Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

One day in 1990, I opened my morning Seattle Post-Intelligencer and read an article about a guy named Bill Farley, a newcomer from Philadelphia, who was in the process of opening the Seattle Mystery Bookshop at the corner of Second and Cherry in downtown Seattle.  That very day, I bestirred myself from the house and drove into the city from Bellevue to meet the man in person.

When I arrived, the sign on the door said closed, but the door opened at a touch.  I’m one of those people, if you give me an inch, I think I’m a ruler.  I pushed it open and let myself inside.

As I recall there were two people in the shop at the time, Bill and his wife B. Jo.  They were both surrounded by cardboard boxes which they were busily unpacking.  They were totally preoccupied with shelving books. I’m sure the last thing they needed right that minute was an uninvited visitor, but I introduced myself as a local mystery writer and was gratified to discover that Bill already knew my name.  We chatted for a few moments, then, just as I was about to leave, another person ignored the closed sign and stepped inside the store.  The new arrival was a would-be customer, and he told Bill he was looking for a book by someone named J.A. Jance.

Happily, the book in question had already been shelved.  While Bill fetched it, he pointed me out to the customer and introduced us.  I was happy to sign it, of course, but then there was a problem.  The cash register had yet to be hooked up.  Bill and B. Jo had no change.  I had kids in school back then.  I was always able to find lunch money in the bottom of my purse, so I made change on the spot, thus selling and signing the first book ever sold by the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.  Sadly, my signing for Proof of Life on September 7th was their last big signing.

After that auspicious beginning, they followed me everywhere.  They handled signings at the Doghouse; at a scary 12-step biker bar on 85th; and at the Women’s University Club.  Talk about diametrical opposites.  At one point Bill Farley even set up a book table inside a massive fireplace at the Rainier Club.  On those occasions when they couldn’t actually staff an event, they sent me off with a cardboard dump loaded with back list titles; a box or two of the new hard back; and a cigar box loaded with change.  (Last December, at a dinner celebrating Man Overboard hitting the NYTimes list, J.P. Dickey, the proprietor of the shop since Bill’s retirement in 1999, presented me with that very cigar box as a gift!)  And every time a new book came out, I did an in-store signing for them.

B. Jo and Bill were full partners. When B. Jo died in 2007, I dedicated my next book to both of them. On December 21, 2013, I left a houseful of guests at my home to drive into Seattle to celebrate Bill’s birthday.  And when we lost him in 2015, I grieved along with everyone else who treasured the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Bill’s long time cohort, J.B. Dickey, took over the shop when Bill retired in 1999.  In the face of huge changes in the publishing world, keeping the stores doors open had been a long, difficult struggle.  On September 30th, those doors will close for good.  For years fans around from the world and around the country have ordered signed books and had them shipped from the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.  I have no idea who will step into those shoes.  More on that later.

I’m so sorry to see all of them go—J.B., Amber, and the rest.  It makes my heart hurt to know that another longtime Seattle literary icon has bitten the dust.

So long, you guys.  I wish you well. You did good work.

13 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

  1. Hi Judy:
    Just finished Proof of Life last night. Great read! There seemed so much of you in the storyline. Loved the humor too. Look forward to your next book and hopefully meeting you in person at the Tucson Book Festival in March.
    I’ve read all your books (except the book of poetry-I’ve never been good at deciphering poetry unless it’s in a song).
    Mike

  2. Dear Judy,
    I just finished Proof of Life & absolutely loved it. I loved the new character, Lucy and hope we will be seeing more of her in the future. The whole story was wonderful and I loved the ending especially.
    I too mourn the loss of independent book stores. We had one in our small town but alas it too is gone. Wonderful tribute .
    Looking forward to the next book. Read them all so far.
    Best wishes,
    Judi

  3. I wish I could meet you and feel the hand of the truly authentic person you are. My husband introduced your books to me in 2005, and I’ve been reading everyone of them since then. I’m waiting anxiously for Proof of Life from my library any day now.

  4. How sad the store is closing. I’m sure the struggle was real and the sadness is heartfelt but probably a relief too. Think of all the good memories you have of the store and the owners who became friends and all the fans who made the trip to meet you there. When I think of all the books I had to dispose of when I moved it makes me sick. Lots of them went to the library, several boxes to the local jail and prison, VA hospital, etc. My hope is all my favorite authors get some new readers out of the donations.

    I just finished Proof of Life this morning. I loved Lucy, she will make a grand companion for Beau and Mel. I loved the soggy shoulder and the towel, good for a giggle and true to life. I love my cats and a true pet lover does make accommodations for their quirks. Thanks for another great book.

  5. What a sweet story full of wonderful memories. As we get older I have found my memories are sweeter and more precious. Proof of Life was great. Loved Lucy, pets always improve your lives and stories… Have a grand week…Jan

  6. It sort of saddens me when I hear bookstores close. I have slowly converted to the ebooks but I do miss the smell and feel of an actual book. It is kind of hard to get an author’s signature in an ebook (LOL). I still buy a book here or there (or check them out at the library). I think the majority of my collection of books most are by my favorite author (you). I also have most signed from you as well, but I think my husband and the movers about killed me when they moved the books from Arizona to Washington state last summer. I’m sorry your bookstore is going out of business and the loss of your friends. I’m looking forward to reading your newest book but re-reading some of the series again in the meantime.

  7. I resist ebooks, except when traveling. My husband and I both love to have the book in hand. So many bookstores, large and small are closing. I know it is progress, but wandering the rows browsing for books will be lost to our grandkids.

  8. My 12 year old granddaughter, an avid reader like her sisters, said- Nana nothing against e readers but I love holding a book in my hand.
    Often she has several going at once. Like her mom and dad and like her Nana! I can remember carrying bags of books from
    The bookmobile! I too love your books and read them over and over!

  9. I used to travel to Seattle for work and I would always make time to visit the store. The section on local authors introduced me to authors I might never have learned about. I learned of the closing from a reader of the Mary Daheim Alpine series. I have read all Alpine books and all of yours. Independent bookstores are disappearing and mystery bookstores? There are few left in the US. I am so very sad.

  10. That book store was my favorite lunchtime stop. Sadly, I don’t get into town much now that I’ve retired. Every autographed book I have of yours I bought there

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