though she is Protestant, three of her four grand-parents were ‘non-aryan.’ It is tempting to surmise that she might have been pursuing a publication deal in the UK in order to help escape Austria, especially if her grandparents were Jewish. The book was never published and has languished unseen in the B&H vaults for over 70 years. The illustrations, which appear to be by Annie, are beautiful and the whole book, with musical exercises and excerpts, would have been lovely if it had ever seen the light of day. We are seriously tempted to publish it ourselves in due course. More photos to follow or contact us on: info@hallofbooks.com

Nov 29


Rudeness - ShopRudeness. Well I guess you have to expect is occasionally when you’re dealing with the public and I know there’s an English obsession with ‘Please’ and ‘Than-you’ – common courtesies that seem to have become increasingly eroded in this text-and-internet age. But what I’m really talking about is deliberate rudeness. To your face. From people you don’t know.

This is our first venture into retail and I’m pleased to say that 99.9% of the visitors to our shop have been nothing less than delightful. They may not all buy something, but the general feedback is very complementary and there is a real appreciation that we are trying to keep a book-business alive when so many are going to the wall.

Rudeness - shopShrinking Violets

I’m not some shrinking-violet! 25 years corporate life toughened me up somewhat. I also understand that there are a few people in the community who are a little ‘challenged’ and, perhaps, can’t help their attitude (especially when the medication wears off!). But when someone stands at one end of your shop brandishing a piece of sheet music and says in a loud voice: ‘This rubbish isn’t worth ?2.00,’ that’s rudeness. It’s also a shock. We don’t normally expect well-dressed, mature people to behave like this. But, on occasion, I’m afraid they do.

Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is great. It sharpens you up and helps you to be more effective. But deliberate rudeness for the sake of effect seems such a waste of energy. How unhappy must you be to be so negative. We obviously get the odd comment that a certain item can be bought cheaper elsewhere and that, by implication, we are somehow ‘ripping people off’. Well, we aren’t forcing anyone to buy from us and they are very welcome to buy said book elsewhere (usually a charity shop), but one or two people seem to take things personally as though we deliberately priced the book to spite them!

Rudeness - shopAnonymity

The anonymity of the internet also encourages people to give vent to thoughts and emotions which they would never voice out-loud or to your face. We had one chap say in a particularly mendacious little post on an on-line forum ( a ‘book-lovers’ site!!) ?that our stock ‘wasn’t fit to be sold in a charity shop.’ ?I’m not sure why he felt that such rudeness was warranted (it’s rude to us, charity shops and our customers), but there you are. The annonymity of the internet allows him the ‘oxygen of publicity.’ Perhaps it was just a bad day and his haemerroids were playing up!

The next 12 months

But that is the minority. The overwhelming majority of our customers are nothing less than complimentary and rudeness of any kind has been conspicuous by its absence. The fact that our customers continue to buy books from us and have made our first 12 months in the market so worthwhile suggests that we have broadly got things right. here’s to the next 12 months!



Nov 27

Twelve Months In Oswestry Indoor Market

Hall of Books - Twelve months in Oswestry Indoor MarketTwelve Months In Oswestry Indoor Market! Doesn’t time fly? We moved in exactly twelve months ago today. And what a year it has been. We’ve sold books, we’ve bought books and we’ve made friends. We had no real idea what to expect when we decided to move into the market. There had been a bookshop here for years but it finally closed down when the owner retired. There used to be several other secondhand bookshops in town but they had all slowly withered away. We had no experience of retail and the perceived wisdom was that ‘bricks and mortar’ bookshops were doomed; killed off by charity shops and the internet.

Alive and Kicking

Well, we’re living, breathing proof that it is possible to make it work. For sure our rent is low and we only open three days a week, but we have been able to satisfy a very real demand for both books and music. We’ve built up a complete cross-section of regular customers who come in weekly to buy and, gradually, the fact that we exist is slowly seeping out into the wider community. It is fair to say that the local media and even the Council, who run the Market, have done little to promote things and do not seem to appreciate that, even though we are a business, a bookshop is also a community resource. However, as a business, we realise that our success is ultimately our own responsibility so we have got on with the hard work of providing the very best service we can while promoting ourselves in as many ways possible. And word-of-mouth seems to be having an effect. Customers are coming from further afield and even local people who hadn’t been in the Market for years have come back to have a look.

Hall of Books Twelve months in Oswestry Indoor Market 2Friends

We’ve made friends as well. Not just with our regular customers, who often stop in for a chat, but with the other stall-holders. This Market won the national award for the Best Council-run Market in the UK this year and it is easy to see why. Great customer service, friendly people and a good selection of different shops. Not just the traditional market stalls like veg shops and butchers but specialist jewellery shops, antique stalls, oriental food supplies, a hairdressers, a dedicated Welsh shop, delicatessen (great sausages!), artists and, of course, a bookshop. There is a generally supportive atmosphere here and a real interest in helping to make the overall market successful.


Our online business has also continued to develop and has been enhanced by us being in the market. We get offered the chance to buy books every day and, while we turn the vast majority down, we sometimes see collections that we just cannot refuse. Many of these books find their way online, providing us with the diversity and breadth of inventory that we like to try and maintain. We also provide a book acquisition service, sourcing and buying specific books for customers who have been unable to find what they are looking for themselves, or who find using the internet problematic.

Hall of Books - twelve months in Oswestry Indoor MarketThe Next Twelve Months

We’re looking forward to the next twelve months. This year has been our best year to date and there has been a marked upturn in business as we move towards Christmas. We are naturally somewhat cynical about the repeated claims the economy is on the turn for the better. Oswestry and the surrounding rural area is generally not that wealthy and there are some truly poor people here who rely on the food bank and charities to make ends meet. Our High Street also has nearly as many closed shops as open ones. But, in general, people do still seem to value and desire books. If trade continues at least ‘as is’ then we will have another successful year to look forward to. And, if things really are picking up, then 2014 might well be a year to really remember.

Aug 16

Lovely, lovely books!

The Gardener's Labyrinth

Just like Christmas.

We have acquired some lovely, lovely books recently. It’s a bit like Christmas really, you’re never quite sure what to expect when you drive out to visit someone and view their collection. Some real excitement builds up as you anticipate what you might find. Sometimes it’s a bit disappointing but on other occasions it can be like stumbling into Aladdin’s Cave!

The English Gypsy Caravan: Its Origins, Builders, Technology and Conservation

It’s not that we need more lovely books. Our storage unit and shop are full to overflowing. But, being book-lovers, the chances of finding something special makes it very difficult for us to turn down requests to consider someone’s collection of books. Just recently we have been asked to have a look at two specific collections which have turned out to be really very special.

The Wounded Knee Massacre: From The Viewpoint Of The Sioux

The first didn’t start out that auspiciously. A lovely chap of a certain age came into the shop and asked if we bought books. Our usual response is ‘Perhaps, depends what they are.’ He started to explain that he and his wife had a large collection of history and art books, when his wife joined him. A lovely lady of a certain age, but quite deaf. We spent a lively few minutes shouting at each other until I agreed to visit.

Atomic Radiation dangers and What They Mean To You

Lovely, lovely books from Wrexham

When I arrived at their house up near Wrexham, it wasn’t that prepossessing. An old council house on a small estate, the garden was overgrown and the windows needed a lick of paint. I knocked on the door and it opened a crack. The owner apologised that it didn’t open very far as I tried to squeeze in, not because it was jammed but because of the books stacked behind it! It turned out they didn’t live in the house and just used it for storage. Two whole lifetimes of collecting was spread throughout the house and up the stairs and into the bedrooms. They were looking to redecorate and let the house. They needed to get rid of the books.

Richard Findlater (editor) 20th Century Vol. 172 Spring 1963 No. 1017: The Enemies and More On Morals

Art, Politics, Gardening and more

They really are a lovely couple. Very Welsh, he is an artist, countryman, non-conformist and ex. Communist; she was a lawyer, lived in France and is something of a businesswoman, as well as a keen gardener and embroiderer. Their books reflected all of their interests and more – history, politics, art, American Indians, Gypsies, gardening, crafts, economics, philosophy, law, religion and many, many more. We agreed a price and I packed up box after box of books. They then told me they hadn’t emptied the attic yet!

Llanfyllin: Portrait of an Age

Lovely, lovely books from Llanfyllin

The second collection started with a phone call. “Do you buy books?” “No, we’re overstocked.” “Oh, but I’ve got to empty Mum’s house and I don’t know what to do with her books.” Being weak, I agreed to have a look. Llanfyllin is a lovely little town just a few miles away from us and the house was right in the centre. Despite having the address, it took me 30 minutes to find as the road had the most haphazard numbering system I’ve ever encountered and no-one seemed to know the house name I’d been given. It turned out to be an Elizabethan half-timbred house, modest (and un-named) on the outside, but like the Tardis inside. The lady showed me the books, which were spread through the property, and then left me to have a look while she made a cup of tea.

E. Jacottet "The Treasury Of Ba-Suto Lore: Being Original Se-Suto Texts, With A Literal English Translation And Notes. Vol. 1"

The books were interesting and seemed to cover several distinct eras and subject areas. There was also a large collection of photo albums which, on inspection all seemed to contain contact strips and portrait photographs of the same very attractive woman. It turned out this was the lady who had died and it was her daughter who was clearing the house. Her mother had been a fashion model in the 1960’s and her father was a fashion photographer, hence all the photographs. When her Mum retired as a model she became an archaeologist!

South Africa

Ce que chantaient nos Grand'meres by Ch. Pfluger

Fascinating enough you might have thought, but the books told a story too. Clearly there was a link with South Africa, but also some connection with France. There was a large selection of archaeology books, but also late Victorian poetry collections, commercial gardening books, children’s books and an assortment of other bits and pieces. I couldn’t take all of them but we agreed a price on those I wanted and I packed up several boxes, trying not bang my head on the beams or break an ankle on the very uneven stairs.

The Apples of England by H V England

Online and in the Shop

We have only started listing these lovely, lovely books online recently but they have already started selling strongly. Some are very scarce and some in beautiful condition. We have also taken a large quantity to the shop, especially classic Penguin and Pelican paperbacks covering a variety of topics. Do get in touch if you’d like further information.

Patchwork Quilts by Averil Colby

Jun 13

Iain Banks – R.I.P.

?Iain Banks – a personal favourite

A lot of column inches have been written about the sudden and untimely death of Iain Banks, one of the UK’s most successful author’s. However, we just wanted to record our own own sadness at his passing as he was one of our favourite writers.

The Wasp Factory

Many years ago now a friend suggested we read ‘The Wasp Factory’ and, because we enjoyed it so much, we carried on reading pretty much everything Iain Banks has written ever since, including the Science Fiction (as Iain M. Banks) and his semi-autobiographical romp around the distilleries of Scotland – ‘Raw Spirits.’

Arguably his first book was the best. It certainly caused a stir when it was first published, with some critics calling it repellant and not fit to be published. But, along with the vast majority of readers, we enjoyed the mordant wit and black humour as well as the sheer inventiveness and creativity…..and the gothic horror! That he managed to squeeze so much into one book became one of his trademarks, his books fizzing and sparking with ideas and energy. If ‘The Wasp Factory’ was the best individual book (for us), the creation of ‘The Culture’ as the basis for many of his Science Fiction works, will have a lasting and far-reaching legacy too.

Iain M. Banks

‘Real ‘ Scottish

Scottish to the core, that sense of identity and ‘otherness’ underpins most of his works, many of which are based in Scotland, or somewhere just a bit like Scotland, but fully uptodate, warts and all. And completely rooted in the real world, not some tartan myth of clans and misty glens. Drugs, drink, sex, violence, poverty (of the spirit as well as funds) and a sense of futility, fuel many of the books, but interlaced with the wit and humour and sheer enjoyment of language and the macabre that are his trademark.


Banks acknowledged that he had a tendency towards punning and in-jokes and it is true that, occasionally, the ideas can side-track the story-line. But that is a minor criticism. He was prolific and maintained such a high standard of creativity and inventiveness across all of his works that the reader is often left breathless with excitement.

Feersum Endjinn

Fearsomely intelligent he was willing to stand up for his beliefs as his profile gave him a platform from which to speak and be heard – he tore up his passport and posted it to Tony Blair in a public display of protest at the Iraq War. A keen musician – music is often woven into his works – and humanist, he chaired a writer’s team to win a special version of University Challenge and won Celebrity Mastermind with his specialist subject the whiskeys and distilleries of Scotland. He was just 59 when he died and, while his previous works will live on, we have now been deprived of anything new from one of the best writer’s of the last 30 years. He will be sorely missed.

Books for Sale

Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks

The signed copy of ‘Feersum Endjinn’ is now sold but we have other works for sale both online and in the shop.

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