Cell at Eastern State

Cell at Eastern State

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last of the Independents

(Parts of this post were originally posted on the St. Martin's Minotaur blog, Moments in Crime)

I recently got word that a review of Dope Thief was going to appear in the Las Vegas Weekly. Whenever I get hear about a new review, I call the local independent bookstores to see if they're carrying the book. Unfortunately, the day that I got notice that the review was going to appear, I called the last independent bookstore in Las Vegas that carries new, secular books, only to find out they had been given the word they were going to be closed by the casino that owned them within a month.

Luckily, the Barnes and Noble I reached out there was willing to put the book in stock, but it was another depressing sign about how much independents struggle now to stay afloat.

I thought I’d take a minute to render an appreciation of some of the independent bookstores that have not only hosted my events, put my books on their shelves and generally shown great support to me and other local writers, but also who have provided me with nearly all the great books that both entertained and educated me over the years. Everything I know about how to write has come from reading, and more often than not the books I’ve read have come from independent bookstores (and not just because I’m so old that I predate the chains).

Doylestown Bookshop hosted my first event, which meant a lot to me because it’s the local bookstore of the town where I’ve lived for thirty-five years. Doylestown has always had an independent bookstore, though for years it was Kenny’s News Stand, a tiny candy, lottery and magazine place that stocked very little besides mystery and romance novels, though they were happy to order anything you wanted. Doylestown Bookshop is a huge place, occupying what used to be County Linen, a fixture on South Main Street since the fifties. The bookshop is owned by Pat and Phil Gerney and managed by Shiloh Hopwood, and they do an amazing job of supporting local authors. There are events there just about every week, and more often than not there’s a local connection to the featured writers.

Doylestown was the first bookseller to host the Liars Club, a local Philly-based writers group that includes myself, Jonathan Maberry, Leslie Banks, Greg Frost, Jon McGoran, Kelly Simmons, Merry Jones, Ed Pettit and a bunch of other great Philly-based writers, producers and creative types. We decided it would be a great thing to throw a series of celebrations for local independent bookstores, and we’ll be doing events at the Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, NJ (this Saturday at 1:00pm), Aarons in Lititz, PA, Womrath’s in Tenafly, NJ, and other area bookstores as we can.

Farley’s in New Hope, owned by Jim and Nancy Farley, has been in the same location in the middle of New Hope, PA, since the 1960’s. I used to spend hours in there when I was young, getting lost in the great helter-skelter confusion of shelves and stacks, and I’m always glad when I walk in and find that the place is still jammed to the rafters with an eclectic assortment of books.
Julian and Lauren set me up at a table in front of the store one Saturday in May and I had a blast haranguing passersby and giving away Oreos and Nutter Butters, selling a few books for them and having a great time.

Chester County Books and Music is a legendary Philly-area store. It’s by far the biggest bookstore I’ve ever seen, taking up 38,000 square feet in a shopping center in West Chester, PA. I remember when it was a little store in another location out
by 202 that sold surplus textbooks, and now it's an excellent book and music company with an on-premises restaurant. Thea organized an event for the thriller-writers contingent of the Liars Club – Kelly Simmons, Jonathan Maberry and Jon McGoran, and also included Minotaur’s Keith Gilman, author of the Shamus Award-winning Father’s Day.

The Liars Club will be doing more events, and our concept for celebrations of indies has caught the interest of the ABA, NAIBA and other organizations. It’s a great way to get the word out about the importance of local booksellers to the lives of their communities, and allows us to market ourselves and our books in a way that’s a little more fun than the standard signing.

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