The staff of Murder Ink are always answering questions. People want book recomendations. They want to know when their favorite author has another title coming out. Sometimes they bring in a stack of books and ask how much money they can get for them. But the most frequently asked question, always over the phone, goes something like this: "Yo. Can I speak to Irv?"
Irv Gotti runs Murder Inc. records.
So life at the bookstore involves the verbal equivalent of the following:
"2 my baby JA n tha murder INC crew
I’m a big fan of Ja n the whole murter crew,I think ya need 2 answer back 2 50.
I hate tha nigga. Ja watz up answer back don’t let no wanksta’ bring u down.
oh n yes I’ll love to be ur down ass bitch.I love ya" n keep it back is ur time 2 shine.
The woman seemed normal, if normal is someone who only buys two books a year. "I love the Dick Francis, with the horses, and the one with the letters…"
"Sue Grafton", I added helpfully.
"Yeah Yeah! With the A and the B and the such. How does she think those up?"
"No no, the stories in the books. I wish I could find someone I like as much as the two of them. Say do you know where I could find something?" I waited. "I’m lookin’ for one of those long elastic rubber…" I reached for the box of rubber bands on the counter, thinking foolishly that if I could only provide her with her third wish she might decide to leave the store. "…pieces for my UNDERWEAR!" My hand immeadiately retracted from the box as if burned; the mere idea of this particularly unattractive women even owning under garments, let alone wearing them into this store filled me with a wave of nausea. "It’s the elastic! It broke right…", and she began digging beneath her layers of bulky clothing to help me with a visual clue. I knew then that I had to stop her.
"That’s okay, ma’am. The new Sue Grafton should be out in the spring – why don’t you come back then?" I stammered.
She held her ground. She shook her head emphatically; "Ow this is terrible. It’s right here." She produced a small corner of fabric. "You see?"
Trying vainly not to, I smiled serenly. Then looking at me as if for the first time, she added "Do you understand what I’m saying?"
"All too well I’m afraid."
"So then what shoud I do? I mean, if these fall down then how am I going make it though?" She was threatening me now.
"Buy a new pair?"I suggested. She regarded me initially as if I had just spoken in Chinese, then a look of profound sadness crossed her face. "It’s gonna be a long winter".
And she carefully shuffled out: Dick Francis in one hand, a fistfull of underpants in the other.
A few things about the store:
Murder Ink is a book store that sells mysteries. Not too long ago, the people who run it took over the narrow space next door, which for many years had been an establishment that sold roast chickens. Where there were once chickens cooking on spits there are now books of a literary nature, new hardcovers as well as used books, and collector’s items. Which sold better – chickens or books – is still an open question.
The new store, Ivy’s, appears to be a separate entity when viewed from the street but the two stores are connected inside; the cashier’s console looks like the captain’s lodge of a ship, or perhaps the podium at an auction house, and overlooks both establishments. Both Ivy’s and Murder Ink have impressive collections of first editions, locked up behind glass. But all in all they are quite different.
Murder Ink is a modern looking place done up in dark wood. Ivy’s, though technically more recent, has white floors and a slightly quaint, rusticated vibe. Every now and then people come in with stacks of books and a member of the staff, such as Tom Cushman, will quickly go through the books, putting them in several piles: the ones he doesn’t want, the ones he will pay a little for, and the one for which he will pay a little more than a little.
Cushman is friendly but brusque, or brusque but friendly, depending on his mood. Our photographer got a smile out of him. His picks (all mysteries) will shortly be appearing here as a regular feature.