Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.
Two of my favorite places are libraries and book stores. I got my first library card when I was in kindergarten. That was a long time ago, but I have never since been without one. I have moved a bunch of times over the years and one of the first things I do when I hit a new town is find the library and get a card. Not to have a book ready at my elbow makes me panic worse than the internet being down. It’s an addiction, one I picked up from my mother and father, neither of whom were ever without a book, one in their hands, another waiting for them to pick up.
The love of book stores came later. There wasn’t a lot of money in our household and the library was free. However, we did have books. Mainly non-fiction or classics, books my mother claimed we would read over and over, but rarely the latest best seller. However, I had books of my own. It was all I ever wanted for Christmas or my birthday, except that one year when I wanted a Brownie uniform. But we didn’t haunt the book stores. That came later.
I can’t remember when I first discovered the pleasure of wandering through a book store. I don’t think we had one in my home town, but if we did, I never went into it that I can remember. It was after I grew up, had children of my own that I discovered the local book store. At first, I was looking at children’s books. When my children had a library book they liked, they didn’t want to take it back. They wanted that story read to them night after night, so I started their small in-home library. As it grew, I added my own books. Then we built a wall of bookshelves in our family room. I didn’t set out to fill it with books, but gradually, maybe not so gradually, it happened. Cook books played a large part in my book buying back then, it was hard to use a recipe that I’d found in a returned library book. I’d made a list of authors I loved while I pursued the library shelves and I started to buy some of their books. Mom was wrong. I did go back and read them again. There were also text books on those shelves. I had married young and had a whole houseful of children but after the second child, I started back at night school. Books I needed for those classes filled the shelves along with the fiction and cookbooks. But the campus bookstore had a poor selection of cook books and children’s literature. Or my beloved mysteries. It didn’t take me long to find a store that did.
Independent book stores, however, were not always easy to find. Back then, there was no Amazon, no internet, no Barnes and Noble, so you had to search out a local store. Some sold used books ( I love the smell of those stores, the dusty shelves, the treasure hunt as you find a book by a favorite author you haven’t read, or have read but don’t own) but it wasn’t until I published my first book that I realized how many small book stores there are scattered around the US. I have been fortunate enough to visit a handful of them. Many are gone now, victims of large box stores and the internet, but many remain. They may have branched out a little, added a coffee bar, some cute cards and puzzles, local jewelry, but books remain their passion. Someone is always available to discuss the newest best seller, or to help you find a treasure you have never heard of. These shops are tucked away in shopping centers, around the corner from the local café, in an old house on the fringes of town, just about everywhere you can imagine. You will often have to seek them out and they’re worth the effort. You can spend a lovely hour or two, wandering the aisles of these stores, and the books you take home will give you many more hours of pleasure.
I am not going to name any of my favorite stores today, there are a number of them in a lot of different states, but I hope you will share your favorites with the rest of us. Tell us about them, and why you keep going back. I’ll post them in my next blog and I’ll add a few that I love as well. Let’s keep them alive. They matter.