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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Stealing Books

In The Stranger, Paul Constant writes about the perils and pleasures of chasing book thieves:

In my eight years working at an independent bookstore, I lost count of how many shoplifters I chased through the streets of Seattle while shouting “Drop the book!” I chased them down crowded pedestrian plazas in the afternoon, I chased them through alleys at night, I even chased one into a train tunnel. I chased a book thief to the waterfront, where he shouted, “Here are your fucking books!” and threw a half-dozen paperbacks, including Bomb the Suburbs and A People’s History of the United States, into Puget Sound, preferring to watch them slowly sink into the muck rather than hand them back to the bookseller they were stolen from. He had that ferocious, orgasmic gleam in his eye of somebody who was living in the climax of his own movie: I suppose he felt like he was liberating them somehow.

He also has a list of the authors most in demand from the shoplifting fraternity. Though I suspect that’s a regional thing.

2 Responses to “Stealing Books”

  1. Ali says:

    Great piece – Many years ago I interview a few UK crime fiction booksellers and discovered the most ‘boosted’ [aka ‘shoplifted’] books from the Crime Fiction section were –

    Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series

    I pondered on the philosphical significance on why these two authors of Crime Fiction appealed to the contemporary criminal? But soon discovered that shop-lifting criminals are not that well-read and hence only knew Christie and Holmes.

    However a few crime-writers I know who tutor in the UK Prison system have told me that these hardened criminals have a much wider reading list due to the time spent on Her Majesty’s Time

    jb says: Every cloud has a silver lining, eh, Ali?

  2. M.E Ellis says: