Bookshops boycott the Life of Manning

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The Independent Online
Booksellers are boycotting a new biography of Bernard Manning, the controversial Northern comedian.

Eight out of 10 Waterstones bookshops in London have chosen not to stock the book. The eight all stock or have stocked other comedians' biographies by the author, Jonathan Margolis, such as Lenny Henry, John Cleese and Billy Connolly.

Even in Manchester, Mr Manning's heartland, the book is absent from the shelves of W H Smith. In Liverpool there is no sign of the book in Waterstones, nor at Dillons in Cambridge,

The book is also missing from one of London's largest Waterstones branches, in Kensington High Street. Iain Chambers, its biography buyer, admitted: "You can't stop your personal feelings coming in." He said he found the comedian "quite repugnant", "completely repellent" and "just another racist comic".

While he was "prepared to represent the book" - he ordered two copies in October - Mr Chambers was not upset when they never arrived.

Mr Manning falls into the same category as David Irving, the revisionist right-wing historian, according to Mr Chambers. "We would order Mr Irving's books if someone asked for them, but I'm not about to put them on our shelves." He added: "I can't think what Margolis could say about Manning to make me want to read about him, because he's just offensive."

Mr Margolis is shocked by the booksellers. "It's clearly a dangerous and subversive book and one copy in the British Library for academics to refer to in years to come is clearly the kind of audience the bookshop managers in Britain have in mind.

"I believe what's happening is a snobbishness masquerading as right-on politics. There's a feeling that they can look cool by not stocking a book. I feel it's morally wrong for bookshops to censor in this way."

Mr Chambers said: "I wonder whether Bernard Manning gives a toss one way or the other."

Apparently not. Mr Manning, 66, who has performed several nights a week for the past 37 years at his Manchester club The Embassy, rejoined: "Ask how many booksellers have a Rolls-Royce and a Cadillac with personalised number plates."