The first Picador I bought for myself would almost certainly have been Ice by Anna Kavan. As soon as I saw it – probably on a stall at Camden Market, which would also have been the source of my first Knut Hamsun in the shape of Hunger – I recognised the cover painting by Paul Delvaux, who had replaced Dali as my favourite artist after I had first seen his work on the cover of a single, 'Dark Entries', by Bauhaus in 1980 (another Christmas present from my parents).
The inclusion of several of the same names from Black Water in another anthology, The Naked i edited by Frederick R Karl and Leo Hamalian, meant that that book was snapped up as soon as I set eyes on one. My copy of the follow-up volume from the same editors, The Existential Imagination, bears a stamp from Hughes Parry Hall, the intercollegiate hall of residence where I lived in King's Cross during my first two years at the University of London. I have a dim memory of this appropriation being officially sanctioned by the hall's vice-warden, David Brown, who, in his flat beneath the squash courts at the top of the tower, had a good run of copies of the London Magazine, a publication to which I would send my short stories when I started writing them in 1983. The editor, Alan Ross, would send them back with kind notes. The editor of Ambit, Martin Bax, where I also submitted work that, I realised later, was a long way off ready, would send slightly more irascible rejection slips, but that didn't put me off buying his Picador novel, The Hospital Ship.
The Best of Saki was one of the few Picadors, like Black Water, that I bought – or had bought for me – new. The novels and collections of Gabriel García Márquez I found secondhand. Original cover illustrations attracted me to books by writers who were unknown to me. I picked up Emma Tennant's Hotel de Dream because the cover art by Griselda Holderness reminded me of paintings I had seen by Wilma Johnson; I recognised John Holmes's work, on the cover of Monique Wittig's The Guérillères, from his many covers for the Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories series and others. Over the years, before I started collecting Picadors simply because they were Picadors, I would continue to judge books by their covers, lining up Emma Tennant's other titles, any other Picador covers by John Holmes, and finding new favourite cover artists in Robert Mason, George Underwood, Stephen Pusey and others.
Despite owning my own copy of Black Water, I take down the copy from the shelf in Oxfam and open it. On the dedication page is a note, in black ink: 'Dear M, fondest love, B x. 25.12.83.'