Anne Saller doesn't seem to believe in retirement. She's tried it -- twice -- and each time has come back to a new career.
An escrow officer, she owned her own company and when she closed it -- after finding jobs for all of her employees -- started her first retirement. But after a few years of taking it easy and traveling, she went back to work, heading the accounting office for
Mater Dei High School, a private Catholic high school in Southern California. "It was another great experience," Saller said, but after 15 years, she retired again and began to travel again.
But Saller doesn't plan to retire from her latest career as owner of the independent bookstore Book Carnival in Orange, California.
Saller's purchase of Book Carnival last September fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning a bookstore. But other factors influenced her decision to make the plunge. Saller had been friends of Pat and Ed Thomas, Book Carnival's original owners, for more than
20 years. Saller started as a customer of Book Carnival and then became friends with the Thomases, often traveling with them to Bouchercons. The Thomases had built Book Carnival into a destination that greeted more than 80 authors a year and scores of
customers. For their efforts, Ed and Pat Thomas received the Raven Award for their contributions to the mystery field in 2003.
But last year, Book Carnival went on the market. Ed has passed away and Pat, who has Alzheimer's, now lives in an assisted living apartment.
"This store has such a long, rich history that it was meant to be," said Saller, 77. "I had known Ed and Pat so long that I can continue what they started."
Saller also wants to continue the legacy of independent bookstores.
"Independents are disappearing and we can not let that happen," she said.
So far, Saller says the response has been terrific. Because she wasn't able to take over until September, Saller wasn't able to lock in advance author signings. Instead, several authors "went out of their way" to work Book Carnival into their schedule. Michael Connelly (left with Saller), Margaret Coel, Miles Corwin and Jeri Westerson arranged to come in for signings.
"Michael Connelly was so thoughtful and kind," Saller said. "He remembered some of the customers and asked how their friends and family were. He really remembers. It is so wonderful for someone to care so much."
Saller also mentioned that Dean Koontz, who dedicated his 1989 novel Midnight to Ed and Pat Thomas, has continued to fit in signings at Book Carnival. "He's a kind man who has not let success go to his head. He's been wonderful."
But Saller has found mystery authors supportive of her store as she sets up signings for 2011. Among those she has scheduled are Robert Crais and T. Jefferson Parker.
"Mystery authors are very supportive of the independent bookstore because that is who sells the books. The independents know what we are selling. We read the arcs. We talk to our customers and listen to what they want. We know the products we are selling. Mystery writers are so nice."
Support also comes from her customers. "We have wonderful customers and they are so happy we are staying open. I ship across the country and often get calls from Missouri or Connecticut who want to know we if we have an author coming in."
Saller said she will never forget the "sheer joy" of walking into Book Carnival the first time after the sale was complete and knowing "it is all mine."
"I am in love with the store. It has consumed me. Of course, the paperwork for the publishers also is consuming," she said, her sense of humor obvious during our telephone call. "But the stocking, the ordering, the talking to customers -- that is wonderful."
She says she enjoys the large number of collectors who are Book Carnival customers. She said she is helping several of her collector/customers bring their collections up to date because the store went for nearly a year without signings. She also loves introducing new authors to readers who want a book for a trip.
"The secret is getting to know your customers and their likes and dislikes. I have one man who loves Sherlock Holmes and so I am always looking for something for him. This is a personal business."
While a love of mysteries drew Saller to the genre, she realized it also was a community when she attended her first Bouchercon in 1987, and has kept her return to the conference every year. "Bouchercons are a place of immediate friends. Where else can you be in a place where everyone likes what you like? Everyone is a friend at Bouchercon. You share this common interest and there is a real excitement of finding new authors."
Saller said she remembers the first time she heard Elizabeth George talk was at a Bouchercon and "immediately ran to the book room, bought her book and had her sign it." At another Bouchercon, she sat at a table with the late Lawrence Sander and his wife and then later had breakfast with the couple. As recently as the Baltimore Bouchercon, Saller discovered the novels of Marcus Sakey.
"The camaraderie is wonderful," said Saller, who has also attended Left Coast Crime and Thrillerfest. "And that camaraderie continues with our customers."
Saller does have a life away from the store. She has two daughters, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and another great-grandchild on the way. She volunteers twice a week at the Orange Police Department.
Despite the economy, Saller didn't hesitate to buy Book Carnival. "I took a chance because I feel so strongly about the independent bookstore and this location."
Still, she is a realist. "You don't go into this to make a lot of money. This is a love."
Right now Saller is focusing on ordering Book Carnival stock, setting up author signings, getting the word out about her store and setting up a computer system -- a frantic pace she hopes will slow down.
"The irony of it is I don’t have as much time to read as before," she said.