London Diary: An unusual ‘book ripper’, the World cup final and more 

Panic has swept through literary circles in the scenic British coastal town of Herne Bay amid reports that a “book ripper” is on the prowl—sneaking into bookshops and hacking off pages from books

London Diary: An unusual ‘book ripper’, the World cup final and more 
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Hasan Suroor

A (g)ripping mystery

Imagine going to a bookstore and picking up a book to buy, only to discover that most of its pages have been ripped off. Pick another one—that too has been vandalised; as is the next. And the next...What’s going on? you ask the store manager. But he appears as mystified.

A wave of panic has swept through literary circles in the scenic British coastal town of Herne Bay amid reports that a “book ripper” is on the prowl—sneaking into bookshops and hacking off pages from books —neatly torn in half—before putting them back on the shelves. The biggest casualties are said to be crime thrillers.

It’s not known whether the culprit, dubbed the “Herne Bay Book Ripper” is a man or a woman; a child or an adult. But many instinctively refer to the person as “he”. Bookstores say each damaged book costs them money as they are not fit to sell anymore.

“We wouldn’t sell a book with one page ripped, so with 20 or 30, they’re absolutely ruined,” said Nick Rogers, manager of a charity bookshop. He first noticed it back in the spring and his guess was more than 100 books, costing several hundred pounds, had been damaged.

The local council reported that 20 books in its public library had been damaged, with pages sometimes being torn out completely. Police are investigating but appear clueless. Wish Ms Marple was around.

Minding the gap

Beware: the famous “gap” that the London Underground commuters are constantly reminded to “mind” while boarding and disembarking a train has just got dangerously bigger with the introduction of a new generation of “smart” carriages.

Research by the rail watchdog, the Rail Safety and Standards Board, has warned of increased risk of travellers, especially older people and the disabled, falling through the gap between platforms and trains. This is because most modern carriages are slimmer and not suited to platforms designed for older carriages leaving a much wider gap between them.

Another reason, we’re told, is that while, previously, trains were custom-made for specific Lines, the new lot is “uni” size —meant to be shared by the entire network —causing a mismatch in many places. This has already led to an alarming rise in the number of people falling through the gap. Other factors are said to be overcrowding and a lack of safety awareness among passengers.

Next time, you’re rushing to catch the train remember to mind that gap.


Tony & Bill

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were not only political soulmates (co-architects of the famous “Third Way” politics) but also close family friends (presumably still are)—playing godparents to each other’s children etc.

Yet, Blair apparently pretended not to know what his friend was sought to be impeached for. According to an account in The Times, he is reported to have asked: “But what is he exactly accused of?”

Absent from Lord’s

For a blue-blooded old English toff, it’s hard to believe that Prince Charles doesn’t much care for cricket and could have missed the World Cup Final. But he did, having happily given away his royal ticket to a friend.

After hearing of England’s historic victory, he was said to have popped into a pub and ordered a glass of rum—Captain Morgan Rum. That, The Times noted rather obsequiously, was his “subtle way” of paying tribute to England skipper Eoin Morgan.

“Subtle”? Or eccentric?

And, lastly, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance is the most popular of all the shortlisted Booker Prize novels since the prize was launched in 1969, according to an analysis of Booker shortlists in the past nearly half a century.

It was shortlisted in 1996 but did not win the prize which went to Graham Swift’s Last Orders.

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