Thursday, January 13, 2011

Somebody Kick The Fat Lady Back In Her Dressing Room

Los Angeles, CA

So a couple of days ago the announcement went out that The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood will close January 31st.

Well, shit.

The Mystery Bookstore is an institution, a home base, a port in the storm. It welcomes readers, authors, and almost-authors. The owners, Kirk Pasich and Pamela Woods, and the store's backbone, Linda Brown and Bobby McCue are the best sorts of booksellers. Nice, considerate, helpful, knowledgeable.

I have met more authors and made more friends because of that store than anywhere else. They have helped my career in more ways than I can think of.

First time I went in there my own writing was kind of stalled, didn't really know what I wanted to do with it. I had just joined Sisters In Crime, figuring I'd see how this whole crime writing thing works.

I walk in there and I see Linda, the nicest, most supportive person you will ever meet, and I ask her, "So, what's good?"

I have never seen anyone move so fast as when she shoved Victor Gischler's GUN MONKEYS, the Ugly Town edition, into my hands and says, "YOUHAVETOREADTHISOHMYGODITSSOGOODYOULLLOVEITTAKEITTAKEITTAKEITHERE". And she's so cute when she does that. Enthusiasm's infectious and Linda's Typhoid Mary.

You should see her talk about HELLO KITTY MUST DIE. It's fun to watch.

And then there's Bobby. Low key, deliberate, an encyclopedia of every sort of crime fiction written ever. Had I asked him that question I'd have gotten the same answer but he'd have started with, "Well, what do you like to read?"

The point here is that this is a store of people. Not nameless machines, not pissy high school students picking up a holiday shift. This store is a labor of love staffed by people who love the genre, love the authors, but most of all love books.

When I head the news I was devastated. Not just as a reader, or an author or even as some weirdo freak who likes hanging around musty libraries inhaling book dust like it's cocaine, but as an Angeleno.

L.A.'s culture exists in the cracks. It's not the movies, the flashy neon, Walt Disney Music Hall, The Pantages.

No, it's the indie band playing at some shady dive in East L.A., it's the graffiti murals painted on boxcars, is the little theaters in Hollywood where playwrights ply their craft. Passion, determination, space to create or to let creation stand. It's places like The Mystery Bookstore.

L.A. is losing a shining gem, an example of what this city could be, what this city, sadly, won't let itself be. It's a place for books that doesn't seethe with over-marketed hype. It's intimate, quiet, unassuming.

Like a host of other bookstores in the Southland that have gone down over the years its passing will lessen the landscape. The latest in a long litany of names: A Change of Hobbit, Either-Or, Dangerous Visions, Dutton's Brentwood, many more that I can't begin to remember.

On a more personal level I had hoped to have my first book signing there next year. Linda threatened me if I didn't. I don't fuck with Linda.

Now, of course, that's not looking like a possibility. I would have been nice to get my name in their register, a massive prison intake ledger with the scrawl of some amazing authors in it that show just how well loved this store is.

To their credit, Kirk and Pam are doing their damnedest to figure out how to save the store. They're brainstorming, white-boarding, scribbling eldritch sigils in chalk to find the elusive answer to the store's survival.

So the fat lady's not singing, yet. Crossing fingers. Toes, eyes, everything I got two of. Yes, even those.

But either way they're having a party on the 31st. 6:00 until, who knows? I'll be there, that's for damn sure.

The Mystery Bookstore is 1036-C Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

See y'all in a couple weeks.

1 comment:

Donald said...

I, too, was saddened by the announcement of the passing of The Mystery Bookstore. As a matter of fact I cried. Believe me, the sight of a sixty year old. overweight man crying is not pretty. In fact it's an image that world could miss in perpetuity and do quite well. The tears were for me and for the store and for the city, that can't seem to support and sustain the very place that give us such a great place to live.

See you on the 31st.