Vortex Books

If you lived in Brighton in the 1970s and 80s and were into sci-fi then there was only one place to hang out – Vortex Books not far from Preston Circus. This was a shop that sold both comics and books and only sci-fi/fantasy. This was in the days before CDs / VHS /DVDs so what you had was a shop stacked high with all sorts of material, some of it imported from the states the rest the staple fare of the genre at the time – Asimov, Pohl and Moorcock being amongst my most common purchases (I won’t mention the Perry Rhodan series if you don’t mind!).

The shop was also clad in posters and book covers giving a very distinctive feel to the place along with the artistic paintwork on the window (I have no pictures). Vortex gets (to date) little mention on the internet but I did find a piece here where a Robin Riggs gives some personal recollections.

For me (getting a bit personal here) this was the place through which I made friends not only with Simon de Wolfe who ran the shop but also many other people; I had a period of going to science fiction conventions (Brighton hosted both Seacon ’79 and Eastercon ’84 [at which I got into Hawkwind see here]) and also become rather obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons though I have recovered from that. I was also fortunate enough to work there on Saturdays in the late 70s.

The shop no longer exists – how well it might have fought off the challenges of Amazon and eBook readers is not clear. It had an identity and in a town like Brighton it fitted in (though nowadays might need to be in the North Laine (where indeed Forbidden Planet used to trade). Be that as it may at least (for me) it is gone but not forgotten.

PS – in the absence of any proper pictures I used the Palace Pier as it is properly called and was in the 1970s / 80s


About Tony Jones
Big Finish writer, reviewer and blogger, I'm interested in science fiction and Doctor Who. I review for CultBox, The Doctor Who Companion and others. I am also Lead Writer for Starburst Magazine, and write the occasional piece for Vortex, the BSFA critical magazine.

2 Responses to Vortex Books

  1. Simon Mark de Wolfe says:

    OK lets start off with the paintings by Bob Layzell which were all originals which were on the walls from the earliest days, the in shop flyers/ adverts were by David Pugh who drew slaine for 2000ad (and other stuff). Which the shop did not fail I closed it because I was sick to the eye teeth with it being just stuck there (it did pay for my house) I had grown beyond bored as I was on my own could not expand I wished to shift to Oxford but another shop rainbows end opened while I was trying to find premises. Which killed that idea so with my fathers agreement we let the lease lapse.returned what books we could sold off the comic stock and the happiest moment of my life to the point turned the lock and walked away it had lasted for over 10 years!
    At least 20% of the books came from the u.s. and shipping in those days was quite cheap via American postal system, if customs found books they just checked none were shall we say dodgy so they always arrived.
    I hope this helps you a bit


    • HelmStone says:

      Simon – many thanks for the comments and the insight into how you found running the shop. I have tweaked my entry slightly and remembered to include working in the shop some Saturdays. I hope that not many of the memories are fond ones despite the way that it ended.


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