Farewell to the Mystery Bookstore

IMG_0057 Tonight, the Mystery Bookstore had their farewell party. It was a bittersweet event. It was great to see so many mystery writers and fans in one room…but sad to see a legendary, independent bookstore close down.


The owners and employees, in their good-byes, observed that they've never met a nicer, more supportive group of people than mystery writers and what a pleasure it was just having the chance to get to know them all.

They're right. As I was looking at all those faces, and talking to all those writers, I was struck by what an incredibly friendly, warm, and out-going group they are…and how much I like them.

Unlike TV, where there is a real class system…you don't see showrunners hanging out with staff writers and treating them as equals… that isn't the case at all among mystery novelists.  Everyone mixes together. The superstars like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais are as friendly, approachable, and supportive as the least-known mid-list writer. They don't just hang out with other writers in the bestseller list. Everyone treats one another with mutual respect. Sure, there are a few in the biz who don't, but those are the exceptions. 

The Mystery Bookstore was like our home, the place where all of us could get together several times a year, like a family gathering for the holidays, and talk shop and catch up with one another. Losing the store is like losing our home. I wonder now how often we'll all get together under one roof now that we've lost the store…my fear is that it will be hardly ever.

The loss of independent bookstores, which are really so much more than just places that sell books, is one of the real, and painful, downsides of the success of the Kindle.

(Pictured: Lee Goldberg, Dick Lochte, Thomas Perry)

7 thoughts on “Farewell to the Mystery Bookstore”

  1. Had I not been in Texas with my beloved daughter, I would have been there as well. When an independent book store closes, there should be an historical marker placed on the spot so future generations, when seeing the plaque, will ask, “What was a an independent bookstore?”

  2. Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t!!!
    God, I wish I’d known. I would have been there.
    So sad this is happening all over the place. And now with Border’s on the verge of bankruptcy, I fear my kids will see a bookstore-free world in their lifetime.
    I remember a few years ago I told Weinman we were headed for this, and she basically said I was dead wrong. I so wish she’d been right.

  3. I wish I’d been right, too, but if our conversation took place as long ago as I think it did, the Kindle had barely existed and nobody, least of all me, thought e-books would take off with as much disruption since – and especially in the last year.
    Borders and The Mystery Bookstore’s fates are linked, but ultimately due to different factors. Borders can blame changing market forces all they want, but they had years of incompetent management, terrible earnings reports and a steady stream of short-term thinking without anything resembling a long-term strategy (how, when management keeps changing annually with more money thrown in the wrong places.) But it’s also that perhaps we didn’t know the chain superstore had a limited shelf life of around 20 years. Now that it appears it does, whither B&N? Their most recent move is a big clue. So is the dichotomy between big digital gains and sliding brick-and-mortar store sales. As a public company, and one that is currently up for sale to the right bidder, they have to concentrate on what’s making them money, and the store model, sadly, is not it.
    But as painful as recent events are and future events will be on the bookstore front, I remain an optimist. Why? I talk to indie booksellers a lot, in person and on Twitter. There are some very smart people, not just on the ground but running the numbers. They are doing cool things, like creating shelftalkers with QR codes so that customers can buy e-book editions from the indie store, right there. They try subscription models, bundling, and find ways to make digital business work best for them in what context they can. They aren’t going to compete with the big behemoths and probably shouldn’t (because do we need another failed whale like Borders?) But I have to say, the mood in the independent bookseller world is about as optimistic as I’ve seen in years. Read some of the reports coming out of the ABA’s Winter Institute for a better idea of what I mean.
    Now, I live in Brooklyn, and I’m lucky to see how new-ish indies are thriving. Frankly, the mystery bookselling world could learn a hell of a lot from what general interest indies like WORD, Greenlight, Books of Edwards (in Colorado, I think), McNally Jackson, RiverRun in Portsmouth, NH, the Harvard Bookstore, and many more are doing. It’s unfortunate The Mystery Bookstore didn’t have that chance because I think they could have. We’ll never know; but it’s hardly too late for other stores in our community to figure out not just how they can eke out a tight margin, but to assure their future in a more forthright way.

  4. Independent anything is tough these days. The printed book will always be sold on a shelf. B&N may be the only physical store, aside from used books, but physical stores will always exist.

  5. You are correct about Robert Crais – a writer I had not read at all until I Googled “used books” on the way to Houston and discovered “Murder By the Book.” (which has been around for 30 years.) I walked in for the first time on a Saturday looking for a new series and Bobbie Tinn recommended books by Robert Crais. He pointed out that he would be signing the next day. So I bought 3 of his books (I now own 9) returned the next day and watched as he made the time to have a few words with each of the more than the 100 people who waited patiently in line, listening to him as he chatted with his fans. He graciously allowed the folks to take multiple pictures of him, with him, him holdings books, etc. One fan brought his junior high school yearbook in which Robert was pictured. Robert signed his yearbook picture, chatted nostalgically and hugged his former schoolmate and his wife as they left. By the way Lee, “Murder By The Book” still has a few, autographed first edition excellent copies of “My Gun Has Bullets,” and “Beyond The Beyond.” You are right, the covers are a bit comical. The cover art doesn’t do the stories justice. You are also right about the ma and pa independent bookstores. They have the charm and personal touch (plus enthusiastic devoted staffs) that the national chains don’t have.


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