Writers lead tributes to ex-Hatchards 'legend' Geoffrey Bailey

Writers lead tributes to ex-Hatchards 'legend' Geoffrey Bailey

Tributes have been paid to former Hatchards manager and bookselling “legend” Geoffrey Bailey, following his death at the age of 75.

Bailey, who also ran Covent Garden shop Crime in Store and Fulham's Pan Bookshop, passed away last week following a short illness.

Friends recalled Bailey, who counted Princess Margaret among his regular customers at Hatchards Piccadilly, as a raconteur and prolific reader.

Recalling his first meeting with Bailey, crime novelist Peter James wrote: “'You bastard, you just cost me a night’s sleep!' a short, neat man with a crisp, posh voice bellowed at me across the Groucho Club. And that, in 1988, at the launch dinner for my novel Possession, was my introduction to the legend that was Geoffrey Bailey—and the start of a 30-year friendship.

“Books were both his passion, his career and his life. I used to joke that my late agent, Carole Blake, lived in a giant shoe cupboard with an apartment attached, and similarly Geoffrey lived, in south London, in a bijou library with a kitchen and bathroom attached. Every time I went there it had grown a little smaller as more and more books filled the spaces already filled with books. If he’d lived to 100, he’d never have been able to move for books! And he was both wonderfully eclectic and utterly unsnobbish in his tastes, relishing everything from horror to crime to Booker shortlistees and way back into the classics.

"A regular weekend guest at our home in Sussex, Geoffrey was both charm personified and a born raconteur, not to mention a discreet gossip extraordinaire. He was at ease and always highly entertaining in any company, but I suspect if he had ever had to choose between a book and a human companion, he would always have chosen the former. I much envied his capacity to devour books, and the thousands of lives he’d lived vicariously through all those pages. My fondest memory will always be Geoffrey seated in his favourite armchair in our home, single malt whisky in one hand, a new book proof in the other, studiously consuming each with relish.”

Writer Barry Forshaw said: “Attending a book launch or publishing meal with the legendary Geoffrey Bailey was always instructive. Not only did Geoffrey know everybody in publishing—in his days both as front-of-house man at Hatchards Piccadilly and as manager of the lively London bookshop Crime in Store—but he could also identify anyone with the slightest hint of blue blood (diarists of various newspapers would make a beeline to him for such info).

“Geoffrey was the consummate raconteur, and would lament that he wasn't performing his Hatchards duties in an earlier century when literary celebrities had more cachet. As a crime fiction bookseller, he had few peers, and would always remain resolutely cheerful (unless you were unwise enough to criticise any members of the Royal family...)”