Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Sad Story

Since I posted last night about a movie that features a dusty old bookstore, I thought I’d relate this true story. A few years ago while on vacation, I went into a used bookstore I had visited a few times in the past. It wasn’t a great store, you understand, but it was okay. It had quite a bit of Sixties and Seventies men’s adventure, science fiction, and Westerns, and it was run by an old guy who was just like all the other old guys most of you have seen running dusty old used bookstores: a little gruff, but you could tell he liked being surrounded by all those books.

So when I walked into the store a few years ago and looked around, I knew right away that something was wrong. It was clean. The shelves were neat and orderly. And there was a perky, thirtyish woman behind the counter. I started looking around. All the books were maybe not new, but they were recent, and most of them had been bestsellers. Where were the stacks of Penetrator and Malko books? Where were Mack Bolan and The Survivalist? Where was the old guy?

I got my answer a few minutes later as I overheard (well, actually, eavesdropped on) a conversation between the woman running the store and another customer who asked about the old guy who used to be there. “Oh, he retired,” the woman said. “So my mother and I bought the store because we thought it would be fun. Of course, the first thing we had to do was get rid of all those old books that were in here!”

If some of you feel a little sick to your stomach right now, I completely understand.

I’ve been back to that store a couple of times since then, and I’ve bought a handful of books there, although it’s hard to find anything I’d actually want. But I’m thinking I may not go again. The place is haunted by the ghosts of all those old books that were summarily gotten rid of. I just hope the new owners had a big sale and didn’t just box them up and put them in the dumpster. That would be just too painful to contemplate.

9 comments:

David Cranmer said...

And the recent bestsellers they're peddling you can find in any bookstore's budget bin. So what's the point of that? I suspect you will see the store close within a few years.

Frank Loose said...

I don't know about it closing. We have a couple used bookstores in our area that focus on more recent books, (say 90s onward) and they seem to be doing fine. I'm seeing more of these type stores than the ones that offer books from any decade, the older the better.

I was in one used bookstore that i recently discovered, couldn't find what i was looking for, and i asked the attendant if they had any Gold Medals. She said, "What are those?"

Michael Bracken said...

Unlike many writers, I'm not a book collector. Even so, I can not bear the thought of throwing away a book. Any book. Even really, really awful books that I couldn't finish reading.

Every book that leaves my hands goes to someone I hope will enjoy it.

Cullen Gallagher said...

When I started reading old detective novels, my dad told me that his parents had been big fans of them and there was a huge box of old paperbacks just sitting in the garage.

What happens when we go to the garage? He realizes he threw them out. All of them. Sigh.

I was heartbroken.

Todd Mason said...

Imagine, Cullen, my feelings when I started collecting fiction magazines in the late 1970s, and my folks, noting that I was starting to gather up older titles as well buying new, pointed out that their sf and crime-fiction digests of the 1950s and 1960s had been among the victims of a 1967 flood that had messed over the household, and much of Fairbanks, Alaska, when I was about 2.5 years of age. I had already known of the general pain and loss of that disaster, but it was suddenly Blues that kept on bluesing.

Charles Gramlich said...

I feel your pain for sure.bud

Anonymous said...

I really wonder why the SAS Malko books never caught on here in the US. They are still being published today with current event topics. I'm sure they would sell. I'd buy them for sure.....Chris.....

Richard Prosch said...

Jeez, that's a tough story...had a similar thing happen once with a great old comic book shop.

Scott Parker said...

I just returned from my vacation through Central Texas. I stopped at every bookstore I could and made out with three gems. However, today, as we drove home, we knew we were going to stop in Calvert, TX, and visit all the antique stores there. Nearly half the stores we visited in 2005 are gone. The remaining ones were closed for the day. The worst part, for me, was peeking in the windows, seeing books, and just wondering what gems were there. In one antique store up in Whitney, TX, there were a lot of old westerns. It even had a William Colt MacDonald Gregory Quist novel but it was one I already owned. Natch. But, James, back to your thread, yeah, my stomach turned over when I read your post.