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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bookmans In Flagstaff

We visited the Bookmans store in Flagstaff on Friday, October 9th. Katie and I both felt like it was the nicest, and most well-organized, Bookmans we’ve visited. Bookman Bob (Bob Oldfather founder and head of Bookmans) has six stores in the state now (3 here in Tucson, 2 in the Phoenix area, and 1 in Flagstaff – at one time he had a store in Sierra Vista but that has been closed for several years now). We had a nice chat with the Manager of Books at the Flagstaff store (Matt Christiansen) who was most interesting and very helpful.

Bookmans has been trending away from its original main focus on books and CDs for a couple of years now, and this has resulted in considerable disarray in the Tucson stores, where antiques, collectibles, musical instruments, and miscellaneous junk has been squeezed into the stores. It has reached a point where I actually curse to myself whenever I walk into the store on Grant. I am not quite sure what has motivated this helter-skelter diversification, except a desire to make more money. But the loss of focus seems serious to me, and Bookman Bob should consider some reorganization for the Tucson stores – the used sporting goods and outdoor equipment store he opened on Speedway could be a model for returning at least one of the stores back to a focus on books.

Regardless, the Flagstaff store has managed to keep these distractions controlled in a separate area of the store, which was very nice to see. The store even has a Cafe, which was quite busy, tucked into one corner. All very nice and quite an upbeat place compared to the Tucson stores (I should note that we haven’t been in the two Phoenix stores for several years and so don’t know how things have evolved in those stores.)

Books that came home with us:

These two books by Martin Cruz Smith were both signed and I picked them up for a collection of novels by Smith. I am hoping to get all his books signed and perhaps write an article about collecting his first editions. Wolves Eat Dogs is an Arkady Renko novel – Renko first appeared in Gorky Park and has been featured in a recurring series of eight mysteries, usually appearing in every other Smith novel during recent years. Much of this novel is set in the Ukraine around Kiev, especially in the Zone of Exclusion around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor disaster. This zone has been mostly reclaimed by nature and wildlife, including packs of wolves. I felt that this was one of the better Renko novels, ranking it with Gorky Park as a good read.

December 6 is a stand-alone novel that is set in Tokyo in the weeks leading up to Pearl Harbor. The main character is an American who grew up in Japan – is he a spy? As in most of Smith’s novel, his research results in interesting history being interwoven into his plots. As usual, I learned much reading this book, but felt that it dragged some and didn’t quite work as well as most of Smith’s novels.

The two books below are ones that I wanted to read. The first, Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon has recently been made into a movie that we plan to watch one of these days. There was a fine, unread copy at Bookmans and so home it came. Pynchon is widely considered nearly unreadable because of his dense, hard-to-follow fiction. However, Inherent Vice reads quite easily and I have been enjoying the read (about half way through this title). Pynchon seems to be the most reclusive of modern authors and his first several novels are highly collectible. He rarely signs books and there are only two signed first editions online at ABE – both priced at over $25,000!

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City – Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America - has been hard to find locally in a first edition. His nonfiction has become very popular with and following this title. It is about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and revolves around both the architect who made the fair a marvelous reality, and also a serial killer who stalked victims among the fair-goers. This book won a 2004 Edgar Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Small Bookstore At La Posada Hotel On Route 66

We went up to Winslow from October 8th to 10th to celebrate our anniversary a bit early (it’s actually on the 11th). We visit Winslow several times a year and stay at the historic La Posada Hotel – designed by Mary Colter and the last of the famous Fred Harvey Hotels. The Turquoise Room restaurant there is our Arizona favorite. 

The Hotel also has a small bookstore that features mostly regional books on topics ranging from Mary Colter, to the Navajo and Hopi, to the Santa Fe railroad and Fred Harvey, to Route 66. The entire hotel complex is an interesting place to stop, if you're out looking for kicks on old 66.