The tension was rising, the big day approached and to my surprise, I found I’d already had quite a lot of interest in The Little Book of Nits, not least from parents congratulating me on having the guts to address the subject in the first place. At this juncture I would like to add that the book is a joint effort obviously, but as a bookseller front-of-house as t’were, my adoring public know only me. Yeah, right. The adoring public actually only know my partner Jonathan, as he is the face of the business and there behind the till 7 days a week but that is why I have been so surprised. Clearly Richard and I have struck a chord.
So, when a really bright friendly lady gushed in and contrary to my usual experience, where the customer’s eyes desperately seek out Jonathan and fail to disguise their disappointment at obtaining only me, and asked if I was the Justine who had written the nit book, I was genuinely dazzled. Yes, that’s me! I offered, unable to supress my pride. Brilliant! she replied. Finally somebody has written about the b*stards! Of course, she continued breezily, ultimately the only thing that works is lavender oil…
My smile froze. Too late, she’d spotted it and stopped short. You, she eventually said, are going to tell me I’m wrong..
W..w.. we don’t endorse any products, I stammered. Lavender has been used for centuries as a remedy. We look at tea tree oil and citronella too. All these things have been used historically as er, natural repellents but, um, there’s no scientific, er, proof as such. Now she was disappointed and no doubt wishing Jonathan had been there afterall. I tried to fix things by explaining we examine all sorts of treatments in the book, from mayonnaise to electric zappers but I could tell we’d lost her.
The truth is the Bugman and I reach one conclusion in the fight against infestation, one sure way to keep the ghastly uninvited guests at bay. I wanted to SHOUT it out loud to her and anyone else scratching nearby (inevitably, when the subject arises…). At this point, the book was, to coin a bookseller’s term, NYP – not yet published – the wine was still on ice and the posters on order at the printers, so I couldn’t show her what I meant. You must use whatever works for you, I finally suggested and she left wishing us luck for the launch party, as deflated as a Poundland balloon.
The solution to head lice, I should have said, is a darn sight cheaper than vials of delightfully fragranced oils with pretty labels. But I’m a bookseller and not just an author – you won’t shift many books by revealing the ending of a story before your customer has cracked open the first page, and at this particular moment we were still waiting for the stock to be delivered so that we could celebrate.
So, I hear you ask, now that the party is over, just what is this mysterious conclusion that you and the Bugman arrive at? Come close and I’ll whisper it: The Little Book of Nits, Bloomsbury, £7.99, available from all good bookshops…