The Peckham literary festival sounds like a con dreamed up by Del Boy in an episode of Only Fools and Horses, but it is now a long-standing festival (well, by the standards of literary festivals), largely organised by the Review bookshop in Peckham.

Living down the road in Brixton, I've always had a snooty attitude to Peckham, because even when the cars were burning and dried dandelion was being sold as skunk on street corners to wide-eyed Italian teenagers, Brixton had a Bohemian crust: no doorway seemed to be without a novelist, slightly successful rock musician or transvestite, and frankly the last time anything cultural happened in Peckham was when Dickens passed through in 1867 (but then he stayed just about everywhere).

But times have changed. The Trots used to run a good bookshop in Brixton, but it closed a decade ago (it's interesting how the Trots seem to have withered away without the bogeyman of the Soviet Union to keep them going). The Vivaldi piped out at Brixton underground station and the throng of bankers and account executives sipping cappuccino outside the Ritzy cinema seem to preclude the possibility of serious disturbances, and as a connoisseur of riots, I'd rate the thrashing of the high street this summer as more extreme shoplifting than an honest-to-God Joe Strummer insurrection.

Walking down Peckham high street, I still feel there is a powerful seediness (Eritrea circa 1982) and no redeeming features, but a strange thing happens if you turn down a side street that looks like a side street you shouldn't turn down – suddenly there is organic pizza and … the Review bookshop.

On paper, the location must be the worst in the world – not just in Peckham, but in a backstreet of Peckham. The success of the Review bookshop is a testament to the tenacity and taste of its owner, Roz Simpson. It is very small, but it has what every serious reader dreams of – a truly intelligent selection of new titles and someone who can give you reliable advice and coffee. Plus a dog. As they say in the Michelin guides, worth a detour.

Tibor Fischer's most recent novel is Good to Be God, published by Alma Books



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