01 June, 2016

Adventures in Hardcover

My collection of Doctor Who hardback novelisations
The Doctor Who novelisations are to me powerful objects of nostalgia. Just a glance at the cover artwork has the power to trigger a memory of where and when I first acquired my copy of that book. These slim paperbacks were an obsession throughout my teens, as I gradually built a much-loved collection of the novelisations.

The books taught me to read, and by extension, to write. My mother gave me a paperback copy of Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters when I was probably about eight-years-old. I remember that the book seemed daunting at first. It was long with many unfamiliar words and small type. I was intrigued by the fact that it was related to the television series I'd been watching. I read it many times over.

I then found to my delight that my local library had some of the books in hardback. I regularly borrowed these. I don't remember all of the titles they had, but I vividly recall that one of them was Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, because the disturbingly life-like cover artwork of Linx the Sontaran gave me horrible nightmares.

Around the end of 1980, I noticed a display bin full of Target Doctor Who paperback books in a local bookshop. My grandmother offered to buy me one, so I picked Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks because it looked exciting and had Daleks. I got this book days before my family went off on a two-week summer camping holiday. During that time away, I made it my mission to look for more of the books in any shop I could find. By the time I returned home my collection had grown to seven books.

This was the beginning of my obsession. I had an overwhelming desire to own every book in the series. There were so many to collect (around 60 were available by the end of 1980), and I didn't have very much pocket money so limited myself to only getting the Tom Baker Doctor books at first. Once I had almost all of these, I set my sights on the rest.

Eventually I caught up. By mid-1984 I had around 80 titles but there were still three I was having great difficulty tracking down: The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors and Four to Doomsday. Months of fruitless searching culminated in a triumphant discovery - I chanced across all three sitting together on the same shelf, newly stocked in my local bookshop. At last I had a full set! Thereafter it was a matter of building up the collection at the rate of one a month as each new Target title appeared in the shops.

My interest in collecting the novelisations was re-energised in the late 1990s, long after I'd completed a set of the full run of Target paperback books. I had fond memories of the hardback editions of the novelisations that I had first encountered in the library before I started collecting the paperbacks. The first three hardbacks had been published in the 1960s. Two more were issued in early 1974. Thereafter, the books were only issued in paperback until late 1975 when the hardbacks resumed, beginning with Planet of the Spiders. The ten books that had only been published in paperback were all later issued in hardback editions. The hardbacks and paperbacks initially appeared simultaneously but from 1983 onwards the hardbacks were issued several months in advance of the paperbacks. The hardback range ended in June 1988 and the last 22 novelisations were only issued in paperback.

I'd acquired a handful of the hardbacks from secondhand bookshops and fellow fans. It was only when I started using the Ebay auction site that I realised that it might be possible to collect a set of these editions. Ebay had many of the hardbacks listed reasonably cheaply and also often in even more cost-effective assortments of four or five titles. The condition of the books varied wildly, from much-scuffed and faded ex-library editions to immaculate never-been-read copies, but this variable quality simply adds to the charm of the collection.

 Although I was placing low bids for these hardbacks, I rarely lost an auction. There was only one title that I had to pay well over the odds for, and that was The Wheel in Space, one of the rarest of the novelisations. The last hardback in publication order, The Smugglers, was exceptionally difficult to find. I noticed an auction that described the book as a paperback but featured a photograph of the hardback. Possibly due to the misleading description no-one had placed a bid, so I took a chance. It was only when the parcel arrived in the post that I knew for certain that I'd got the right edition!

I collected the hardbacks at just the right time. In the late 1990s interest in Doctor Who seemed to have diminished, something that was reflected in the prices of secondhand merchandise associated with the series. A couple of years later, possibly fuelled by growing interest in the DVD releases and then later the new television series, the prices for these hardback editions shot up dramatically, and many of them are now impossible to find.

I have one of every novelisation issued in hardback. The Crusaders and The Auton Invasion are the 1980s reprint editions, but otherwise the books are as originally published.