by Wendy Hornsby
Just as I head out to launch my new book, The Color of Light, word comes about the loss of another old friend. Book ‘em Mysteries in South Pasadena is closing its doors. My signing event there, with Naomi Hirahara and Sue Ann Jaffarian, at 2:00 on April 6 will be their last.
Book ‘em opened during the early 1990s, during the glory days for mysteries and specialty bookstores, and they immediately became the hub for a large community of mystery readers. Those were heady times not only for independent bookstores but also for many newly published writers, especially women; they certainly were exciting times for me at the beginning of my life as a published writer.
Somehow, with a day job and kids to raise, during that period I managed to write a book a year; the boundless energy of youth, I suppose. Generally in the fall, my publisher would bring out my new book in hardcover, and at the same time issue the mass market paperback edition of the previous year’s book. As soon as the new book was announced, invitations would come from bookstores for signings or, better yet, readings. Every invitation was like an invitation to a debutante ball, a coming out party for the new book: new readers to meet, new places to go.
In the days before Facebook and Twitter and blogs and their ilk—before the juggernauts of Barnes and Noble and Amazon—authors depended on bookstores to get out the word about worthy books. Without the enthusiastic support of independent bookstore owners and their staff, I know that, by my own efforts, I would not have generated the sales numbers necessary to have been offered the next book contract, and the next. That is, I doubt I would have had a writing career, whatever that is or was, as Laura Crum pondered here last week. But, one after another, those wonderful bookstores have closed their doors, until there are very few left.
The closing of Book ‘em feels like the end of an era. The owners, Mary and Barry Martin, who opened the store after Barry retired from working in television, announced that, this time, they are retiring, period. I wish them all the best, but at the same time, I feel sorry for the loss of another wonderful independent bookstore, and a lovely old friend. Mary and Barry, and later with Jean Utley aboard, were always gracious, enthusiastic hosts and cheerleaders. They will be missed. Mazel tov.
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