Adventures in the Book Trade (Part 14)

In which The Author makes a rep blush

Last night I remembered another trade rep who became a good friend while I was working in Dillons/Waterstones. I’d tried to remember her name when I was compiling my original list, but it wouldn’t come to me. Last night I was watching an episode of NCIS which featured a character named Daphne, and the penny finally dropped.
Daphne was the rep for Churchill Livingstone and its related imprints – medical, nursing, and allied health science books. As you can probably imagine, some of the contents were pretty graphic and quite hair-raising, to say the least.
Joely from Times Mirror once told me that the BBC in Bristol had a standing order for each new volume in their very expensive, glossy and frightening Colour Atlas series. I wondered why, and Joely explained that the special effects team on Casualty and Holby City used them as guides, to make their make-up and prosthetics as realistic as possible. They’re not the sort of coffee table books you want lying around when the vicar calls for tea.
Daphne had a rather bizarre sense of humour, which is probably essential when you’re dealing with this sort of material. After a while, you’ve probably seen and heard it all. One day, though, I made her completely stop in her tracks.
We were looking at the Advance Information sheet for a book called Reoperative Urology, and there was a synopsis of the contents. One chapter was entitled simply ‘Priapism’ – and I could tell straight away that Daphne didn’t know what it meant. So I told her.
‘You know sometimes a chap can’t get it up?’ She nodded. ‘Well, priapism is when a chap can’t get it down.’
‘Oh my god, is that real?’ she asked, and blushed to the roots of her hair once she’d managed to stop giggling.
The word almost turned up again a few years later, when I was a student. During a very wet and windy lunch break, I bumped into Tim R., one of our psychology lecturers, wrestling with an umbrella outside the library. I knew how exactly he felt, because my own umbrella had died earlier that morning.
‘It looks as if it’s had its day,’ I remarked.
‘It’s a nuisance,’ Tim replied. ‘It goes up okay, but then it won’t go back down.’
‘You know that’s a recognised medical condition, don’t you?’ I said with a wink.
Tim’s filthy laugh was still echoing off the library walls as I walked away.

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