Martin Goff

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Martin Goff, born in 1923, the son of a Russian fur dealer who had emigrated to London and established himself with great success. As a youth, Goff read prodigiously, and at 19 he was offered a place at Oxford to read English, but he joined the RAF and served in the Second World War instead. After the war, at age 22, Goff decided to become a bookseller: in 1946, he opened his first shop and before long opened others.

In 1948 he took a lease on a shop in St Leonard’s-on-Sea, East Sussex, where he horrified the local community by clearly labelling one section of books “Sex”. Moving to Surrey in 1950, he bought an established bookshop, the Ibis, in Banstead. He believed that imaginative window displays brought in customers, as did personal service. Goff’s fame spread beyond Surrey [1].

Goff published his first novel, The Plaster Fabric, in 1957, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain and authors who wrote openly about it could find themselves prosecuted. However, the book earned a rave review from the popular poet and critic John Betjeman.

He went on to publish several other novels; three of these--The Youngest Director (1961), Indecent Assault (1967) and Tar and Cement (1988)—dealt with gay themes. He has also published a number of non-fiction works, including books on collecting vinyl records.

Goff is credited by many as one of the most significant figures in modern British fiction for his involvement with the Booker Prize, which he helped to create and oversaw for its first 36 years [2].

Goff died in 2015.[3].


  1. From obituary in The Guardian (link in Reference no 3)
  2. from : (accessed 31 December 2023)
  3. (accessed 31 December 2023