Patrick Chaplin: Susan Zimmer

Susan Zimmer - 'shaky the book lady'

In all realms of all sports, leisure and entertainment there are those fans who collect autographs of the top stars. Darts is no exception but, as I found out in the summer of 2007, there are darts autograph hunters and then there is 'Shaky the book Lady'

Susan Zimmer - 'Shaky The Book Lady'
'Shaky the book Lady'

Her real name is Susan Zimmer and she lives in Romford, Essex. Sue loves darts and she has been playing since she was a teenager. Currently a member of the Wickford Ladies’ Super League, Sue also travels hundreds of miles each year in search of the top players trying to secure not only their autographs but asking them to reveal other facts about themselves.

I met Sue, 42, for the first time last summer when her and her father Derek came to visit, to show me her books and to share with me her enthusiasm for the most popular sport on the planet. Her collection of autographs is awe-inspiring. These are no ordinary autograph books. They are not the sort that simply fit into the back pocket. They are large volumes packed full of data and are a fascinating record of the top-flight players on the circuit today – and she has tracked down a good number from yesterday.

The collection began in August 2005 when Sue’s brother, also Derek, gave her the book as a surprise birthday present. Her pursuit of darts players has been unrelenting ever since. Within a year, Sue had accumulated autographs of most of the Top 50 PDC players for 2005 (from the Number 1, Colin Lloyd to the Number 50, Gary Welding) and was busy filling the gaps for 2006. When we first met in May 2007, I was stunned when Sue asked for my details as she wished to include a page for ‘Doctor Darts’.

Each entry takes up on full page of Sue’s book. Sue asks each one for information ranging from date and place of birth, weight and make of darts used, hobbies and sporting hero, to their favourite football team. Sue’s father Derek travels with Sue to all the darts venues and takes a photo of Sue with each of her subjects. The Polaroid photos are then placed on the page, together with a set of each players ‘name’ flights. The last thing for them to do is then write a short comment about the book and sign it – and then the page is complete.

This may sound a long, drawn out process but, so far, no one has refused. Sue told me, “Andy Fordham was brilliant but to be honest all darts players, men and women, are very approachable but I always need to time it right. Sometimes they do not have the time to spend with the detail, so Derek takes the photo and then they see me later on to fill in the book.” Some players have been so impressed with Sue’s hobby that they have given her other memorabilia. For example, Wayne Mardle and Steve Maish each presented her with a shirt, Mark Dudbridge gave her a set of his named darts whilst Mick Manning presented her with the Bullshooter trophy he had won in Chicago in 1998. I was so stunned about being included that I gave Sue one of my limited edition ‘Doctor Darts’ dartboards, produced for me by NODOR in recognition of my award of PhD in 2006. She was thrilled, genuinely thrilled.

But who might you ask was the most difficult darts person to pin down to sign her book?

Susan Zimmer pictured here with Barry Hearn Chairman of the PDC
Photo of Sue with Barry Hearn ©2007 Sue Zimmer

When I met Sue again at the ‘Legends’ night at The Circus Tavern, Purfleet, last August, Sue was still seeking Eric Bristow’s and John Lowe’s autographs and was working hard to secure Alan Glazier’s signature. However, Sue proudly told me, “People said that it would be virtually impossible to get near the Chairman of the PDC, Barry Hearn, and ask him to sign my book, but I did it!” Sue added, “I went along to the Leyton Orient football club and contacted Barry Hearn’s P.A. I explained what I was doing was I was asked to leave the book with them. The next thing I knew I was being invited to tea with Mr. Hearn at his office!” Sue added, “When we met, Mr. Hearn told me how impressed he was with my work. He filled the book in and then had his photograph with me. He was amazing. I was so happy that he had taken time out of his busy schedule to see me.”

Nowadays, Sue is a familiar face at darts venues around the country and is well known amongst the darting fraternity. Everyone who sees or signs her book is in awe of her work. As Darren Webster wrote on his page in Sue’s book, ‘This album is one of a kind.’ It is indeed a unique book. Terry Jenkins wrote ‘We’ve something in common. You’re called Shaky and I’m shaky on the dartboard.’

But why ‘Shaky the Book Lady’?

Sue explained to me that is has nothing whatsoever to do with any medical condition – far from it. She told me, “I am known as ‘Shaky the Book Lady’ because whenever I approach a top darts player with my book and ask for their autograph I feel nervous and get the shakes.”

Ever modest about her achievements thus far, Sue intends to carry on with her task, one that appears endless as new players enter the PDC Top 50 on a regular basis. “I love what I do” Sue said, “And I know the players do too. However, I wouldn’t have got as far as I have without the help of my dad, Derek, my son Robert (known as 'Shrek') and my brother Derek. Nikky Honey (wife of Warwickshire professional darter, Dave Honey) has also been a tremendous help to me. Thanks too to all the dart players, commentators and officials who have signed my book.”

In time, what Sue is producing will become a valuable social document of the lives of those involved in the great sport of darts at this time. When I asked her what her plans were for the future, Sue merely smiled and replied, “Keep collecting.”

©2007 Patrick Chaplin

This article first appeared in Darts Player 2008 magazine in December 2007.

Photo of Sue with book ©2007 Chippix

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