The Mystery Bookstore

By Brett Battles

(Ingrid, Bobby and Linda at the front counter of the Mystery Bookstore)

 

On Tuesday, word spread across the Internet about the closing of the Mystery Bookstore in West Los Angeles.

The news hit me particularly hard – as I’m sure it did for most L.A. based authors. The Mystery Bookstore has been our “local”, to use pub terminology, the place we think of as our home store. Every single one of my books so far has had its launch signings there. In fact, until the announcement, my upcoming March release of THE SILENCED was also to have its launch signing there. But, sadly, is not going to happen now.

But this post is not an obit for this fantastic store. It is a remembrance and a flickering candle that maybe this is not the end.

Those of you who have been to the Mystery Bookstore know that its strength is its incredibly knowledgeable staff headed by Bobby McCue and Linda Brown. Tell any of the employees there what kind of books you like, and you’ll get recommended more choices than you know what to do with. They are just that good.

The thing that has been most important to me, though, is the store’s support, not just of myself, but of the whole mystery and thriller community.

But, if you’ll allow, a quick memory…

The first time I walked in the store was right after New Years, six months before the release of my first novel, THE CLEANER. I was a nervous first timer, and I almost left without introducing myself. Thankfully, I did. Bobby and Linda were immediately excited for me, and told me to make sure my publicist at the publisher contacted them about a launch signing. We talked books, and the industry, and the community. I didn’t walk out of there, I floated.

(My daughters and I at my very first signing at the Mystery Bookstore.)

 

I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve met because of the Mystery Bookstore, both in person and through recommendations, but it’s a lot. And the wonderful readers I’ve met, too, the true backbone of the community, happened because of the Mystery Bookstore.

To think the store won’t be there after January 31st for me to drop in on is incomprehensible.

Yesterday, I took a break from the book I’m working on, and drove over to the store. Bobby wasn’t in, but Linda was there, as was Pam who owns the store with her husband Kirk. Since purchasing it, they have been as diehard supporters of the genre and of me as the rest of the staff have been, and I know they have worked tirelessly to try to make things work.

I could see the strain of the decision in Pam’s face. I could hear it in her voice. This was not something that came easy.

I knew this wouldn’t be my last time at the store before it closes, but it would be one of them. I expected it to be a sad experience. But, on the whole, it wasn’t . Yes, they are closing, but all hope is not lost.

Pam and I talked for, I don’t know, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, and I learned that they are still trying to figure out ways to make the store live on. No, not as it currently exists. That’s over. As Pam said, and I won’t get this quote correct, the business model for the independent bookseller just doesn’t work anymore. At least, not in their case, and I have a feeling not in most.

But given that, she also thinks that doesn’t mean a viable model can’t be found. She and her husband Kirk have been racking their brains to come up with creative solutions. To that end, author Lisa Lutz, has grabbed the bull by the horns, and has been trying to come up with some ways to make things work. I’m told in the past 48 hours, she and Pam and Kirk have been trading ideas, and looking for alternatives. If you haven’t already read what Lisa has posted on her own blog, you’ll find it here

I told Pam that I was going to blog about the store today, and she said to let people know that this is hopefully not the end, and that if anyone, ANYONE, has ideas that might help them find a viable way in this new book world order, to let them know.

Who knows? One of us may have a solution that will not only help the Mystery Bookstore today, but other of our favorite bookstores that may be facing now or will face in the future similar issues.

Also, if you are in L.A. on January 31st, there will be a party at the store that starts at 6 p.m. I’ll be there. I know a lot of other authors (including some here at Murderati) will be there, too. Join us, and let’s celebrate this icon of our community.

One last thing…

So this is how wonderful the Mystery Bookstore is. As I was talking to Pam, Linda was helping a customer who was looking for books for a friend that were similar to a certain author. He walked out with a copy of my first book thanks to Linda. And she didn’t do that because I was there. She would have done it anyway.

That’s all. No questions today, but solutions are always welcome.

17 thoughts on “The Mystery Bookstore

  1. Alafair Burke

    Thanks for sharing your memories of this wonderful store. It's hard to imagine going on tour without stopping by to see Bobby, Linda, Pam, Kirk, and that cute signing area past the register. My bookend memories of visits to the store: signing my debut book for Bill Clinton, and Karin Slaughter helping flap 212 at my signing during this year's LA Book Festival. I'll be buying some books this weekend at my local indies.

  2. Cornelia Read

    Bobby and Linda and Ingrid have been so kind to me, personally and professionally. I wept when I read this news. The store is my very favorite place in LA, and this is heartbreaking.

  3. Debbie

    As I read this an image came to mind of the big books stores, with all there books but not too much personal interaction and only a passing knowledge of what is available.

    I then imagined several small bookstores all in one location, perhaps looking much like those bigger stores and yet, like a very classy flea market. Each store, it's own genre, and maybe a licenced cafe to boot. What about an electronics section that sold ereaders? Personally, I like the convenience of a store with multiple genres, the lazy one-stop shopping, at the same time, I enjoy supporting small businesses and connecting with owners and I think many people do as well. I've just tried to blend the two.

    Just wanted to add that I couldn't help but smile at your adoring fans Brett, camera and all. It is such a sweet picture, capturing a proud moment.

  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I am devastated. I know Bobby and Linda and everyone will go on to do even greater things for books and the genre, but it just doesn't seem possible that the concentration of wonderfulness that is TMB could just not be there any more.

    Can't the independents take over e-publishing? Somehow?

  5. Jason Starr

    Great post, Bret…This came as very sad and disturbing news, almost like a death. It's one of my favorite bookstores in the world, and always a priority for me in LA. I'm hoping a solution can be found asap.

  6. Rob Gregory Browne

    Great post, Brett. Bobby and Linda and everyone else over there will be sorely missed. The Mystery Bookstore has been very supportive of me over the last few years and I'm devastated by this loss.

    And the sudden realization that the LA Times Festival of Books just won't be the same without them is just sad…

  7. Allison Brennan

    Wonderful tribute, Brett. Being in mass market, it's much harder to get into indie stores, but the margins aren't high enough for them to carry us. Still, I've done a few signings at some mystery indies and they are definitely the most knowledgeable booksellers in the business of selling books.

  8. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Ugh, this is so tough. The Mystery Bookstore is so important to us in the L.A. area, and I know it's the focal point of book tours for authors everywhere when they come to California. The staff is phenomenal. I've had such good times there, and they've been amazingly supportive of my career. I had planned to spend a lot more time there in 2011, also, since my schedule has changed and it is now more flexible. I planned to attend around three author events a month.
    I do hope they can find another solution. I think it's great that Lisa is helping out.
    Could they follow the Poisoned Pen model? That's an indie that seems to be thriving.
    Thanks for your blog this morning, Brett, it means a lot to me as I'm sure it does to many authors and readers who have come to love The Mystery Bookstore.

  9. JT Ellison

    I'm heartbroken by all these stores closing We just lost Davis Kidd in Nashville. We tried to save it, but failed. I hope that y'all have better luck.

  10. Allison Davis

    With all of this creativity, can't we come up with a business model that will save our indepedent bookstores? Ugh. This store was very important in LA, and Linda was a wonderful contributor at this year's Bouchercon…sigh.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    Like others here, I'm so sad. The Mystery Bookstore was one of the first I ever visited as an author and Bobby and Linda – -and everyone else — was always so kind and so supportive. I wish I'd gone to the L.A. Festival this year in order to say goodbye. I don't get to L.A. much and now I have even less reason to go.

  12. lil Gluckstern

    I'm just a reader, but the thought of losing my favorite indie is just awful. I can't think of a solution, but I can imagine your sorrow at losing an old friend. I live in Half Moon Bay, CA and we manage to support three bookstores. Each has their own niche of readers, but I don't know how they get through. All my special orders go through my favorite, and I'm willing to pay a little more than Amazon's price with shipping to keep it going. I am addicted reader; cant give my bar.

  13. Fran

    Sadly, we at Seattle Mystery Bookshop understand completely. And we're fighting the good fight, but. . .well, we do understand. And we hope a solution can be found, and soon.

  14. Laura

    God, this is awful. I've never been there but I work for an independent, and we feel it. The pressure from the chain book stores and the department stores with their cut price books. But for every customer that says "Well it's $20 cheaper at Kmart, can't you price match??" There's at least one who says "That's so great! You guys really know what you're talking about!" I know that it's wishful thinking but I just pray that for the independents sake that the love of our industry keeps us alive and always stocking more range than the top 20.
    Best wishes to everyone and may the party on the 31st ROCK.
    Laura πŸ™‚

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