Thursday, October 20, 2011

Favorite Bookstores #3: Readers World

When I was attending what was then North Texas State University in Denton, near the end of my stay there, a little hole-in-the-wall new bookstore called Readers World appeared in the row of businesses directly across the street from the Auditorium Building, just a few doors down from Voertman's, the big college/textbook store.  (I know some of you are familiar with the area, that's why I include those details.)  Given its proximity to Voertman's, it probably wasn't the best location for a small bookstore, but I liked it because it carried quite a few genre paperbacks that Voertman's didn't.  I remember buying the Zebra editions of some Robert E. Howard books there, along with some of the novels based on Lee Falk's comic strip The Phantom.  But my time in Denton didn't overlap that much with the time Reader's World was there, so I didn't visit it that often.

Fast-forward a year or so, and I'm driving through River Oaks, Texas (a suburb on the northwest side of Fort Worth) one day when I spot a sign that says Readers World.  It was another hole-in-the-wall store in a small strip shopping center, and when I went in (what, did you think I wasn't going to stop and go in?), the same lady was running it who used to have the Readers World store in Denton.  This new location of Readers World was much the same, heavy on genre paperbacks with a magazine section as well that carried all the fiction digests of the time.  That was the first place I ever bought a new copy of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE.  I also bought quite a bit of science fiction (I recall picking up Joe Haldeman's THE FOREVER WAR and the first printing of the novelization of some movie I hadn't heard of called STAR WARS), some Starsky and Hutch tie-in novels by Max Franklin (who I found out later was Richard Deming), a bunch of comic books off the spinner rack, and the first volume of the Byron Preiss-packaged WEIRD HEROES, the subtitle of which – A NEW AMERICAN PULP! – sent thrills through me.  (Thrills which, I'm sorry to say, the Weird Heroes series never quite lived up to, although there was much to like in it.)

The store was successful enough that it moved around the corner in the same shopping center to a space that was three or four times larger.  The newsstand area was expanded, and so were the number of paperbacks they carried.  I bought the trade paperback edition of Glenn Lord's THE LAST CELT there and read it over and over again, and one day I picked up a mystery paperback called THE VAMPIRE CHASE, by an author I'd never heard of, Stephen Brett, published by an outfit equally unknown to me, Manor Books.  Well, Stephen Brett was really my buddy Steve Mertz, of course, although I didn't know him then, and Manor wound up publishing my first novel TEXAS WIND (and stiffing me on the advance for it).  But all of that was in the future, along with my friendship with Glenn Lord.

I became friends with the couple who owned the store, Gene and Linda Sanders (and I really hope I'm remembering their names correctly – this was a long time ago).  When I started selling to MSMM, they would order extra copies of the magazine for me, since Renown Publications never sent comp copies to the authors, of course.  I shopped there regularly for several years, making at least one trip a week into town to pick up new comics and paperbacks.

Eventually that location closed down.  Probably the lease was up, and it didn't generate enough sales to make it worthwhile to continue (but I'm just guessing about that).  The owners opened an even larger store in Hurst, around on the other side of Fort Worth from us, called G. Sanders Books.  It was there for several years and Livia and I went there a few times, but it was too far, through too much bad traffic, for us to make it a regular stop.  The shopping center in River Oaks that housed the two locations of Readers World is still there.  I drive past it occasionally, and whenever I do, I can't help but think about all the pleasant time I spent there and all the good books I bought.  I wouldn't want to live in those days again, but it's nice visiting them in my mind.


beb said...

My favorite bookstore went of business this year. It began as a Waldenbooks then became a Borders Express store when Borders bought up Waldenbooks. It survived the first round of cuts this year but then the entire company went under. I looked the store because it seemed larger than the average mall outlet. (It was in its own building in a strip mall). It tended to have new titles sooner than the other stores and was just a nice place to visit.

Anonymous said...

I dig reading these blog posts on old bookstores, James. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Ed Lynskey

Ed Gorman said...

This is one of your coolest posts ever.

Victorian Barbarian said...

I saw a reference to Readers World in one of your other posts, and searched to find this older posting. I used to buy books from Linda Sanders when I was an undergraduate at NTSU. Her store was across the street from the English department (in the Auditorium and Language Buildings), so she got a lot of traffic from some heavy readers. About the time I left Denton for a job at Bell Helicopter in 1978, she worked out some kind of swap with Century Bookstore (owned back then, I think, by her relatives) for the stores in Tarrant county, including one on Pipeline Road in Hurst, just north of the Bell plant on Texas 10. So at the same time I moved from Denton, my favorite bookseller moved close to my new employer. When they consolidated the stores into the big location on Harwood farther north in Hurst, I continued to shop there as long as they were open. Barnes & Noble opened a store over by NE Mall, and the Sanders' business was affected, but they held on until another B&N opened up in Grapevine, about the same distance from them as the other store, but in the opposite direction. That proved too much, and they closed the store. I seem to recall they lived out toward Lake Worth somewhere, and I heard at one time a few years later that Mr. Sanders was working at a convenience store somewhere over on the west side of the county. I've often wished I'd run into them somewhere, just to say hello and thanks for all the good books they steered me to over the years.