16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 46

Digby Anderson

This year I have experimented with buying books not directly for their author, topic or literary merit but by colour. Green books have turned out to be a great success. One problem for those of us who buy books from charity and second-hand shops for 20p to £1 is that these shops display books rather chaotically. It takes time and, for those older ones amongst us, tiring effort

to bend and stretch in the hope of finding one particular book. But those Penguin green crime books are easy to spot and so enjoyable to read — I mean those originally written in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. Apart from the obvious Simenons, Allinghams and Inneses. I have enjoyed, this year, William Haggard (The Powder Keg), Anthony Berkeley (Murder in the Basement) and many others. You can trust the series totally. Just grab a handful. The mystery apart, they picture a charming, ordered England with scarcely a young person in sight; and they do so deftly negotiating the boundaries of irony and pastiche.

The worst book? I do know the author whose books remain stubbornly unbought on the second-hand shelves. Even at 50p no one will buy Anatole France.