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Driffield started as a booksearcher, obtaining titles to order for private customers, and in 1984 began producing a self-published guide to All The Secondhand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain. Hugely successful for its wit and wide coverage of the field, the guide was nonetheless idiosyncratic and often sarcastic, with entries such as: "the b[oo]ks are slowly transforming themselves back into rags"; "judging by body temp, shop seems to have expired in 1930"; "I could smell a bargain, pity was I had a cold that day"; "owner has been unwell recently with bad back (possibly caused by turning on the customers once too often)".
Driffield also launched a periodical called Driffs: The Antiquarian and Secondhand Fortnightly, although the magazine was rarely published as frequently as that and folded after 22 issues.
The guide went through at least five editions, dated 1984, 1987, 1991, 1992, and 1995. In the third he seemed to refer to a spell of mental illness after the publication of the second, though Francis Wheen thought this an intentionally misleading reference.
Identity and rape allegations
Although photos existed of Driffield (he fancied he resembled Raymond Carver), for a long time, little was known about him or his current whereabouts, or even if he was still alive, until 2014, when he was the defendant in a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, accused of five counts of indecent assault, one count of indecency with a child and two counts of rape. It was alleged that he had used these events as the inspiration for a novel. Driffield was found not guilty of these allegations. He stood trial under the name Xavier Driffield, although previously some sources had cited his name (seemingly erroneously) as "B.C.M. Driffield" and others as "David Richard Ian Frederick Field". He claimed to have been brought up in Newbury, England. In 1991, Francis Wheen considered that he "seems to be in his forties".
In popular culture
Drif appears as a character in Iain Sinclair's novel White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings. He appeared in the 1992 documentary The Cardinal And The Corpse, made by Chris Petit for Channel 4 and also featuring Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair.
- Sinclair, Iain (17 August 2003). "Driffield (or, The Man Who Thought He Looked Like Raymond Carver)". Talk of the Town. Independent on Sunday.
- Wheen, Francis (19 October 1991). "'A guide to Drif', an interview with Drif". The Independent. pp. 50–53. With a photograph by Michael Woods.
- Hay on Wye, a town of second-hand bookshops
- Mare, Tess De La (5 November 2014). "'Rapist used sex attacks on young girl as inspiration for novel – then sent copy to victim's family'". mirror. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
- Wheen, Francis (19 October 1991). "A guide to Drif". The Independent. pp. 50–53.
- Pradeep, Sebastian (February 2015). "London's fabled Book Runners". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
- Youle, Emma. "Abuser sent novel describing sex attacks on girl aged 11 to family, jury hears". Hampstead Highgate Express. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
- "BOOK DEALER CLEARED OF SEXUALLY ABUSING YOUNG GIRL – Court News UK". courtnewsuk.co.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
- "The Cardinal and the Corpse, directed by Christopher Petit | Film review". Time Out London. Retrieved 21 September 2018.