RAF Coltishall book flying high

He's derailed the Nigella Express and evicted Jamie at Home from the top of the bestsellers list.This Christmas, it seems the must-have read is the story of a defunct Norfolk airbase.

He's derailed the Nigella Express and evicted Jamie at Home from the top of the bestsellers list.

This Christmas, it seems the must-have read is the story of a defunct Norfolk airbase.

Even Mick Jennings' publisher has been surprised by the runaway success of Royal Air Force Coltishall: Fighter Station.

The literary market in aviation history is known in the book trade as a small niche, one which attracts loyal buyers but rarely manages to make much impact on the shelves.

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But the success of the RAF Coltishall book written by former station historian Mr Jennings will not come as a complete bolt from the blue for all those who know how much the base meant to so many people.

With a larger than normal initial print run of 1,500 copies, specialist aviation publisher Martyn Chorlton was initially concerned he may not have been able to shift all of his stock.

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But just a month since publication, he has sold out and ordered a reprint.

This does not mean there is a shortage in the high street, as there are still several hundred copies available in bookshops.

But with the second run not due to be available until the second week of January, there are fears the remaining copies will sell soon and leave some disappointed customers unable to buy the Christmas present they wanted.

The irony of the success is made all the more compelling by the fact there is such continued frustration at current government dithering over the future of the site, which could be turned into an immigration centre, a prison or neither.

Several shops in Norfolk have been selling the book, but leading independent retailer Jarrold has been one of the key locations.

“I have been totally blown away by the fact that Jarrold have sold or advance ordered two-thirds of the first run; I could never have predicted that in a million years,” said Mr Chorlton, who runs Old Forge Publishing in Lincolnshire.

“Mick's book is their bestseller at the moment and we hope that sales will continue into the new year.

“Another run has been ordered but this will not arrive until January 8, so a few frustrated punters this Christmas.”

Mike Butler, book buyer at Jarrold, said: “It has been going extremely well and is not just our bestseller in the local interest category, it has been outselling the likes of Nigella and Jamie Oliver as well.

“We thought it would be a big one before publication because we had a lot of advance orders before any real official announcement had been made.

“It is very much our sort of book - Jarrold has a great reputation for local interest. And the fact it is such a beautiful commemoration of the station, with a great job done by Mick Jennings, makes a great difference.

“We have sold 400 already and we have plenty left; it would be nice to think the last one will go out of the shop on Christmas Eve afternoon!”

John Welton, who worked at the base for 15 years and is secretary of the Spirit of Coltishall Association, which was formed to perpetuate the memory of the station, said he was now halfway through his second reading of the 304-page book.

He said: “It is a tremendous book, absolutely superb and tells the story through a lot of different eyes. It demonstrates that Coltishall was not just a bunch of buildings, but somewhere held in very high regard by many people. It is very much a definitive history and I know Mick is thrilled with the result.

He added:“Normally the aviation book world is very thin and restricted, but the keenness with which this book has been received speaks volumes about how Coltishall was regarded in the local community.”

Royal Air Force Coltishall: Fighter Station, A Station History is priced at £25 and is available from Jarrold, Bertram Watts in Sheringham, Holt Bookshop and Barnwell & Sons in Aylsham.

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