The launch was a sell-0ut, with tickets being snapped up six weeks before the event, even before I had secured some for my family, and my editor from Little Brown and agent had also missed out – until more tickets were released to meet demand.
It was very much a celebratory evening, as well as a reunion for many shop girls who had not seen each other for half a century since Heyworth’s closed its doors, the elegant ladies department store which the book is based on.
As I sat signing copies of The Shop Girls, I could barely believe my ears when I was told by an overjoyed member of staff: “You’ve made history. You should be very proud. We have sold out of every copy, and this has never happened before at an author event!”
Here are some of the kind messages that have been sent to me since:
Allan Brigham, Cambridge tour guide and historian: “Great evening at Heffers. Many thanks for telling this story – wonderful piece of Cambridge history.”
Chris Jakes, Cambridgeshire Collection Chief Librarian: “I very much enjoyed the launch and all those sitting around me were swapping memories. Including the younger ones who regretted they didn’t know the shop – I hope they all bought copies.”
Paul Hales, son of Herbert Heyworth, who ran the store: “I would like to congratulate you on an excellent introduction to The Shop Girls. I thought the book launch evening went off very well – everyone who was there seemed to be enthralled by it all.”
Sandy Tothill, daughter of Richard Tothill, Herbert Heyworth’s best friend: “Thank you so much for the lovely evening at Heffers, I really enjoyed myself. It was amazing to meet Paul and he reminds me very much of his father.”
Rosemary Smith, one of the lead shop girls: “It was a great evening – your presentation was both professional and very charming – there were a few tears of joy when you were speaking – especially from some of your shop girls. we’re looking forward to Ely!”
Diana Lloyd: “I wanted to say straight away what a SMASHING evening it was! You are so brave and so clever! I have started reading the book already (have only been home a short time). I am thoroughly enjoying it!”
Anne Gaskell: “Congratulations on such a successful book launch! It was such an enjoyable evening – especially with the “shop girls” themselves there and ready to answer questions. When in the queue waiting for you to sign the book, I got talking to Val Haynes, who told me the very sad tale of her sister Judy. What a terrible time it must have been for her family. Val felt that the book was her way of ensuring her sister was remembered. So it has had repercussions far and wide.
“I’ve read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed I am buying another copy or two for Christmas presents.”
Ian McKendrick, my website designer, who brought his adorable pooch Lola along: “It was a wonderful event, and thank you so much for the invitation. It was a fascinating evening, especially discovering days gone by in the history of Cambridge. I’m sure it will be a huge seller for you and the Girls, and am grateful, and honoured to have been able to give you a tiny bit of assistance in helping you to promote your endeavour.”
I am very much looking forward to my Topping bookstore event in Ely Cathedral Centre on Saturday, 25 October, from 11am, part of their Ely Literary Festival. I will be joined by my my shop girl Rosemary who used to live in Ely, and hopefully others too. Tickets can be reserved here, and the £7 admission fee includes a copy of The Shop Girls.
If you would like to know more about the golden age of retail in a bygone era, the true story of my shop girls, then do come along, I look forward to seeing you there!!!