Plague of Stairs

Partners and Crime, a specialty mystery bookstore in Greenwich Village, is closing its doors after eighteen years. On Twitter, noted suspense novelist Peter Blauner (The Intruder, Casino Moon, Man of the Hour) posted a link to a New York Times article about the unfortunate closing. Having signed at P&C many years ago at the beginning of my career, I retweeted his comments, adding my own sad acknowledgment over the loss of yet another bookstore.

A follower of mine responded with the following: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” Said follower went on to write “print is a plague that should be inoculated with an injection of fresh digital.”

Print is a plague? The fuck? How is print a “plague”? And how does digital publishing help to strengthen or energize fiction in any way meaningful except that it allows out-of-print books to be more easily accessed as well as instant buying power? (Well, I know the answer–writers who can’t get published in a traditional fashion are enjoying the wealth of new self-publication formats–books, you see, are evil, but e‑books and self-pubbed titles on Kindle are only adding to the annals of world literature. Uhm, yahh…duh). How is it that someone can actually call physical books “rubbish”? Isn’t this how Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 started off, more or less? Unless you never read that book because, you know, it was a book, and it gave you the black plague when you touched it.

I suppose I could have asked my follower why he would make such an ignorant and ugly comment, especially knowing I had just expressed my sorrow over the death of bookstores, but I was too busy blocking his dimwit ass. I want to be surrounded by people who love books in any and all their forms, not folks who consider books and bookstores to be trash. I am a bibliophile. I love books. I especially love physical books. I don’t own an e‑reader but I have nothing against them as such, and in fact I make a wide variety of my own fiction available via e‑format. Whether that helps to innoculate this so-called plague or not remains to be seen.

I wanted to say to said former follower “kid, do you really want to live in a world without bookstores? In a world without books that you can smell and carry and flip through?”

Apparently he does. Me, I don’t. Me, I’m scared. Me, I worry. I want piles of books stacked around me to the rafters forever. I want bookcases. I want the weight of a writer’s story to have actual weight, gravity, mass, heft, girth. I want to be able to get books signed by their authors. I want dust jackets. I want spines. I want craft. I want skill. I want dream. I want the friends of my youth and my life.

Those who agree, those who print, and those who sell books, even e‑books, those are my partners. Those who claim such things are rubbish, those are cunts with their cunty mouths and their cunty ways, those are the criminals, and their cruel and arrogant words are their crimes. A plague upon their houses. May a tidal wave of hardcovers wash over their empty libraries and crush them while they set fire to Tolstoy and Dickens.

So the last five hundred years of print has just been a blight upon the face of the earth until e‑readers came along to put reading and publishing into the hands of the people across the world. Cue Braveheart’s disemboweled cry of “freedom!”

Am I old school? Am I old world? Am I the old farmer with his mule and cart as you drive up in your fancy Model‑T? Probably.

So listen:

If you and I run into each other, or you’re a Facebook friend, or you read my blog, or you’re reading this piece in The Big Click zine, or you spot me at a conference, or you drive past my mule, do not step up and tell me how happy you are that bookstores are dying out. Do not call the thing I love most across the span of my life “rubbish.” Do not whip my mule. Do not dance a joyful court jester dance upon the ashes as they raze libraries. I will have to do something vicious to your spleen. Because you, my not so dear friend who can no longer follow me, you are a criminal.

In the words of the great British comedian Stephen Fry: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” So why was my former follower so threatened by this plague of stairs?

About the Author

Tom Piccirilli

Tom Piccirilli is the author of more than twenty novels, including The Last Kind Words, which bestselling author Lee Child called “Perfect crime fiction.” Order now! He’s won two International Thriller Awards and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. Learn more about Tom at:



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