Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Seattle Mystery Bookshop

Okay, this doesn’t really count as an arts review, but it counts as a significant “event” whenever I visit the Seattle Mystery Bookshop at First and Cherry. (Slogan: “ for mystery lovers who know what they want and for those who haven't a clue...”)

The shop was founded by Bill Farley in 1990. According to the web site (www.seattlemystery.com), Farley has been reading mysteries since childhood, beginning with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. He was a bookstore owner in Philadelphia, and moved to Seattle to start Seattle Mystery Bookshop. He sold the store in 1999 to employee J. B. Dickey but remained as a part-time staffer, usually working weekends. I caught him there on a Monday afternoon while I was killing some time before the next ferry. He is a bright and witty fellow with a sparkle in his eye. He was keen to point out a framed embalming certificate on the wall, issued to his grandfather in 1903, but, he said, “Since he had the same name as me, I thought it was okay to hang it up here. Anything you need embalmed, bring it in!”

The store is chockablock with all kinds of mysteries and thrillers. As with any self-respecting independent bookstore, there are so many books, there is barely space to turn around. There are separate sections for the various genres, such as, police procedural, noir, thriller, spies, British cozy (Agatha Christie gets her own shelf),

(Your humble blogger perusing the mysteries of life).

and a large section dedicated to Northwest writers and Northwest locales. The store has book signing parties by noted authors just about every weekend.

Perhaps because I am a psychologist, my preference runs to stories that focus on betrayal, revenge, and paranoia. I require that they be well-written, and I always hope for psychological realism and not too many loopholes in the story. I enjoy astute observation and insightful phenomenology. I am a huge fan of Le Carre and I have not yet found his equal.

(Bill Farley and owner J.B. Dickey. Seattlest.com)

I generally do not care for most of the best-selling authors who take up acres of shelf space in most stores, so it is a challenge to find an author I can stick with for a while. At SMB, my strategy is to go to the shelf of titles recommended by staffer Janine Wilson, who suggests some authors I know and seems to share some of my interests (ignoring her vampire streak). That’s one way I find new authors. (You can see synopses of interesting books I have read recently at my web site, https://sites.google.com/site/billadamsphd/. Click on Book Notes).

You can expect to pay top dollar for your books at SMB. No discount prices, although they do sell some used books. This trip I controlled myself and spent only $63 on five new paperbacks. I could have saved $15 buying these books on Amazon or at Barnes and Ignoble, but then I wouldn’t have had a delightful experience and I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Farley. I don’t mind paying a bit of a premium to keep this store, and stores like it, from the jaws of mediocrity.

There’s a good mystery bookshop also in Portland, OR, Murder By the Book, across the Burnside bridge from downtown, in a suburb, but for ambience, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, right in Pioneer Square, deserves to be a local favorite and should be a destination for every visitor to Seattle.

117 Cherry Street
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 587-5737 or staff@seattlemystery.com
Open Every Day:
Mon - Sat 10-5 and Sun 12-5

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