Got home from my shopping trip to find an email from the current proprietors of Murder by the Book, with sad news. Shirley Beaird, the co-founder and longtime owner of the store, died last Friday.
I didn’t know her well, but always enjoyed talking with her when I visited the store (and of course I always enjoy visiting that store, anyway).
Shirley was the first person I ever met who really knew those special creatures – actual authors of actual books that I actually liked to read! She had a wonderful ready laugh, and I don’t think she ever met a stranger. I bless the day all those years ago when I wandered into MBTB and met Shirley.
The store is terrific; Shirley lived upstairs in that house and the rest of it was devoted to the store. Today’s email from Lauri, one of the current store proprietors, said truly that Shirley “was a great friend to many (and she knew mysteries like few others on earth!).”
I can’t remember all the authors whose books I discovered because Shirley pushed me in their direction. Except for Walter Satterthwait, whose Miss Lizzie is still an all time favorite. I know there are more, I just can’t think of them right now.
Book signings at MBTB usually featured food – including a cake decorated as a facsmile of the cover of the author’s newest book. Yeah, I know; a little dissonant to have the author of a book with “blood” or “murder” or “death” in the title, cheerily smiling while posing for a snapshot holding the book cover replica cake. But, I don’t know, it was all part of the fun.
I remember back when she was still at “F” or “G,” I actually sat on the love seat at MBTB next to Sue Grafton and we chatted about criminal procedure. That was definitely in the Shirley days. I think it was a bit after she’d sold the place but was still around, that I had the privilege of sitting there with a small group of other readers and talking with Robert Barnard. I think so highly of Robert Barnard’s books that I recall feeling kind of shy and intimidated, but he’s a very unstuffy kind of guy to talk to.
Oh, Shirley, thank you for introducing a shy mystery fiction reader to the real world of writers and readers. Thanks to you I attended a few Left Coast Crime conferences and Bouchercons. And met wonderful people, writers, readers, booksellers, and more, I would never have known had you not welcomed me so warmly into your store, and your world.