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In Praise of Indie Bookstores

September 25th, 2011

Eljay's BooksYou walk inside. Right away you sense you’ve arrived someplace special. Books fill the aisles, stacked on a combination of antique, handmade, and prefab shelves. And there’s art, lots of it: on the walls, tables, and even painted directly onto the chairs. But best of all, you’re greeted by someone who knows books – a manager who reads, knows the store’s inventory, and who has mastered the art of supplying you with a basket of books that you possibly didn’t even know about when you walked through the door.

There’s nothing like a good independent bookstore.

Today I’m pondering the merits of such places, possibly because I’ve just finished editing a story about one of them (Between Books) for my forthcoming collection Voices, but also because yesterday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at Eljay’s Books, an independent bookstore that has become a Pittsburgh institution – for good reason.

It’s managed by Chris Rickert, formerly of Pittsburgh’s now closed Joseph-Beth Booksellers, who  invited me to bring the 21st Century Scop to Eljay’s after hearing me speak at Confluence this past summer. I’m glad she did. I had a terrific time, and for the entire afternoon I forgot the month’s pressing deadlines. (I’m currently proofing the galleys for Voices, finishing book three of the Veins Cycle, and trying to get started on a new steampunk story for Edge Science Fiction’s forthcoming Professor Challenger anthology.)

One benefit of doing an event at an indie store is the kind of people who show up for your reading. They tends to be serious readers who enjoy learning about, discussing, and buying books. The big box stores can sometimes generate this kind of turn out (like the ones that often greeted me at the Borders in Wilmington DE, but that was due in large parts to the efforts of Delaware resident W. H. Horner, my editor at Fantasist Enterprises). It’s the personal touch of the indie bookstore’s PR force that brings them in.

Yesterday’s event gave me the chance to share some of the new material from Voices, the forthcoming collection of horror stories that I really should be working on now (and which I intend to get back to as soon as I click the publish button for this blog entry). It’s always reassuring when a group of serious readers reacts favorable to stuff that’s in the pipeline.

Lawrence C. Connolly at Eljay's BooksI also had the chance to revisit some greatest hits, stories from Visions and This Way to Egress as well as excerpts from Veins and Vipers – mostly  read to music from Veins: the Soundtrack and The Legion of Incredibly Strange Superheroes (now disbanded but still one of the best science-fiction rock bands ever). You can listen to studio versions of those readings here and here.

Got some free time today? Why not go out and visit your town’s independent bookstore. If you live in Pittsburgh, make a bee-line to Eljay’s, where you’ll be able to meet the wonderfully entertaining  Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, who will be signing their collection of comedic horror Scary Tales of Scariness

As for me, it’s back to work.

Keep reading!