Recently, a friend and iconic member of the independent bookshop community, Enid Schantz, lost her battle with cancer. Enid with her husband Tom, were one of the first to deal in rare and collectible crime fiction. They ran Rue Morgue bookstore in Colorado for decades, later concentrating on publishing Golden Age mystery writers introducing many to the likes of the Little Sisters (I recently posted an article on them) among others.
From the Rue Morgue Press site : “The Rue Morgue Press began operation in 1997, dedicated to the idea of reprinting what we like to call “mysteries for little old ladies of all ages and sexes.”
Which is just another way of saying that our specialty is the traditional mystery which first came to prominence during the Golden Age of detective fiction (1920-1940). Books are chosen, edited and prepared for publication by Tom and Enid Schantz, who have been involved in the mystery community since 1970. They were awarded the Raven in 2001 by the Mystery Writers of America for their contributions to the genre.”
Enid was a warm wonderful lady, and a consummate bookman. We often shared spaces at conventions–they selling Rue Morgue Press, and I selling jewelry, after having managed mystery bookstores. I had loved their Little sisters reprints so much, they quoted me once within a title, a real thrill for me, and when I’d try to purchase yet another Little title from them for my mother or friend, she’d invariably tell me I’d done enough for them and hand it to me gratis.
I had intended to interview her regarding the press for this site, having no idea she was ill. It is disheartening to know I’ll never have that chance.
A quote from a page of tributes to Enid sums up her importance within the community and as a bookseller:
Shortly before her death, I wrote these words to Enid:
(The)special connection between reader and writer can happen by chance. By lark. By whatever. But more often than not, there’s a guiding hand involved. A recommendation from a friend. Maybe a phrase or a sentence in a review. That’s where you come in. Where your professional life with books, comes in. Why? How? More often than I can know, the guiding hand has been yours. It is hard for me to imagine that anyone in the world of mysteries has been responsible for creating that moment of acquaintance, that connection between reader and writer, more than you. Face to face, in the store, through countless reviews, through newsletter after newsletter, on line, on the phone, as editor, as publisher, as friend, as fan, and by proxy through the many, many people you’ve taught and inspired how to do what it is you do—the number of readers you have encouraged on a blind date with some author she’s never heard of is an unknowable number.
But you know, and I know, that without your introduction, that reader would never have met or had the chance to fall in love with that author or that title, or with that genre or that subgenre.
That reader, that smitten reader, then becomes your agent. Making the next introduction, to his friend, to her book group. To a spouse. To a child.
We all know booksellers who sell books. You and I have joked many times about the heavy lifting involved. But you were never a bookseller content to select inventory and stock shelves. That was never enough for you. You are a Bookseller, capital B, who was always determined to know books and to know the authors who write them. Who was always determined to know readers and the preferences that guide them. You are the bookseller who sees the bridge between here and there, and encourages the leap, introducing this particular book to that particular person.
One at a time. Over and over and over again.
The business has lost a beacon. The rest of us have lost a gem.”
The Rue Morgue website: