Bouchercon 4

This isn’t really about Bouchercon, since I skipped Sunday’s program and headed out of Madison at 9 am. In a first for me, I only bought one book at Bouchercon and two in the city (vintage paperbacks by Harry Whittington and Charles Willeford for only $5.50 each!). I was quite pleased with my restraint. 

I drove into Milwaukee early, about six hours before my connecting flight to Chicago, so I would have a chance to explore the city. I roamed around mostly on foot and was charmed by the architecture of all the old buildings downtown. I even stumbled on a used bookstore and found some Richard Wheeler and George Gilman westerns I didn’t already have. Even so, I didn’t go crazy and didn’t spend more than $3-a-book.  Such restraint.

But then I went out to the Milwaukee airport, where I made a monumental discovery…The Best Airport Bookstore ever.  The place is called Renaissance Books…and it’s a used bookstore…in the airport.  And best of all, it’s full of vintage paperbacks at super-cheap prices.  I went wild.  I bought books by Harry Whittington/Whit Harrison, E.L. Doctorow (WELCOME TO HARD TIMES), Peter Rabe, Bart Spicer, Albert Conroy, Vin Packer, Stephen Marlowe, Frederick Manfred, and an IT TAKES A THIEF tie-in by Gil Brewer….at the airport! And only one of the titles, the Doctorow book, was over $7. I could have spent hours there if not for the flight I had to catch to Chicago.

So much for my book-buying restraint at Bouchercon.

10 thoughts on “Bouchercon 4”

  1. I grew up in Milwaukee and went to college in Madison. Amazingly, Milwaukee had a famous literary agent named Ray Puechner, whose clients included Loren Estleman, Gary Paulsen (winner of several Newbery prizes), Joe Lansdale, Ed Gorman, and myself. Later, he represented Barbara Beman, who flew up from Texas to meet her agent and ended up marrying Ray. She always reminded me of Olivia DeHavilland. When asked by a Texas friend what the northern industrial town of Milwaukee looked like, Barbara legendarily replied, “It looks like a ceiling.”

  2. I still live in Milwaukee. I always offer to pick people up at the airport just to hit the bookstore.
    The downtown location is nice too, but not as nice as Downtown Books on Wisconsin avenue.
    I’d mention other places I go, but then all the books I want to buy would be gone….

  3. The idea of a used bookstore, or a book exchange, in a major airport is so intuitive it’s amazing that there are so few of them. If marinas and truckstop towns have book exchanges, why not airports? (The answer is probably that airport retail space is so coveted and expensive that only chain bookstores and giftshops can rent it; and used books traditionally don’t bring in big money.)

  4. The economics of the used book trade are such that most cities in the world don’t have a base store big enough to support something like Renaissance Books’ airport store. Despite our big store and the other buildings full of unshelved merchandise, there are dozens of titles we can’t keep in stock, to say nothing of authors. We’ve been out there since August of 1979, and were the first (as far as we’ve been able to find out) in the world to open a used-book store in an airport.
    (And do give our monster place downtown [834 N. Plankinton, 1.5 blocks north of Wisconsin Ave.] a try; it’s like the Platonic ideal of gigantic, shabby, chaotic used book stores combining dross and treasures. Downtown Books, run by a disgruntled ex-employee of RenBooks, cannot compare in terms of sheer size of collection.)


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