Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Farewell to Creatures 'n Crooks

Sandra Parshall

The dragons and witches are on display, waiting for someone to claim them. The furniture in the reading corner wears SOLD si
gns. 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.


Julia Buckley said...

What a beautiful store! I wish I could have been there to pay tribute to it.

It is truly a sad thing to see any bookselling venture fail, especially one as lovingly maintained as this one was--one which helped to support the careers of so many authors.

Unknown said...

It was a somber occassion. A nice tribute to a special store. You handled the last author signing like a well attended viewing with dignity and taste.

G.M. Malliet said...

I first met Lelia in Charlottesville at the Virginia Book Festival (which will never be the same without her there selling books, by the way. Amazon can't fill all these roles, can it)?

She invited me to participate in a group signing later that year with other mystery authors - my first-ever signing. I was so thrilled; I thought she must be joking. Donna Andrews, Ellen Byerrum, Ellen Crosby...and me? It was one of the gentlest initiation rites ever - an act of pure kindness on Lelia's part.

Thank you, Lelia. I won't ever forget.

Ellen Byerrum said...

I can hardly believe that Creatures 'n Crooks and Lelia won't be in Carytown when my next book comes out. But I understand that Lelia will continue an online book presence so people will still be able to order their favorite mysteries from her.

Anonymous said...

This makes me feel nostalgic for a place I never had the opportunity to visit.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This makes me so sad. It seems like one by one these stores are going out of business.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Marcia Talley said...

We're going to miss Lelia and C&C. Loved coming to the store, not only to see friends and fans I've made since my very first signing there mumble mumble years ago, but my semi-annual excuse to buy clothes in the funky Carytown shops and eat in one of the fab quirky restaurants. Thanks, Lelia ... and stay in touch.

Ellen Crosby said...

A bittersweet day at Creatures 'n Crooks with Lelia, Annie, Hamilton and the rest of the gang . . . plus so many good friends. I'll miss the store . . . and all those lunches before the signings at Babe's around the corner!! Carytown just won't be the same. Thanks, Lelia, for all the good times at CnC, at Crime Wave for VA Book and all the other off-site events you showed up at for all of us.

kathy d. said...

What I was trying to say is that fiction, including mysteries, can delve into all aspects of the human condition,and all variations on how human beings live, which makes it so fascinating.

kathy d. said...

Oops, I'm sorry. I meant to write on another comments' section.

What a wonderful bookstore. It's so sad that it's closing. A friend who lived in Richmond loved that store.
Hamilton is a gorgeous cat, too. Hope he has a nice home.
Independent bookstores are some of the best places to visit and hang out. It is too bad this happened.