Newsletter Spring 2020

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Oxfam Books Adelaide Quarterly News / Spring 2020

How often have I said that when you have excluded the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Sherlock Holmes

(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)



Welcome to the 2020 Spring Issue of ‘Anon…’  I think it’s safe to say we have all had a challenging winter and I’m sure we are all hoping the borders will be relaxed and families can reunite and catch up in time for Christmas.

In August the shop returned to opening 5 days a week (Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm), albeit with shorter daily opening hours as we are using the extra time to clean the shop each day. Donations continue to come in at a steady pace – thanks to everyone who donates or buys books from our wonderful shop.

Following on from our successful Crime Fiction Fortnight we are getting ready for our annual Christmas offering of ’Kris Kringle’ surprise fiction. All you know when you buy the book is the genre. This year we have ‘Crime Fiction and ‘Light Fiction’, just right for the post-Christmas Summer-holidays reading binge – one of our very favourite times of year.   

For $5, these as-new copies are an excellent surprise gift option for the readers in your life – especially if you get to borrow the book later; with a chance to discover a new favourite author! What’s not to love?

And this Christmas the icing on the cake (or should it be marzipan on top of the boiled fruit cake, or the coin in the pudding?) we are introducing a golden ticket  – read on to discover what that means.

A selection of the ‘Light Fiction’ tagged surprise books to be festively wrapped and ready to go as Christmas gifts – ideal as a Kris Kringle gift for the reader.

In this issue of ‘Anon…’ we take a look at a big moment in book history; discover what the Golden Age of crime writing was all about; test your knowledge of fictional detectives; and learn what happens after books are donated to the Bookshop.

Last but not least, please be aware that the Bookshop’s last day open for 2020 will be Wednesday, the 23rd of December. It will then be closed until its first day of opening in 2021, on Tuesday, the 5th of January.

As always, take care and happy reading from all of us at the Bookshop!

E.B. Editor

{If you have been sent this newsletter by a friend, please take a moment to go to our Website, Facebook and Instagram pages and learn more about us.  We’d love for you to  sign up for the newsletter and follow us on Facebook and of course visit the Bookshop to browse our broad collection of affordably priced second hand books.}


Big Moments in Book History – The Printing Press

The Gutenberg printing press is one of the world’s greatest inventions. Its impact on society, particularly that of religion, politics and lifestyles worldwide is considered to be far greater than that of the World Wide Web.

German craftsman and inventor Johannes Gutenberg (d.1468) is often cited as developing moveable type but this concept had been in use in China and Korea from as early as the 9th Century. What Gutenberg did was to develop a more efficient method of printing, crucially developing a press that mechanised the transfer of ink from metal moveable type to paper.  Prior to this, books were hand copied and available mainly to the clergy.  The printing press allowed for an assembly line style production process – for the first time books could be mass produced for a fraction of the cost.  

Gutenberg’s first full scale work using moveable metal type was the Bible. It is believed that 180 bibles were produced either on paper or vellum of which only 49 still exist today – less than half as complete.  They were printed to order and the average price is believed to equal about 3 years wages for a clerk. Buyers paid a basic price for printing – hand coloration, illuminations, binding and a cover were all added extras! 

William Tyndale

And speaking of Bibles, William Tyndale has a special place in the history of bible publications – his was the first English bible to be translated directly from Hebrew and Greek (80 – 90% of his New Testament is reproduced in the King James version).  A gifted linguist himself, he was keen to use a language that everyone could understand and many of his phrases are still in use today eg ‘the powers that be’, eat, drink and be merry’ and ‘fight the good fight’.  Without the introduction of printing with moveable type in the Western world by Gutenberg, Tyndale’s work would not have spread so quickly. However, at the time this act was strictly forbidden and the first copies had to be smuggled into England, leading to Tyndale spending much of his time in hiding. 

Eventually as a result of his defiance and published opposition to Henry VIII’s planned annulment of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, William Tyndale was caught and condemned to be strangled and then burned at the stake when found guilty on a charge of heresy in 1536. If his name looks familiar, it may be due to reading references to him in Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical novels featuring Thomas Cromwell, who tried to intercede on Tyndale’s behalf.

The Tyndale Bible

And finally a note to hearten all second hand book ‘fossickers’. In the 1960s a Cambridge student paid 25 shillings for what turned out to be a Bible printed in 1537 based on Tyndale’s original version some years earlier.  Kept by the same owner for nearly 60 years (and for most of them unaware of the value of what he had bought) it sold at auction in 2008 for 60,000 Pounds.



Life Cycle of an Oxfam Book:

2. Sorting

Illustration by E. Browne

In our last newsletter (Winter 2020) we began sharing the ‘life cycle’ stages a book will progress through when donated to the Bookshop. Having started with ‘Donating’, we now move onto ‘Sorting’. 

Sadly, we do not have our own Hogwarts sorting hat but rely on a team of dedicated volunteers who sort through donations and send them on to the right area for processing.

Most donated books go through to the subject boxes in the work room, however we do provide much needed books to support the South Pacific Schools Aid and on occasion send books, games and jigsaw puzzles to aged care homes.  

The team also pass books on to the valuations team for further investigation or set aside the books in pristine and excellent condition for our ‘Good Enough to Gift’ display in the shop.

The most common items found in donated books are, as you would expect, bookmarks, followed by airline boarding passes.  (We do sometimes display our international collection of bookmarks).  We have also found letters, photos, invitations, money (local and international) and book inscriptions ranging from poignant to hilarious. One of our more interesting finds was a letter from Helen Keller thanking her Adelaide hosts during her Australian tour of 1948.  The book wasn’t particularly valuable but the letter sold for $1000!

Sorted! One of our sorting volunteers returns another emptied box to the sorting shelves in the Bookshop’s Back Room. These shelves are often crammed full with donations – especially in the new year.

Unusual books our sorters have seen over the years include ‘The Hangman’s Manual’ (a serious tome, complete with handwritten notes) and a Pop Up Karma Sutra.

We do from time to time find things other than books in donation boxes, including paintings, boxed china, a sewing machine, Waterford crystal, gym gear and 1 child’s shoe. All were sent on to charity shops for sale (except the shoe).

Our sorters work tirelessly all year round, particularly in January which seems to be ‘clear out the house and shed’ month. I am astounded sometimes at how quickly they can create order from chaos. Their one request that would help them enormously is to bring donations in small boxes or bags (books are heavy!) so we can keep heavy lifting to a minimum.

Thanks sorters!

Next time – A chat with our Valuations team.

(For a fairly exhaustive list of the range of subject areas you will find on the Bookshop shelves, visit this list on our website: )


The Golden Age of Crime Fiction

This October marked the fourth year of our ‘Crime Fiction Fortnight’.  Every year we put the spotlight on various genres of crime fiction – previous years have highlighted women crime writers and Scottish, Scandinavian and Australian noir crime writing. But there is one genre we display every year – that of ‘classic crime’ or books from  the ‘Golden Age’ of crime writing.  

The Golden Age of crime fiction is generally considered the period between the two World Wars. It is dominated by British authors although there were some American authors e.g. Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr.   Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, while of the time, wrote more in the ‘hard boiled’ or tough guy tradition.

There were some rules of writing Golden Age mysteries although Agatha Christie was known to ignore a few of them from time to time.  Mysteries were plot or puzzle driven – the crime was murder and the plots sometimes included accessories such as floor plans, maps and railway timetables. The central theme was that the reader ‘plays detective’ and tries to solve the crime ahead of the detective character. There were multiple suspects, red herrings, locked rooms and ‘action’ invariably took place in large country houses. Detectives were incredibly clever and observant, most were male and the vast majority were amateurs.

Authors Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham were so influential they became known as the Queens of Crime.  P.D. James  said  ‘To read the detective novels of these four women is to learn more about the England in which they lived and worked than most popular social histories can provide, and in particular about the status of women between the wars.’ 

But there were other authors of that era; many having not been published in Australia for quite some time.  Through our generous donors in Adelaide, our customers can access some of these authors – e.g. Josephine Tey, Georgette Heyer, Edmund Crispin, Michael Innes, Rex Stout, Carter Dickson, and John Dickson Carr.  The shop has a permanent shelf of old penguins and classic fiction in our crime fiction area – and so come in and browse and maybe try a mystery by an author from the Golden Age.  And don’t forget to visit us at our next crime fiction fortnight!


That Agatha Christie was once investigated by MI5 who suspected her of having a spy inside the Bletchley code breaking area. In her novel ‘N or M’ written in 1941, she gave a character the name of Major Bletchley. It turned out that she had named her unlikeable character “Bletchley’ after having been stuck there on a train.

Mystery writer Agatha Christie. Image source: (2017)

While writing many of his crime fiction novels, the Scottish novelist and academic J.I.M Stewart (with the nom de plume of Michael Innes), and creator of detective Inspector John Appelby of the Met and amateur sleuth Charles Honeybath; was a Professor of English here at the University of Adelaide from the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s.



Crime Fiction Fortnight Quiz:

Promotional graphic from a television series.
Re-match the famous sleuth with their correct Author
(Bonus points for the country the stories are set in!)
Martin BeckAke EdwardsonSweden
Brother CadfaelJo NesboFrance
Philip MarlowePeter CorrisAustralia
Precious RamotsweFred VargasUSA
Cliff Hardy Ellis PetersAustralia
Harry HoleJohn Dickson CarrSweden
Commissaire AdamsbergMaj Sjowall and Per WahlooNorway
Dr Gideon Fell Alexander McCall SmithEngland
Inspector Cato KwongRaymond ChandlerBotswana
InspectorEric WinterAlan CarterEngland

Can you name this author from those listed above?

(Check your answers at the end of the newsletter.)


Christmas Offerings!

Yes, it’s ‘that time’ of year again, and we’re making your gift giving easy with our $5 Kris Kringle offer!

It’s all fun and no responsibility using our Kris Kringle surprise fiction for Christmas gift giving. Just $5 for a festively wrapped, as-new, recent publication – all you need to do is choose between ‘Light Fiction’ and ‘Crime Fiction’. Easy as! And for the first time, one lucky recipient will find a ‘golden ticket’ within their gift of surprise fiction – or in other words – a $20 book voucher for the Bookshop.

The Bookshop’s ever dependable, ever welcome Christmas Book Voucher for family, friends or colleagues can also be purchased anytime in-store! We have three unique Christmas designs – created especially for the Bookshop. Purchase a token for any amount from $10; not redeemable for cash. 

Last Christmas, Bookshop volunteers also got crafty with repurposing books and atlases into table-top angels and trees, as well as Christmas cards for sale in the Bookshop; even filling special large orders.

Some of the ‘Crime Fiction’ tagged Kris Kringle books awaiting their festive wrapping.


Alas, no October $1 Super Sidewalk Sale 

But $1 bargains are still on offer!

Sadly, we were unable to hold our usual $1 Super Sidewalk Sale this month due to ongoing restrictions and social distancing for Covid-19. While our volunteers have worked hard to establish and maintain a safe working and book buying environment in line with our Covid-Safe Plan for the Bookshop since it reopened in late July, the unpredictable nature of the street sales and associated preparations would have been difficult to confidently manage. As such the tough decision was made by the Management Committee to not hold this month’s one day event and major fundraiser.

BUT all is not lost…

In place of our one day only sidewalk sale, we are offering a series of al fresco $1 fiction book tables each Saturday 10am – 2pm until November 17th, and then inside the Bookshop during January. While it will be much smaller than our usual sales and only fiction titles, we can guarantee that fresh stock will be out each week. 

Finally, keep an eye on our various publications for confirmation of our next $1 Super Sidewalk Sale in March…. Fingers crossed!


Quiz Answers

Martin Beck  Maj Sjowall and Per WahlooSweden
Brother Cadfael Ellis PetersEngland
Philip Marlowe Raymond Chandler USA
Precious Ramotswe Alexander McCall SmithBotswana
Cliff Hardy Peter CorrisAustralia
Harry HoleJo NesboNorway
Commissaire AdamsbergFred VargasFrance
Dr Gideon Fell   John Dickson Carr England
Inspector Cato KwongAlan CarterAustralia
Inspector Eric Winter   Ake EdwardsonSweden

How correct were your sleuthing endeavours?


The pictured writer is Fred Vargas – born in 1957 

Fred Vargas is the nom de plume of French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau. She is purported to have chosen ‘Vargas’ from Ava Gardner’s character in the film ‘The Barefoot Contessa’. 

Vargas has won three International Dagger Awards from the The Crime Writers Association, for successive novels in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

Commissaire Adamsberg is one of Vargas’ ongoing lead characters as she mainly writes ‘police thrillers’ or ‘police procedurals’ (policiers) set in Paris. Readers will also note her interest in the Middle Ages often emerges through her storylines.

Vargas on crime writing:

“When things are not going well, it’s never an American or a French crime novel that I’ll pick up but a British one,” she says. “Conan Doyle is, of course, a master; he gives the impression of realism but in fact his is a mad, almost a surrealist world. And Agatha – Agatha mastered the fable. But she’s terrifying too. She lets no one off the hook; she shows everyone could have dunnit.

…Why crime? I think now because it was the one thing that my father, an incredibly cultured man, detested. But also because crime novels, by resolving the problems they set themselves, seem to resolve life’s problems. You wouldn’t believe the letters I get from people who say I’ve lifted them out of depression. It’s catharsis.”

For a list of Commissaire Adamsberg titles:


An apt literary reference from the Queen of Mystery’s fastidious and “always right” Belgian detective – he of so many ‘leetle gu-raysells’:

“Ah! Madame, I reserve the explanations for the last chapter.” – Hercule Poirot

How else would one maintain the delicious suspense?


We hope you enjoyed our newsletter and thank you for your ongoing support of the Oxfam Second Hand Bookshop. Every book bought makes a difference!

Stay well. 


The Oxfam Second Hand Bookshop is 100% volunteer run, with all profits dedicated to supporting the work of Oxfam Australia fighting worldwide poverty, hunger and social injustice.

Current Opening Hours:

Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am – 4pm

2020 Christmas Closure:

(Inclusive) Thursday 24th Dec. – Saturday 2nd Jan. 

First day open in 2021: Tuesday 5th January!

Tel: (08) 8122 5870 (newish number)

 5-7 Hutt Street / Adelaide 5000

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