Monday, October 1, 2007

Ode to a great store...

A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.
-- Jerry Seinfeld
HALLIE: A lot of us knew it was coming, but that big FOR SALE sign out in the front of the Kate's Mystery Books gives me serious separation anxiety about potentially losing our wonderful independent mystery bookseller in the red Victorian house on upper Mass Ave in Cambridge and, for years, the heartbeat of the Boston crime fiction community (she as one of the founders of Sisters in Crime).

I had my first signing there...September of 2000 and a line snaking out onto the sidewalk in the rain, friends there to cheer for my first (finally!) Her Christmas parties where you can count on a Robert Parker sighting--are legendary. She has to schedule signing authors like a fleet of buses coming into South Station because there are too many of us to be docked there at one time.

JAN: I interviewed Kate once for The Improper Bostonian and she told me a wonderful story about the early years of the store. Authors who would become big names were still newbies, and helping her out on a nuts and bolts level. Robert Parker came in to install bookshelves, which she showed me, noting that they weren't perfectly level. She said he really had no choice but to become a bestselling author because carpentry wasn't an option for his career.

Anyway, to me that story illustrates Kate's longstanding impact on the mystery world. She's not just a bookseller, she's an incubater of new talent. Still, life moves on, so I wish her the best of luck with the sale of her store.

RO: On a totally personal level, I'm sorry that when my first book comes out in February, it doesn't seem as if I will get to experience the rite of passage that hundreds (thousands?) of mystery writers before me have, a signing at Kate's. I was looking forward to it as a sign that I had "made it." That I was finally "real", like The Velveteen Rabbit.(Don't mean to sound obnoxious, but I think you all know what I mean.)

As a New Yorker/CT'er Kate's was not my local shop; I heard about it, and Kate from NE'ers, and at Crimebake. Although I live closer to Borders and B&N, I'm going to make a conscious effort to spend my mystery dollar at the wonderful Partners&Crime in the NY's west village...
Good luck, KM!

HANK: I happened on a pal, more of a friend of my husband's than mine, on the street the other day. He's a judge, very erudite and thoughtful. Kind of--ivory tower, as judges sometimes are. Makes life and death decisions--well, not death, since it's Massachusetts, but 30-to-life, that's for sure.

Anyway, he was kind enough to have read my book, and said he loved mysteries set in Boston. And in fact, he said, he was off to Kate's to pick up his latest stash.
Really, I said? You go to Kate's?

I picture him, more easily, sending off some frightened clerks to the stacks at the courthouse library. Or ordering from Amzon where he didnt have to deal with real people.
But no, he said Kate was the only one who really knew her stuff. He just reads what she gives him.

Where will he go, if she closes?

There are lots of great bookstores here, no question. With wonderfully knowledgeable staffs and owners, and they are lovely places to visit and I've spent waaay too much money in them.
But Kate's brain, and her history, that's what you can't replace.There's an open storefront here in West Newton, Kate! Come move to my neighborhood!

HALLIE: Great idea, Hank. We'll all be waiting to hear...who knows, Ro, we may be able to fete your book in February at Kate's after all. She specializes in making authors feel Real.
QUIZ: Name a mystery novel with Kate's Mystery Books in it. HINT: There are LOTS of them, and it may even be the scene of the crime.


  1. NO!! Not Kate's! What can we writers do to staunch the blood letting of our local indies? C'mon people, we're creative, let's think of something. And Hank, a judge read your book? How flattering! How did that make you feel?


  2. Well, he's terrific. And very enthusiastic. He loved Prime Time, he said he did at least. (And he's buying Face Time next Tuesday!) And he just kept talking about "how much work" it must have been to write.

    I guess if you think of 80,000 words, yes, that's a lot of words.

    And two years or so to write, yes, that's a lot of time.

    If you think of--"what you always wanted to do," 'work' isn't exactly the way you'd look at it. And time doesn't matter.

    Do you all think of it as "work?"?

    xo Hank

  3. I think of it as work when I'm not doing it...not when I'm doing it. Does that make sense?

  4. I am sad to read this! I looked forward to standing in line at a signing there. Even where I am, half the country away, Kate's is a bit of a legend.

    I've never stood in line at a signing anywhere (shame on me and I mean to change), but that would have been the place to start.

    You Boston writers with books a-pending, where do you foresee your book release parties after Kate's closes?


  5. Hank,

    I try and make myself think of it as work, as in--sit down in that chair and get some hours in, missie!

    But its just so much better than any other "job" I've ever had.