Amazon.com has drastically altered my life. For better andfor worse.
From early childhood, I adored bookstores. Like most of you, I’ll bet, I could while away many an hour curled up in a chair (if they had any) or simply mosey back and forth along the aisles, picking up this and that, reading back covers voraciously, finding a beloved book I already owned and re-reading a chapter or two . . . or four.
When I was eight, I won a contest for a poem I had written. It was called “Your Senses.” Would you like to read this prize-winning verse for yourself?
- Your senses are important things
- You should know that by now.
- So tell me how you use them –
- Oh, please, do tell me how.
- Your eyes are meant for seeing things,
- Your nose is meant for smell,
- Your ears are meant for hearing things,
- And listening too, as well.
I think that, thanks to the final line, the judges might have endowed me with more wisdom than my young brain actually possessed. No matter! I was presented with a five-dollar gift certificate to a local bookstore. On some appointed day, my mother drove me down to the shop, where I perused and perused and perused. . . until Mom gently told me to make up my gosh darn mind! (I chose The Magical Mimics in Oz. I read that book twenty times but sadly have lost it along the way.)
My teenage years were spent hopping onto the streetcar and riding downtown, where several top bookstores lay in wait to claim my hard-earned allowance money. My favorite was Stacey’s on Market Street because they had an extensive mystery collection, including imports. That’s how I found the Fontana and Pan editions of Agatha Christie – and avoided the nightmare of edited editions that Dell paperbacks inflicted on an unwary public.
They’re all gone now: Stacey’s, B. Dalton, the dreaded mega-store Borders. Virtually every bookstore has disappeared, swallowed by Amazon’s virtual maw. We love to demonize that mighty retail giant. Certainly, we find much to amuse ourselves over Mr. Bezos’ bizarre behavior. I can’t say I don’t appreciate the availability of books that Barnes and Noble or Books Inc refuse to stock on their shelves. (That also goes for Ricola Green Tea Sugarless Lozenges, which nobody in the Bay Area carries, and those great cheese crackers that cost three dollars less a package on Amazon than they do at the market.)
What classic mystery fans like you and me really need are used bookstores. We’re always on the lookout for authors who haven’t been published in decades, and even the ones who are being revived . . . well, there’s always a chance that a hot Dell Mapback will show up on a cluttered shelf at a vaguely reasonable price. But the used bookstores are vanishing, too, as independent booksellers struggle to maintain inventory and turn even a small profit. Their rivals are eBay and Abe Books and – yes, good ol’ Amazon.
The creme de la creme: The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC
I’m almost ashamed to tell you how I found the treasure trove I’m about to mention. That’s right: I googled “used bookstores.” That’s how I found Recycle Bookstore, an ancient edifice in the southern part of the Bay Area. There are actually two “editions” of this store in two different towns. But I found that one of them contained far more riches of the used variety than the other.
This is a store that smells like books, that has stacks you have to move to look at a shelf, only to find yourself browsing minutely through the stack you just moved. It has the biggest used mystery collection I’ve seen around these parts; not mammoth in the NYC Mysterious Bookshop way, but a good two aisles of high shelves jammed with treasures. The first time I went there, I started at the top of the “A”s and moved slowly through the alphabet. True, they have never bestowed a Christianna Brand on me, and they don’t seem to trade on some of the more obscure classic authors, like Anthony Abbott. There are only a few Ellery Queens and only one Patrick Quentin, which hasn’t been bought in the six months I’ve been visiting the store. (I already own it.) But there have been a ton of Carrs! In fact, Recycled Books has assisted me a great deal in completing my Carter Dickson collection.
Best of all, the shelves are restocked often, so there’s always a chance when I arrive that I will find something “new.” The one Dickson I did not have when I went there a month ago was the only historical mystery published under that alias: Fear Is the Same. Lo and behold:
Great haul from Recycle Books on February 15!
To get to the mysteries, you have to walk through the first large room (containing new arrivals, general fiction, children’s books, a huge assortment of graphic novels, and some soon-to-be-obsolete media (DVDS, CDs, etc.) During a recent visit, as I was walking through the doorway to get to my genre, I notices a crooked stack of books lining the doorway in a haphazard fashion. To my amazement, they were all mysteries. Most of them were John Creasey titles (alternating with one of his many aliases, J.J. Marric). Still, I went through the stack – and I found this book called Murdered: One by One, by Francis Beeding.
Beeding is the guy who wrote The House of Dr. Edwardes, upon which the Hitchcock film Spellbound is based. But he actually wrote a whole bunch of books, many of them thrillers but a lot of mysteries too. Often, as in Death Walks in Eastrepps, they centered around serial killers.
To be honest, I put Murdered: One by One back, went to the main mystery section, spent a happy hour there, selected a few titles and left. The next time I went to Recycle (which was the last time as of this writing), Beeding’s book was still there, and I grabbed it, just . . . because. I got home and did that thing that some of us do: I arranged the books in a row, snapped a picture, and posted it on Facebook. We folks on the Golden Age of Detection page love to celebrate – and ENVY – each other’s glorious finds, and this picture received a bit of comment.
One person who spoke up was my dear blogging pal Bev Hankins who said she had found the exact same copy of the Beeding and wanted to know if I wanted to read it together. I loves me a good back and forth about a novel with someone who can really give back to my forth. (Yikes!) And so Bev and I have made a date to discuss Murdered: One by One . . . .as soon as we both finish it.
Bev has informed me that she has finished the book, and you can read her initial thoughts here! I, on the other hand, read as slowly as molasses dripping on a thick slice of brown bread. I have no idea what shape this discussion will take, or when it will be posted – unlike my more organized friends, like JJ, I cannot predict what I will be reviewing on June 9! – but if any of you happen to possess a copy and want to join in, settle down by the fire and get reading. There will be spoilers!!!!!!!!!