Sunday, March 04, 2007

Local Knowledge

I stopped by Toronto’s Sleuth of Baker Street yesterday. It’s 180 miles from my home but technically speaking it’s still my local mystery bookstore. Co-owners Marian Misters and J.D. Singh have created an amazing space for book lovers, complete with a cozy fireplace and just about every mystery you’d ever want to read, from the classics to books so new the ink’s still wet.

I first met J.D. at the Toronto Bouchercon and, along with some folks from Poisoned Pen Press, we ended up shooting pool at the Elephant and Castle, a ersatz English Pub on King Street. A good time, as they say, was had by all. I bump into J.D. at conventions now and then, most recently at Magna Cum Murder, but no matter how long between chats he always remembers what I like to read and he’s ready with some recommendations that are invariably spot on. And that’s what makes a local, independent bookseller so important and why you should shop there.

Now before Messrs. Barnes & Noble pull my books from their shelves I want to be clear what I mean. The Big Stores are wonderful in their own way, offering me a whole sections of books I might not encounter anywhere else and when it comes to wandering around aimlessly on a rainy Sunday, there are few places I’d rather go. It was on serendipitous outing at one of the Big Stores that I found Courtesans & Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Greece by James Davidson, Off the Map: The Curious Histories of Place-Names by Derek Nelson and The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen. These are wonderful books and I would have never encountered them if it weren’t for B&N. But when it comes to mysteries, I’m a bit more selective.

If you have a mystery bookstore close to home – and remember, I call a three-hour drive close to home – you know what I’m talking about. And I guess it’s true for other specialty bookstores and the rare general-stock independents that are left. It’s just different at these bookstores. But you knew that and again I write a blog that states the obvious.

So what did I J.D. recommend? A lot more than I bought, but I did leave with Steve Hockensmith’s Homes on the Range and Zoë Sharp’s First Drop. Given who recommended them, I’m sure I’ll love them both.

1 comment:

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