It would not be accurate to say the City in London is gill-filled with the aspiring literati, but it does have sufficient numbers of commuters to squeeze a handful of bookshops between its coffee and sandwich bars. Whilst browsing in one of these last week, I noticed that shop and assistants alike were unusually enthused by some publishing marketeer’s push of the month – the latest from a thriller writer. The vividly branded book covered several tables, the better part of the new releases shelves, the window displays and the sales desks, and staff were adding to the phenomenon even as I watched. A bewildered rage was only averted when I spotted the author himself squeezed amongst towers of his work, whose dangerous height threatened some kind of symbolic justice.

Immediately he became a sympathetic figure. I’ve read a book or two of his, and at their best they’re imaginative and entertaining – even thrilling. The better for us and for him that they’ve become popularist – there’s far worse that the publishing industry could do than take a well-liked writer and publicise him. He was playing the marketing game in the cultural lucky-dip of the City, alone at his desk, diligently signing endless copies of his book like a processing clerk and smiling gamely at anyone who looked as if they might be approaching.

Since I know someone who likes his books very much, I had a copy signed. He had a practiced amiability, but it was genuine nonetheless. We had a short chat, and I tripped happily away, my first Christmas present ticked off the list. Call me easily won over, but I left ashamed of my earlier outrage. Bowler hats off to him.