Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Losing a legend

Facebook has been abuzz today with news that the venerable Mystery Bookstore in LA will close its doors at the end of the month. It really is sad for Angelenos and Mystery Lovers in general. People all over the country, and truly the world, shopped at the store which became a real hub of the mystery community in Southern California.
For me, they were the first people to be unbearably kind to me in the mystery world. It was a trait I have seen replicated over and over but Linda, Bobby, Emily, Ingrid, Graham and the staff were so good to me you'd have thought I was James Ellroy in there instead of some punk who sold maybe 20 books through them (and trust me, I bought a hell of a lot more)
I thank them first and foremost as a reader. I got so many great recommendations! Nearly all the signed editions I own came from there. I feel like my drug connection is being sent to prison. What will I do?

I won't lie that among my first flurry of thoughts was, "Oh, crap. There goes my launch party for Borrowed Trouble." and, yes, that does depress the hell out of me. Not that I can't try to find somewhere else to have one, but that there is no where else I want to have one.
After what could have been a complete debacle on the launch party for One Too Many Blows To The Head, where we had no actual books for the signing, the staff turned it into one of the best lemonade-out-of-lemons experiences of my life. I knew I was among friends.
So many little things . . . Linda I bonding over our personal lives, and only learning about our shared connection through discussion of a Marcus Sakey book.
Being invited to the Mystery Bookstore booth at the LA Times Festival of books to sign alongside some of my heroes. To have Bobby and Linda (and Kirk and Pamela) treat me like an author, not just a small press author, but a real writer was so incredible.
All the other writers I have met there and become genuine friends with. Stephen Jay Schwartz, Christa Faust, Brett Battles, Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell, Sophie Littlefield, Gar Anthony Haywood, Holly O'Neill and recently Benjamin Whitmer and John Rector. I know I'll see them all again but I know it will be less frequently.
Seeing our book on a bookstore shelf for the first time ever. Every writer remembers that.
Bobby sending a copy of our book to Italy to a reader who didn't know squat about it but Bobby knew their taste and thought they'd dig it (reports were they did)
Signing the jail registry alongside all those great names - one page away from Mickey Spillane for @%$# sake!
No matter what I go on to achieve as a writer, The Mystery Bookstore will always be like a first love.

Too often in the gnashing of teeth over the new world of books and publishing the focus is on how the publishing houses will do, or not do, in a digital age. To me, today's news is the biggest tragedy. To have an indie bookstore that has no only helped me a writer but as a reader suddenly vanish is devastating. I wish I could have done more. Sold more books for them. Bought more books from them. Convinced more people to stop by and buy a book for a gift.
This is the most direct impact I have felt of the changing book world and the biggest difference for me will be that my life as a writer and a reader just got a lot more impersonal. The relationships I made there are valuable to me and I hope the community doesn't fall apart without a center to orbit around.
Time will tell how it really impacts us here is Los Angeles and I know most places never have the luxury of a store like the Mystery Bookstore at all.
I can only thank them for years of service to me as a reader and for their friendship and kindness to me in my still young adventures as a writer. They will forever be the one that got away.

Me at The Mystery Bookstore for my first ever reading at the launch party for One Too Many Blows To The Head. This will have to suffice as my first and last appearance at the store.


Kelli Stanley said...

Well-said, Eric. We've lost a little bit of our souls.

Linda, Bobby, Ingrid and Emily helped champion my first book, small press and difficult for bookstores to order as it was.

They invited me for my first-ever festival signing at their LA Times booth, which was an extension of the incredible, living space they created in Westwood.

The Times party before the festival was justly famous as one not to miss, and I've met some truly great friends there, like you and Holly West and Brett and Sue Ann and Dianne Emley and Jim Bell ... and the list goes on.

I can't even conceive of being in Los Angeles and not seeing the store. They're family. I love 'em.

God, this hurts.


Author Eric,

I can only say from the OtherCoast that your multilayered sadness is felt and your ever accurate words are a touching tribute to what a pulsating entity meant to so many.

Sure bet this heartfelt sensation from you touches them on some inner level for what's been created and surely grows on all the more.

sorry for yours and others loss.
Sounds like a tremendous "happening" y'all had. ~ Absolutely*Kate