The plot thickens with almost no end in sight to the mystery of why Sailing to Purgatory has become the most difficult book to buy in Britain. Could it be that the book-selling industry likes it too much to share and is determined to keep it as their best kept secret?

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Disguised arrival ... instead of an Amazon delivery van, the story arrived in a Royal Mail trolley.
As visitors to SailingToPurgatory dot com's website know, the organisation that might be the biggest seller of books in UK is following a very unusual strategy. For some aspiring readers, Amazon says no can do. To me, they have just said that they can't supply for a few more days. Only they have just delivered a copy - by the cleverest stealth.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Cover story ... after the on-again-off-again emailing from Amazon, the well-known envelope did contain Sailing by the Stars.

Waterstones, presumably the second major book seller, has been cancelling orders for Sailing to Purgatory today. They emailed at least two aspiring readers, saying, 'Unfortunately your order has been cancelled.'

The brief, er, explanation goes on to give no explanation, except to say that an explanation must have been given already.

However, one should be positive. What's the common man to know of the ways of booksellers? But what then about the copy that has been delivered?

Promised non-delivery

Originally, that one was expected last night. I was ready to photograph the contradiction: the promised delivery or the promised non-delivery.

Either the staircase up to the abode would creak under an Amazon deliverer rushing up them, the only copy of Sailing to Purgatory in hand. Or the stairs would remain silent with no hunky bloke doing the delivery, so no smiles of pride perhaps for being chosen for the exclusive task.

I had my reliable Pentax ready by the door. However, a little later, Amazon said the delivery wouldn't happen now till this morning. The camera remained ready.

Amazon men can make early visits, so your photographer was ready before dawn. The tablet chimes counted off 0700, then 0800, then 0900, and still the stairs remained unAmazoned. By 10am, it seemed the alternative Amazon message that no book is available must be the correct option.

Sense of humour

The postman used the stairs. No, he hadn't seen an Amazon van in his travels.

By lunchtime, it seemed there'd be no delivery. The grim realisation struck home. If Amazon can't get Sailing to Purgatory to the people, no-one can. Unhappily I pulled a packet from the letter-slot that the postman had left, assuming it contained the regular advertising flyer from a better sex studio, or undertaker, or care home firm. I opened it. It was the book, Sailing to Purgatory . I smiled at Amazon's sense of humour to have secreted the delivery via the postman.

What a relief. Just as I was about to respond to people who couldn't get a copy, to advise them to contact amazin' Amazon, who've now got it sorted, another email arrived. Yes, from Amazon. They were pleased to say that Sailing to Purgatory is in stock now and would be delivered at the end of the week.