How do we build community in the mystery scene? Sometimes, through sites like these; but in truth, no greater credit is deserved than for the independent and community-oriented bookstores of the world, and their charming combination of enthusiasm and expertise. There’s a long history of mystery specialty bookstores, as well as plenty of general fiction bookstores with impeccably curated mystery sections, and as part of our mission to celebrate the dedicated folks who keep the mystery world turning, we’ll be interviewing all of them.
First up, Book Passage! A beloved community bookstore in San Francisco that now has three locations, Book Passage is also host to innumerable events, book clubs, and conferences, fulfilling it’s role as not just a place to buy books, but as a hub of literary discourse. Buyer Paula Farmer, who works as an events host when she’s not getting orders in for events and corporate sales, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the store.
CrimeReads: What’s a crime book that could only be a bestseller at your store?
Paula Farmer from Book Passage: Before Reese Witherspoon even had a virtual book club and got on the Ruth Ware bandwagon, our Head Buyer Luisa Smith, was an early champion, encouraging the entire Book Passage staff to read In a Dark, Dark Wood. Like wildfire, ARCs and finished copies made their way through booksellers in each of our locations. Not surprisingly, It didn’t take long for our collective enthusiasm take hold through our customer base, making that particular Ruth Ware title to be a store top seller and eventual catapulting her to national fame.
Another title particular to Book Passage fame is American By Day by Derek B. Miller. This smart and savvy mystery is surprisingly humorous as it is suspenseful, and the fact that it manages to weave in important and timely issues makes it an easy choice for the BP staff to get behind. As such, many of us our happy to give this book, that most have never heard of, a rousing endorsement, while making it the unofficial “hand sell” of the month.
What are some ways for people to get involved with your bookstore? Do you have a newsletter, or a website, or a particularly active twitter?
It may not be especially trendy nowadays for most stores to still have a physical newsletter, but we do and it’s a community staple that remains wildly popular. Coming out every other month, it covers dozens upon dozens of author events (we have about 800 a year!), writing and language classes and Book Group information. Additionally, we have a strong online presence through our website (www.bookpassage.com), and various social media platforms such as Instagram and our very own YouTube channel showcasing a selection of our author events, many of which are mystery writers.
What is the gateway drug to mystery? What would you recommend to someone who wants to get their spouse/child/colleague/kinda weird neighbor into crime fiction?
Well, I was a late bloomer to the genre, and my appreciation for mystery launched in earnest with Tana French (Into the Woods). I know, many would say that’s starting at the top of the genre, but for someone who typically reads literary fiction, French is a great way to narrow the alleged divide between fiction and mystery. Because of my experience with that, I have no problems suggesting the same for others dipping their toes in the crime/mystery pond.
Pick a trend in mystery and crime writing you think is on the rise, or one that’s over.
A mystery trend of late is women at the center of a storyline and “girl” in the title. For example … Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window, The Wife Between Us, etc. Personally, I don’t see this trend going anywhere any time soon.
What crime writer’s oeuvre would you take with you to a desert island?
It’s a toss up between Tana French or Fred Vargas.
What’s your favorite book to handsell?
In our Mystery section, my favorite books to handsell are American By Day by Derek Miller, In the Woods by Tana French, and My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Where to Find Book Passage
Book Passage Corte Madera
51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA
9:00 am – 9:00 pm (Mon. – Sat.) | 9:00 am – 7:00 pm (Sun.)
Book Passage San Francisco
1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA
9:00 am – 7:00 pm (Mon. – Fri.) | 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Sat.) | 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (Sun.)
Book Passage Sausalito
100 Bay Street, Sausalito, CA
10:00 am – 6:00 pm (Mon. – Fri.) | 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (Sat. & Sun.)
In addition to being a Buyer for events and corporate sales at Book Passage, Paula Farmer also works with the company’s Events Department, hosting/ introducing many acclaimed authors and moderating dozens of events throughout the year. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, Paula spent twelve years in New York. She is originally from Detroit where she began a career in journalism. She continues to write book and film reviews for her own website at paulafarmer.com, as well as for Culture Vulture, an online arts magazine.