A Dinner in Houston
After wearing Chicago’s cloak of snow, Houston wrapped its warm, sticky arms around me and pulled me close. A day off found me in the oak-sheltered museums around the glitzy Hotel ZaZa, where one is encouraged to wander down the hallway for tea of a morning, in one’s bathrobe. I’d still be in that bathrobe, if I didn’t think the pilot would mind.
Come Monday, a rare treat – time to visit three of the shops whose booksellers were coming to dinner! Brazos and Murder By the Book are just about across the street from one another, while River Oaks Bookstore is in the nearby and genteel neighbourhood of Wertheimer.
Brazos is an independent fiction reader’s dream – though they also stock a fine selection of art books, cookbooks, a children’s room, what have you, with excellent selection and layout. I told myself I would keep my hands in my pockets – my suitcase is filling up – but I was unable to resist the hand selling; another book went into my bag. Murder By the Books is so well stocked, with attention paid to writers’ backlists – essential in a mystery bookshop, especially where series are involved – and even import them from Britain when necessary. A visual delight with great pictures, posters, and memorabilia everywhere you turn; a warm mystery bookshop at the heart of their community. A short drive brought us to River Oaks Bookstore, where I was much taken with the hospitality and gracious welcome: platters of cookies, offers of tea or wine. Even a decanter of sherry awaits their customers, great readers all, encouraged to sit a spell and talk about recent reads, or to tuck into the piles of beautiful books all about them. Many thanks to Juan for a special little gift of a local book, published from a gas station, safe in my suitcase for a read once home.
The bookseller dinner was at Ouisie’s Table, tucked away in a secret little wine cellar, small enough to keep us all together in one great conversation. As ever, the booksellers had taken the time to read the ARC and had come prepared, armed with their thoughts, their questions and comments. Talk on faith and cults led to talks on the West, apt in Texas, where local knowledge put the book through its paces. In a place where so many have a relationship with Oklahoma and the Panhandle, it was a privilege to swap stories. When Danielle said she thought I’d ‘got the Panhandle just right’ my Angeleno heart soared. I even passed muster with Oklahoma-born sales rep, Ken Graham. Thanks for your hospitality, Ken! It was a great night.
If you’re in Houston, you are so well served by bookstores – more than the three I was able to stop by. If you’re not in Houston, do plan a visit – or find these great shops on-line – or on Twitter. Houston is the most switched-on city yet. And if that sounds like a gauntlet being thrown, you may be right.
Grateful thanks to the mighty bookshops of Houston!
Blue Willow Bookshop
Brazos Bookstore, Inc.
Katy Budget Books
Murder by the Book
River Oaks Bookstore