Singing praises

THE ART OF DETECTION’e2’80’99s tour is officially over, after Friday’e2’80’99s event in Half Moon Bay and Saturday in Santa Cruz. These two stores are shining examples of how to succeed in an unfriendly world: be outgoing, run your life with efficiency, and participate fully in your community.

Bay Book and Tobacco (yes, really’e2’80’94although in answer to your next question, no, the place doesn’e2’80’99t stink of cigarette smoke. They have a tidy and self-contained humidified room containing very high class cigars, the idea being that people after books will pick up a cigar, and people after cigars will stop to peruse the titles. I will say, this audience had more men than usual.)

Where was I? Right’e2’80’94Bay Book in Half Moon Bay is in a shopping center in a small town that gets a lot of tourist traffic. They first came to my attention in 1998 or ‘e2’80’939, when I was asked to drop in and sign some books. I did so, and was casually told that they’e2’80’99d sold 140 copies of FOLLY the year before. Hardcover.

That’e2’80’99s a lot of books for a small store. I think they must have pressed a copy on every person who came in, maybe tripping them and jamming one into their purse before they could get up. But it’e2’80’99s a small town with a population of locals who don’t always want to drive over hills for entertainment (and anyway they’re regulary cut off from San Francisco by the collapse of portions of the same road where Mary Russell lost her family) so they drop in to the bookstore. At the same time, weekenders escaping the heat of the central valley find the coastal fog conducive to leisurely reading. Some day, one of the chains may think Half Moon Bay worth their while, but not for now.

Bookshop Santa Cruz is the first bookstore I remember shopping in. When I was a kid my family used libraries, period, and although I remember lots of books, I never owned very many until I hit university. Bookshop is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It used to be in a funky brick building that collapsed during the 1989 quake, at which time they set up shop in a tent out back. Booktent Santa Cruz (they’e2’80’99ve left a sign in the new shop, back near the toilets) was where we did all out gift shopping for the years until they rebuilt, and now they’e2’80’99ve been in this shiny and no longer so new building for, the new owner/manager tells me, for thirteen years. Neal Coonerty’e2’80’99s family still is in charge, as Neal moves on to run larger things as a county supervisor.

As an indicator of the place a bookshop can hold in the heart of its community, thirteen years ago when Bookshop was ready to move from the tent into its new digs, they used a human chain of volunteers to shift cartons of books down the street and in the front door. And they had more people show up than there was room for on the street.

I love bookstores, especially the independents. And I’e2’80’99ll be there for Bookshop’e2’80’99s birthday party in early November.

Posted in


  1. riobonito on June 25, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    I enjoy your comment re: libraries and book shops. I too grew up on regular trips to the Library. Living in a rural area, and going to school in what amounted to be a two room school house, we country kids had the thrill of the ‘Book-mobile’ had it’s own special smell of books. Which anyone that grew up in libraries knows, what divine fragrance I speak of. To this day, it’s still what greets me when I walk thru the doors. Thanks Laurie.

  2. L. Crampton, LAc on June 26, 2006 at 12:36 am

    Library smell: the glue used on the bindings; the dust of aging pages; the particular wax used on old hardwood or old linoleum or old tile floors that got a lot of traffic? I used to try to figure it out. That’s as close as I got.

  3. Chris on June 26, 2006 at 8:29 am

    I used to love my childhood visits to my local library in deepest Cornwall – I may be going back 30 years, but I still recall the smell, the shelf layouts, and some of the librarians…I wasn’t able to afford to buy books until I hit my late teens, and I recall the thrill of buying my first adult hardback mystery novel!

    I even spent my school years helping out in a local bookstore, from the week it opened in, I think, 1978, to the day it closed in 1983. Those five years provided the best form of escapism I could hope for.

    The rest is history – almost 25 years of book-buying later, my apartment groans under the weight of many hundreds of hardback novels – my one luxury which I will always afford myself. I count myself lucky to have been brought up in a family of books. I still buy books for my parents, as they live in a small town with no bookstore (and a small house with no computer, hence no internet!). My mother is receiving The Art of Detection for her birthday in August…


  4. nancy in maryland on June 26, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Hello all, hello Laurie. I just spent a year in Pakistan, returning this past Friday, and yes, on return, I took my two daughters to our local bookstore. Today, it’s the library. Laurie, your Mary Russell novels were much fun to read during my off-hours in Peshawar, particularly “The Game”. After my year of South Asian adventure, I no longer wonder where writers get their ideas — I regret not jotting them down as they occurred to me, right then and there in the Namak Mandi bazaar of the Old City. Oh well. Note to self: always carry a pen and notepad.

  5. 2maple on June 26, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    I finished reading ToAD last week’e2’80’a6Just how much fun did you have writing that anyway? You found an excellent outlet for all the Sherlock Holmes trivia you must have collected over the years that wouldn’e2’80’99t fit in the Russell series. It made it very entertaining, especially the play on which perspective is the real one v. the pastiche.

    I hope you gave your ‘e2’80’9cwatch cat’e2’80’9d a treat. I saw the news flash on CNN at the airport and figured you had had a more interesting morning than usual.

    And Ribonito – I loved our bookmobile and I haven’e2’80’99t thought about it in years! It came through all the beach communities every week where my family spent the summer and was regularly filled with sandy, and generally, wet kids all wearing extra large t-shirts from the local surf shop (which if we weren’e2’80’99t too pesky they’e2’80’99d let us help silk screen them)…we may have looked like a bunch of little ghosts running around, but we read a lot!

  6. L. Crampton, LAc on June 26, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    2maple, thanks for that lovely image of wet, sandy little oversized-t-shirt ghosts grabbing books and running to find somewhere to read.

  7. Anonymous on June 28, 2006 at 7:27 pm

    OK, I’ll date myself with the rest of you wonderful nostalgic folk…why or why aren’t the kids of color reading and writing elsewhere than on buildings, side walks and and…oh I feel so invaded and sad by their markings for they are little else…no one but they and their peers/enemies can de code what they are saying.

    I want to start a literacy program, scream at them if I could find them…one thing is for sure delightful memories of sandy wet t-shirts they do not have.

    Yet and still in the olden days, pre-computer, we did all invent ourselves as children daily with bits of cloth and sticks, eh?

    What’s to do. Leave a Mary Russell on the bike path wrapped in a gang scarf (if only I knew the proper color) and see if it gets picked up?

    Hey I could do that…

    And Laurie, this skilled and advanced writer adores your live writing and all comments on the art of creating the written word, never can get enough.

    another adoring fan,


  8. Karen Lowe on June 28, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    Dear Laurie,

    Just catching up with your blog (one of the joys of my week!) – saw your mention of FOLLY & looked to my right, where I had just placed it to re-re-read.

    I still think it is one of the great NOVELS of this century (and last)- a clear window into a life. It is also a piece of work that stands alone as the sign of a superb writer with a wonderful command of words and understanding of people (especially with your fine touch regarding depression – with which I struggle)…but also another in a body of work that is incredible in its variety & freshness.

    Thank you for sharing your talent and joy in writing (& living) with us, your die-hard fans!!!

    Love & respect,


  9. Molly on July 1, 2006 at 5:16 am

    I remember being in Bookshop Santa Cruz the day before the quake and finding an old, out-of-print book in the basement that I had wanted for years, but I couldn’t afford it. I remember when they reopened in the tent and my daughter was so happy to see that the rocking horse had been saved. And I was so happy to find my book on the shelf.

Leave a Comment