Monday, August 17, 2009

Books, Books and More Books

I like going into bookstores. I have to admit to ordering books over the internet, but only when I could not find them in bookstores. I prefer to hold a book in my hand, read the blurbs on the back, skim through (never to the end!) and generally see how it is layed out. More than that, I appreciate the atmosphere of a nice bookstore, the way it is arranged, the lighting and ambiance. It is guaranteed that you can always run find someone who is in-to books, someone who likes to talk books and authors and storylines.
This past week my wife Susan and I made a little pilgrimage and visited three Canadian mystery bookstores.
The first was The Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto on Bayview near Yonge Street. There we met with Marian Misters who was very helpful. Susan was taken with the ladder that slides on rollers along the tall, packed bookcases. I liked Sir Percival, a very big poodle who seemed to lay around a good deal. I can also recommend subscribing to their newsletter, The Merchant of Menace.

Next it was on to the nation’s capital, Ottawa where we dropped on at Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore on Bank Street. It is a nice, cozy long shop that draws you in, with big, comfortable chairs at the back, a coffin-shaped bookcase, and it is the only bookstore I’ve been to that has a skeleton in the window. Their slogan is, We’re dying to meet you.
The last stop on our pilgrimage was historic Kingston and As the Plot Thickens on Brock Street. Unfortunately Brian Fenlon was out, but we did get a opportunity to speak with Ann Stevens who is as friendly as anyone from the East Coast. This shop has all the accoutrements of the perfect mystery bookstore; lovely hardwood floors, custom-made bookcases, fireplace, soft lighting and comfy chairs. Maybe its most notable feature was that the cashier’s table was an antique bar with foot rail.
While in Kingston, I attended the Scene of the Crime, the annual festival for mystery fans held on Wolfe Island.
Saturday, August 15, was a beautiful morning for crossing the St. Lawrence River to Wolfe Island. The ferry ride from Kingston is free, and it was my first trip to the island. Giant windmills stood like techno sentinels along the island. These slow-turning guardians of the Green movement generate much needed power but look so out of place in such a setting.
This was the 10th annual Scene of the Crime festival, and the Grant Allen Award, named for the man who is a pioneer in Canadian crime writing and was born on the Wolfe Island in 1848.
Among the great list of Canadian mystery writers were, Peter Robinson, this year’s Grant Allen Award winner, Rick Blechta, Barbara Fradkin, David Rotenberg, and Vicki Delany. Needless to say there were plenty of books for sale.
As rewarding as it was meeting and talking to these writers and hearing them read their work, was meeting the great mystery fans who attend the festival. These are the people who love to read mysteries and revel in thinking about crime. Better to only think about it than to do it, I say.


  1. What a great trip. Those bookshops sound wonderful -- I love discovering new places like that!