It was the talk of Left Coast Crime in El Paso, whispered in the corridors, at the bar, and by the Spanish-speaking cashiers at the Arby’s across the street…
Have you heard about Shelly?
They were talking, of course, about Sheldon MacArthur, the proprietor of the Mystery Book Store in Westwood (and, for many years before that, The Mysterious Bookshop in West Hollywood). For a little guy, he’s one of the biggest personalities (and opinion-makers) in the Southern California mystery scene… the Yoda of crime writing. If you’re serious about mystery novels, as a writer or a fan, you make the pilgrimmage to his store to get his advice and his blessing. He’s a polarizing character… people either love him or hate him. I’m one of the guy’s who loves him… I was a loyal customer long before I was an author and I can sit for hours talking about mysteries with him.
Well, I could...
Lately, he’s been missing from the store and rumors about his disappearance are running rumpant. The story is that he’s on "extended leave." But I’ve heard lots of other explanations. Some say he had a nasty fight with the other investors in the store and he was kicked out. Others say he’s left to deal with a family emergency. Then there are those persistent rumblings about satan worship, gambling debts to the mob, and wild sex parties involving cats, quilts, and people dressing up as Robert Crais and Gregg Hurwitz.
I was in the store earlier this week and tried pumping the staff oh-so-subtly for information ("So, what’s the real story with Shelly? Is he sick? Has he been fired? Is he having an Extreme Make-Over?"), but they were tight-lipped. All they would tell me, Stepford-like, was that he was "on an extended leave."
So is Jimmy Hoffa, if you know what I mean.
The Mystery Bookstore’s anniversary party is this Saturday… and if he’s not there, his absense is sure to be a hot topic among the mystery writers and fans in attendance (who will include Robert B. Parker, Thomas Perry, Tod Goldberg, Patricia Smiley, Jerrilyn Farmer, Don Winslow, April Smith, Gregg Hurwitz, Bill Fitzhugh, Scott Frost, and, of course, yours truly).
I’ll report back on Sunday…
(that’s Shelly in the picture with Bob, who is doing his "I’m a grim mystery writer" face. I hear they have consultants now who teach mystery writers how to look street instead of cul-de-sac. Either Bob is practicing the face, or he just heard his production bonus check for HOSTAGE got lost in the mail. You can click on the photo for a larger image)