The dragons and witches are on display, waiting for someone to claim them. The furniture in the reading corner wears SOLD signs. Sunbeams stream through the skylights and fall on mostly empty shelves that will never be filled again. In the back office, Hamilton the cat snoozes peacefully, unaware that his life is about to change forever.
Creatures ‘n Crooks Bookshoppe is going out of business.
The closing of yet another independent bookstore is always a sad event, and it’s especially poignant for writers who have appeared there and readers who love its friendly atmosphere and personal service. The latest indie to fold is Creatures ‘n Crooks in Richmond, VA, a beautiful store in the historic Carytown section of the city. As owner Lelia Taylor prepares to close the doors forever on September 30, she threw a final “favorite authors” signing party last Saturday, and I was honored to be one of the 15 mystery, science fiction, and fantasy writers included. One of my first appearances as a published writer was at Creatures ‘n Crooks in the summer of 2006, when I joined Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, Laura Durham, and Ellen Byerrum to meet with the store’s mystery book discussion group.
The weather was perfect last Saturday, and customers came to buy books, but it was a melancholy afternoon.
Lelia opened Creatures ‘n Crooks on May 20, 2000. Hamilton, adopted from a shelter, has served as the store’s resident feline almost from the beginning, so his life, as well as Lelia’s, will change radically at the end of this month. Because Lelia’s cats at home might not accept him, he’ll go to live with people he knows and likes, who will provide him with the worshipful attention he’s grown to expect. He didn’t join the party on Saturday, but he granted me a private audience in the back office.
In addition to Hamilton, another animal was on hand, so to speak. Mystery writer and licensed falconer Andy Straka brought H.P. (Harris Potter), his gorgeous Harris hawk, and the two of them greeted startled customers and passersby outside the store. In case you might someday have to sign something while balancing a full-grown hawk on one hand, study Andy’s technique for autographing copies of his new PI mystery, Kitty Hitter.
Before introducing H.P., Andy chatted in the store’s reading corner with Bob Cohen (left) and Marcia Talley (seated).
John Lamb paused in his conversation with Ellen Byerrum and Ellen Crosby to sign a book for a reader.
Mary Montague Sikes and Pamela K. Kinney were among the authors attending.
G.M. Malliet and Ellen Byerrum talked among the shelves.
And Lelia did what she enjoys most: selling books.
Creatures ‘n Crooks will be missed.