Sunday, July 22, 2007
Sad news from the book world
As many of you already know, Bonnie and Joe at New York's Black Orchid Bookshop have decided to close their doors this September after 13 years in business.
In addition to being one of the best independent stores in the country (for which they won a well-deserved Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America last year, and got a standing ovation at the Edgars banquet), Black Orchid also served as a gathering place and nexus for dozens of writer. As the site of their annual pre-Edgar and mid-summer parties, the store often hosted an amazing collection of disparate authors, who could often be found milling about on the sidewalk outside. I made many friends there, not the least of whom were Bonnie and Joe themselves, who were always warm and welcoming (on only my second visit to the store - and my first time meeting Bonnie - she lent me $20 so I could get dinner nearby without having to go to a cash machine first).
And boy, if they liked your books, you were in clover. Their love of the genre made them the ideal booksellers, and their enthusiasm - and dedicated clientele - formed the essence of what's commonly known as "handselling." I can't count the number of times I've heard from people who first became aware of my books via a recommendation from Joe and Bonnie.
Black Orchid will always have a special significance for me personally as well. It was the first bookstore I ever walked into as an author. In February 2003, the week THE BARBED-WIRE KISS was released, St. Martins had me hit all the N.Y. stores one day to sign stock and meet the various booksellers (accompanied by the lovely and talented Rachel Ekstrom, then a publicist for SMP). Our first stop was at Black Orchid, and although Joe wasn't expecting us that day, when I walked in the door, Bruce Springsteen's THE RISING was playing over the in-store speakers (the exact song was "Mary's Place" if I remember correctly). And I knew there couldn't have been a more auspicious omen than that.
I've been back to the store dozens of times since, sometimes as a customer, but that February day will always be locked into my memory. Because while I was talking to Joe and signing books - with Springsteen singing in the background - it was the first time I actually *felt* like a writer. And the Black Orchid felt like home.
More on the store, and Bonnie and Joe in the future. In the meantime, it's good to know they're still having their annual party Aug. 16, which will not only commemorate the anniversary of the store, but also Joe's (and my) birthday two days previous. This will be a sad one though, and it'll be tough to walk away from that place for the last time.
So if you have a chance, come by Aug. 16 (81st St. betw. First and Second), say hello, buy some books. Cliche or not, there's no other way to put it - it's the end of an era.
And finally, it's hard to believe that today is 30 years to the day since these events took place. It's a strange world, and it moves much too fast.