Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To The Mystery Bookstore, With Love

Just found out that The Mystery Bookstore in L.A.'s Westwood neighborhood is closing. How do I begin to express how sad I am and what a sad thing this is for Los Angeles?

Perhaps, best to begin at the beginning. I had long been a patron of the store's original West Hollywood location on Beverly Boulevard when it was called Mysterious Books, run by Sheldon McArthur.  He and assistant manager Richard Brewer knew everything and everyone in the mystery genre, in both the creative and business sides. 

After I'd sold my first book, Cold Call, in 1992 (published in 1993 under the name "Dianne Pugh"), I attended one of Mysterious Books' birthday parties which were always packed with authors and fans. I was exicited to attend as a "real" author.

The book Connelly signed for me that day.
After chatting with Shelly, he pointed out a bespectacled man standing alone.  "That's Michael Connelly," he said. "His first book is out. It's fantastic. You should buy it because Connelly is going to be big." I thought that was a bold statement, but I went over and introduced myself and asked Michael to sign a book for me. We chatted. I asked if he was contracted for another book and he said he was writing a second book "on spec."  I remember feeling a little smug because I had just inked a two book contract... 

With Bobby McCue and Linda Brown.
Fast forward fourteen years to 2006.  With five books in my Iris Thorne series by Dianne Pugh behind me, I took a hiatus from writing for a few years and pretty much retreated from the writing world, which is a story for another day. Mysterious Books was now The Mystery Bookstore and had moved to its Westwood Village location. I'd landed a book contract for my new Detective Nan Vining series under my newly minted married name "Emley." I headed off to Westwood (my former home as a UCLA student) to sign The First Cut. I was thrilled when "Dark Bobby" McCue ("dark" because of his tastes in crime fiction) had selected it as his pick for the month. I met Linda that day, too. We had a great event and a great chat during and I signed the "jailhouse register." On the front table were a few of my Dianne Pugh books. They'd been her fan as well and had wondered where she had gone.

Me mugging with a Nancy Drew standee (taken by Bobby)
So many fun Mystery Bookstore book launches (mine and friends), parties, and stories. So many great book recommendations by Bobby and Linda, who, of course, knew everything and everyone in the genre. 

We had some silly fun at my last signing there for Love Kills in March 2010. In the window was a cardboard standee to commemorate Nancy Drew's 80th birthday. Of course, I had to have a photo with it. Might they have a prop I could hold? A fake gun, perhaps?  Linda and Bobby scurried around and came up with a magnifying glass. We took some photos, all of us giggling like kids, and they put one of the photos in their newsletter.

When Kirk Pasich and Pamela Woods bought the store, I thought, "Whew, the store dodged a bullet."  I admired their dedication to mystery books and authors, and I admired their bravery, taking on an independent bookstore in this day and age. I applaud you, Kirk and Pam, for taking a stand, even though the bullet was out there, waiting. And Bobby, Linda, Stephen, Clair, Emily, Graham, Ingrid, and Allie, and all the staff I've gotten to know through the years (forgive me if I've missed anyone), thanks for the memories. Los Angeles is lessened by the store's passing.


  1. Thanks, Marlyn. I'm so sad about this.

  2. Bookstores, like newspapers, are having to face the move to a paperless society. Another big challenge in historically tough bisinesses.

    That bookstore looks familiar. In the Village so, I'm wundering what street. Westwood or Weyburn?

  3. I wonder what will replace our beloved independent book stores. Are we already seeing their replacement? Coffee shops?

    I had thought the huge book stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders were killing the little stores, but those companies are suffering, too. The only thing that never changes is that change happens. I'm interested to see what these changes bring.

  4. Cafe, it's on Broxton. I doubt we will ever be completely paperless, but less reading material on paper for sure.

    Petrea, It will be interesting to see where we are in five to ten years. The good news is, people with e-readers tend to buy more books!

    I make an effort to shop at our independent, Vroman's, even though I pay more for books. But it's part of a shopping experience for me and I'm supporting my local economy, so it's worth a few extra bucks. Vroman's has done a great job of diversifying--coffee shop, gifts, etc. Yet, Amazon tugs at me, especially when I need to mail a gift... free shipping often. With a very specialized store like the Mystery Bookstore, business has got to be really tough. Plus rent in Westwood has to be outrageous.

  5. I am a native LAer but live "abroad" in Texas for work. I have four stops right off the bat when I come home: the beach (need the ocean fix), Small World Books, Dutton's (sob!) on San Vincente, The Mystery Bookstore (sigh). Two of the four are now gone.
    By the way, I gobbled up your Vining books. I love them.

  6. Yes, it's so sad, Antoinette. Hopefully you can always count on the beach being here when you come home!

    Glad you enjoy my books. Thanks so much for your note.