A bookseller said to me the other day “I am surprised you know so little about bookselling.” I was a bit taken aback, after all, we’ve had a wonderful book business for almost forty years now. It made me think I should introduce our gang to you!
Cathy Well of those that make up Pioneer Books, I am certainly the most insignificant. I’ve been around books all my life, of course, as can’t help but be the case with bibliophile parents. I’m a prolific reader and writer and lots of people love my recommendations for what to read – maybe because I’m a historian, I’m generally thirty years or more behind the times, so I offer suggestions that are very fresh to people who are stuck in the latest book club and book prize lists.
Over the years I’ve collected children’s books, music, chess, bridge, science fiction, mostly in a haphazard way. My shelves at the moment include knitting, cooking, novels and a surprising amount of science, the latter due to a book I’m researching.
The books I’ve written include:
Australian Chess at the Top
(Oaklands Park, SA: Pioneer Books: March 1998)
Fair Play or Foul?: Cheating Scandals in Bridge
(Oaklands Park, SA: Pioneer Books: November 1998)
Maud Jean Franc: A Feminist Response to the Novels
(Oaklands Park, SA: Pioneer Books: February 1996)
I’m working, amongst other projects, on a second edition of my History of Australian Bridge, first published in the early nineties by the ABF.
I do all the internet side of Pioneer Books. If you get an email it’s from me, I maintain our website and database, write our blog.
Judith is our children’s book expert, courtesy of her many years of collecting in this area, which is not to say she doesn’t have vast knowledge of books generally, of course. She’s written various publications including:
Common: A Life Among Secondhand Books (Oaklands Park South Australia: Pioneer Books: November 2011)
The Password Is Fortitude: An evaluation of some children’s books by Violet Needham
Judith is responsible for what we list, she is our potter-abouter, if you live in Adelaide and are into books, you are bound to see her here and there. If you call us, she might answer or if not, it will be…
Monica, who has done so much in such varied ways to keep Pioneer Books thriving. On top of being accountant and in charge of all the day to day business like posting parcels, collating books, she has had to take over the task of being our number one book packer. Now, if you have ever received a parcel from us, you know what that means. For anybody reading this who hasn’t ever ordered from us – or hasn’t ordered by post – let me quote a few of the many, many compliments we get on our packing:
Very, very well packaged. Most impressed. Matt put that in bold!
Arrived Monday and unpacked by Thursday … terrible joke … but very well packed, so thank-you Roger
My aunt phoned this morning to say that she had received the book and she was very complimentary about the care that had been taken in packaging it. Cliff
The book reached me safe and sound and very well wrapped. Bruce
Just received, today, a beautifully packaged annual, many thanks Mark
They are just a few from the last month or so. I dutifully pass on these messages to Monica who nonetheless remains very modest about her skills in this area.
Monica, with an Arts degree including literature and French, is a very widely read person and always has an idea for what to read next, as do we all.
Paul Last, but obviously not least, is Paul, who founded the business in the mid-1970s. He died just over two years ago, but it is inevitable that his influence lives on. And I don’t mean just in the legacy of how we pack our books! When I look at areas in which we are especially well-stocked, his particular interests, if not obsessions are so obvious: poetry, drama and theology stand out for me, as well as South Australian works, this latter not surprising given his pioneering research in the area of SA literature.
Paul was a prolific writer as well as collector and seller or books. In the 1960s he wrote poetry, plays and one children’s book. In the 1970s came
A Critical History of South Australian Literature 1836-1930 with subjectively annotated Bibliographies.
Later his passion for football – Australian, of course – became translated into words in print as well. I was so proud to be part of the making of both
The FARMER Files: Ken Farmer – South Australian Football’s Greatest Figure and The Pash Papers, which Bernard Whimpress said was a classic of sporting literature in Australia (I’m sorry, Bernard, I’m paraphrasing you, not having your review in front of me).
Don’t get the idea we spend our whole lives writing. Mostly, we sell secondhand books, but in our spare time, when we aren’t reading, writing is something most of us love doing…I say ‘most’ because actually, as befits the mind of an accountant, I guess, what Monica prefers is to cast her eagle eye over everything the rest of us get up to, she is an ace copy-editor without whose contribution all our books would be so much the poorer.