Fifty years ago, in 1971, I was the ‘bouncy girl reporter’ – as she described me – who accompanied Helene Hanff on her first visit to the antiquarian bookshop of Marks & Co, at the address she was about to immortalize: 84 Charing Cross Road.

In her book of that title, published in America in 1970, she simply reproduced her exchange of letters with the shop, starting in 1949. The anglophile Miss Hanff would pester Marks & Co for English classics, preferably slightly foxed.

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