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The Justin Thyme Story

Panama Oxridge, Author
Inspiration for the Tartan of Thyme came from several things, all of which seemed to connect together in an unlikely yet satisfying way.

   1) On the morning of the 9/11 disaster, a man stopped off at a store to exchange an unwanted shirt. As a result he was late for work. Later, he commented that if his mother had had good taste in shirts he would be dead. This made me think how the direction of our lives can be radically altered by the most random of chances. From these unlikely seeds grew the idea of a life-changing fork in time initiated by a simple choice – and how, everything that subsequently happened connected back to it. Design or coincidence?
    2)When W S Gilbert had trouble hitting upon a plot to satisfy Sullivan, a Samurai sword fell off his wall and inspired The Mikado. I wondered what topsy-turvy plots he might have written if he’d read H G Wells’ The Time Machine, published that very same year.
    3)Researching family history, I discovered ancestors whose choices at simple "forks in the road of life" could’ve meant I would never have existed! It struck me as interesting how precarious life is!
   4)For a number of years I’d been toying with the  idea of creating a "puzzle novel". A love of whodunits made me want to create puzzles that were an integral part of an ongoing mystery series, that would allow me to seed hidden clues hinting at future plot twists.
   These thoughts and others resulted in Justin Thyme. Design or chance?

Tony Keats, Cotswold Bookstore
In April, 2007, the author e-mailed 705 book shops and received 7 replies, of which ours was one. Bookshops receive a great number of solicitations and the vast majority we have to turn down but Justin Thyme really stood out.
   Our three copies arrived - three beautiful looking books with Panama's fabulous 'ambigram' jacket, drawings, time travel pages, appendices of Scottish words and scientific terms and a space for the reader to make notes. Unusual or what!
   Nina and I each took one home and two days later, having agreed that it was the most exciting thing ever to hit the shop, we ordered more. In no time, they were coming in boxes of 50 at a time as we sold nearly 400 copies in less than five months. We were deeply disappointed when the author said no more were available. Had they been, I believe we would have sold 1000 every year, since then.
   The book sold so well for two reasons. An explanation of what makes the book tick is the first. There really is nothing else like it.  The other is, of course, our enthusiasm for the book but you only have to read it to be able to honestly tell people how terrific it is.
   In the years following, we had many enquiries about the book but could do nothing about it until the author found the publisher he was looking for, and that is where chance brought Inside Pocket onto the scene.

Sarah Harrop, Inside Pocket Publishing

Last autumn, rained off on a cycling weekend in the Cotswolds, my soggy friend and I mooched round Moreton in the Marsh killing time, waiting for our train back to London. Absently we browsed our way round the high street until we found ourselves in the local bookshop. A lovely shop with a very well presented children’s section to which we both succumbed!
   Arriving at the counter armed with our purchases, we fell into conversation with the chatty owner, Tony Keats, who proceeded to demonstrate a lovely looking book with an ambigram on the jacket. I thought it would make a great present for my husband (who is a sucker for codes and conundrums, as much as any teenager!) and was really taken aback when Tony announced it wasn’t in print any more. Then of course I heard the whole story of Justin Thyme, the reclusive author and how Tony had come across it.   Deprived of the book, I sighed and …. passed him my business card. If I wanted a copy, it looked like I was going to have to publish it myself!
   The strangest thing about stumbling across Justin Thyme in a small indie bookshop in the Cotswolds was the unlikelihood of it all. Stumbling by chance over such a fantastic signing! Even weirder – the book is all about serendiptity and chance …

Book signing  - Saturday 11 September 2pm.
Panama Oxridge arrived at the shop at 11.30am and we settled him at a table upstairs. From then, till 2pm, with just a 15 minute break, he started signing the mountain of pre-sold books.
   Many an author could have churned out a short cryptic squiggle and finished the whole pile by lunch time but Panama’s signature is almost as ingenious and carefully designed as his amazing book. Each book also had to be dated and many dedicated.
   At 2pm, Panama came downstairs to be greeted by spontaneous applause from a huge queue which snaked all the way through the shop, out through the door and down the street. The crowd had increased the temperature in the shop so much that we handed out water to keep them upright. The children though, preferred ‘Mrs Kof’s banana cake baked in celebration of Eliza, the computer literate gorilla!
   At 4pm, the crowd had finally dispersed happily clutching their signed copies and Panama could tackle the remainder of the books. At 5.15 the job was done. Approximately 550 books had been signed in five and a half hours.
    An incredible day!

COTSWOLD BOOKSTORE. Tel 01608 652666