BOOKTHINK: Do you and your wife Helen still have the book shop, The Old Algonquin?
We actually closed the store about ten years ago. We have been trying to sell off the stock ever since. We just lowered a bunch of prices. Some of the books that I priced when I looked on the internet back then - there were only three or four copies. Now you look up the same book, and there are eighty or so. It's kind of dismal, to tell you the truth. I know you hear this from every bookseller who ever lived, but it isn't as much fun as it used to be. When I first got into it, I thought, "Where has this been all my life?" I loved it. But then as time went on, it was less lovable. People always want more than you can give them.
On the one hand, the book scouts want more money, and on the other hand, the customers want to pay less. I absolutely loved the business for the first seven or eight years. It becomes more like a job every day. You get the book for the best price you can get it for and do the best you can to offer it at a fair price. People don't understand. The average person looks their book up on the net and sees three similar books listed for $100, and they think they can bring a copy to a bookseller and get $100 for it. Well, show me any bookseller who can do that and stay in business. How is the bookseller going to make any money? You've got to cover the rent and other overhead, not to mention the time it takes to deal with people.
BOOKTHINK: How did you happen to name your bookshop the Old Algonquin? I am curious if it had some relationship to the famous hotel in New York City where literary figures gathered.
Ah, you mean the "Round Table"? Sure, I have a round table. I put it in the store. I had the idea that my writer friends would come down and we would talk about weighty issues of the day. But that never happened. For one reason, I had too much to do just to keep the book store going. People who have this romantic idea of "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have a little book store" don't know how much work is actually involved in it.
BOOKTHINK: I know you also have a love for and have written some very successful books about old-time radio.
Yeah, I'm done with that now, though. I don't have any real need to revisit that area. I've worked in it, I've done books on it, and that's enough.
BOOKTHINK: Are you working on another Janeway book?
Oh yeah, I'm always fiddling with something. I don't have anything plotted, but another one will be coming. I've been getting a lot of questions from people who have seen the title of this book, and they think it's the bookman's last fling, and it's not. It doesn't end there. I will keep writing.
BOOKTHINK: Do you have a favorite genre for your own enjoyment?
No, I just like a good book. Doesn't have to be a mystery. I love John Gardner's books, for instance, Mickelsson's Ghosts. I love John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Magus - those books are just classics.
BOOKTHINK: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Besides finding great entertainment in your books, we always glean some bits of knowledge and wisdom from your work about books and book collecting.
I hope so, and I was happy to do the interview.