More correctly, my favorite indie bookstores in the Los Angeles area.
I’ll start with one closest to my home, Book’em Mysteries, in South Pasadena. A fixture of S. Pasadena for some 20 years, they are what their name says: specifically a mystery bookstore. Owners Barry Martin and Mary Riley are survivors, what with this lousy economy and the fire-breathing Amazon.com/e-book dragon lurking round every corner. Book’em has a loyal following of both readers and writers. If there’s a mystery writer, he or she has done a signing here. Favorites include Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Crais. Even little ol’ me has had a signing at Book’em. Mystery writers love Barry and Mary because of the care and attention they give all of their books.
The store is located on an attractive street, and is bright and nicely laid out. If you’re looking for some gifts for the holidays, drop in and pick a couple books up from Book’em. Get one of their lovely dark blue Book’em coffee mugs too, while you’re at it.
From Book’em, we go down the 110 South Freeway to the 10 West and exit on Crenshaw to the Leimert Park neighborhood, where we find the venerable Eso Won Books. One of the few independently Black owned bookstores in Los Angeles, it has a singular historic and socio-economic importance in the African American community, but I think it’s short-sighted to suppose that it doesn’t have relevance to the wider L.A. book world, just as one can’t say African American music is not part and parcel of the broader American music experience. Carrying a range of titles, the bookstore is not restricted to mysteries, which explains how Cornell West, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, and Michael Eric Dyson have all signed here. Owners James Fugate and Tom Hamilton are welcoming and helpful, and know books and publishing inside out. They are so supportive of writers, especially those just starting out. A writer can rarely, if ever, get that from the juggernaut bookstores, whose names I need not mention. BTW, Eso Won some great 2011 calendars, so go check them out and pick out a couple Christmas gift books as well.
The third bookstore I want to mention is The Mystery Bookstore. Located in Westwood, it’s the farthest away from me but always worth a trip to drop in on my friends, owners Bobby McCue and Linda Brown. TMB has a very active book-signing schedule, and a unique Jail Register (for real!), which all their authors must sign before they leave, or they’ll be locked in and fed bread and water until they submit. I’m kidding, of course. TMB specializes in rare and first editions and has recently acquired a signed set of first edition Dennis Lehane mysteries. It’s easy to order from them on their website as well, so even if you’re not in Los Angeles, you can get a hold of some of their terrific first editions.
Bottom line on these and all other indie bookstores is that, Kindle notwithstanding, they are very special institutions that are treasures to readers and authors alike. Personally, I don’t know what we writers would do without them. Where would we meet our readers? Online? What a cold world that would be.