The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

March 3, 2010

SEATTLE MYSTERY BOOKSHOP: Our Indie Store of the Month

The only thing better than a book is a lot of books. That's why indie bookstores are my idea of a real tourist attraction. Not only are there lots of books, but in an indie store I know I'll be among like-minded people. Who else would be devoted and courageous enough to run an indie bookstore in today's economic environment?

In that spirit, Corey and I would like to honor the indie mystery bookstores of the world. Against the tsunami of chain stores, mass merchandisers, e-books, and a broken publishing model, the indie bookstores continue their campaign to serve, and serve well, those of us who crave good books.

And our first ever Indie Store of the Month is the one and only Seattle Mystery Bookshop. The store was opened at 117 Cherry Street, in 1990, by Bill Farley. The store, located in the historic Pioneer Square district, had only been open for a couple of days when artist JB Dickey wandered in, opined that Bill needed some help, and became a part-time employee. In 1999, Bill and JB traded places. JB bought the store and Bill stayed on to work part-time.

The store stocks not only new books, but also used and collectible titles, which makes their selection far more broad than anything the chain-stores can offer. For online browsing of the collectible or out of print titles; click here. And JB is happy to send your books to you anywhere in the world. Best of all, what JB and Bill and the rest of the store staff can offer is a wealth of knowledge about crime fiction. Try getting that down at the chain-store. And if you happen to be a Rex Stout fan, you've come to the right store as Bill is a "completist." If you've ever been a truly serious collector of anything, you know what the word "completist" implies. And if you don't know, click here for the revelation.

And if, like me, you love a book signing, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop has a constant flow of authors through their doors. Yes, they are fortunate to have a number of outstanding crime writers living in Washington state, but the range of authors who make a point of visiting this store goes well beyond the local crowd. This month alone JB and his staff will host seven signings: Stella Cameron, Bethany Maines, David Corbett, Cara Black, Kelly Theron, Jo Nesbø, and Cornelia Read. And if you think that lineup is impressive, here's the list of eight authors who will visit the store in April:  Lisa Lutz, Alafair Burke, Peter May, Jacqueline Winspear, Shirley Tallman, C.J. Box, Larry Karp, Amanda Quick, and William Dietrich. I'm telling you, it's enough to make me want to move to Seattle right now.

JB's crew also provides a newsletter with information on events and new titles. If you live in the Seattle area or plan to visit soon, it would behoove you to sign up for it. And now, for what Declan Burke calls "rubber hose time," here's JB  himself to answer a few more questions:

Are there any pets in residence at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop?
My yellow lab, Abbey, is often here on Fridays but no animals that live here.
Can you talk about your most memorable customer?
Hard to say. Tom Hulce (Amadeus), John Ratzenburger (Cliff from Cheers), Harry Anderson (Night Court), Tom Skerritt (MASH), John Hall (Hall and Oates) and then there are the hundreds and hundreds of authors who have passed through our doors.
What is the last crime novel you read that just blew your socks off?
Just recently - Lou Berney's debut, Gutshot Straight.
What as yet unpublished book are you looking forward to reading and selling? 
Scott Turow's (sequel to Presumed Innocent), Innocent.
Who is your favorite author? Living or Dead?  
Very difficult to narrow it down. Dead - Chandler. Living - James Lee Burke? Dennis Lehane? Carol O'Connell? Lawrence Block? Impossible to narrow it down to just one. Maybe top 5?
For a more enlightening and entertaining interview with JB and Bill about their store, have a read of this 2006 article. These are definitely men after a booklover's heart!

Thanks, JB, for taking time to answer my questions so graciously. I hope to make it out there someday and pay a visit. Your store could easily become my home away from home. And JB is too right about Lou Berney's debut novel, Gutshot Straight. It's a definite winner. You can order it by calling the Seattle Mystery Bookshop at  206-587-5737 or emailing your order to
Seattle Mystery Bookshop
117 Cherry St
Seattle, WA  98104


  1. This is a great series you two have come up with, and Seattle Mystery Bookshop is a fantastic one to debut with. Thanks Naomi and Corey. I look forward to the next indie book store you'll highlight.

  2. We figured a once-a-month series, how hard can it be? :-) Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Michael. (BTW, have you seen that Kittling Books blog is giving up on the Elvis Cole series after only two books? Talk about a crime!)

    I really liked the looks of that Pioneer Square area (a 22' manmade waterfall in a park? Yes!). Totems and old stone buildings and lots of shopping. I can do that! I hope I can get out there someday and see it all for myself.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. I've left a comment after yours with Kittling, too.

  4. I KNEW I could count on you. And you are so much more diplomatic and persuasive than I. I wanted to say something like "ARE YOU CRAZY??" and of course, that's not exactly going to garner the reaction I want.

  5. Naomi,
    Thanks for this post. I've bookmarked the web site and put it on my "mysteries" list. Sometimes I try to order books from locally owned bookstores around the country.

  6. Joe, someday a travel agency will arrange a tour of great bookstores of America. I'll be there for that!

  7. Nice series, and they sure need some coverage right now. Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor is the only one in Michigan and one of the nicest.

  8. Patti, I'm hoping the folks at Aunt Agatha's agree to answer a few questions. I think their store is one of the most famous of the mystery bookstores in the US. I know it's been around for a while.

  9. Seattle Mystery Bookshop is the most comprehensive mystery bookshop I've found, including famous ones in London and New York. A major difference is that the staff have actually read most of the books and can talk about them with you. It's so nice to walk into a bookstore where the staff actually read (!) and know their stuff. Miss this bookstore and you've missed a lot.