on her shop, Patrick and her queens were featured on Oprah’s Oxygen Network and “Good Morning, America.” Patrick says the club’s popularityit has spawned chapters across the country and internationallycan be explained by her simple mantra. “Books can entertain, enlighten, and they don’t all have to be homework,” she says. “They can be fun. I think sometimes school takes all the fun out of reading. How many points am I going to get for reading this, you know?” With a book of her own entitled The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara -Wearing, Book -Sharing Guide To Life set for national release this month, Patrick is hoping to continue reviving reading in small towns. “My bookstore survives because I’m kind of bringing the big city to my small town;’ Patrick says. “Authors who come here have this real one-on-one experience with their readership, which they don’t get to experience often in other places. Both parties get a lot out of it.” “I might sell one of those books a year, but I think it’s important that it’s there on the bookshelf.” Three Dog Books overlooks the edge of the plains in downtown Archer City, a blinking-red-light town best known as the home of author Larry McMurtry and location for the 1971 film, The Last Picture Show. Owned by Cody and Julie Ressell, Three Dog’s weathered stone shop front is often more frequented by UPS trucks than walk-in customers. “Open by chance or appointment,” a sign in the window reads. “Everybody’s online these days in the antiquarian book business,” Cody Ressell says. “I know people who are pushing 90 that are online. I mean, really, you have to be very, very specialized and have an old list of customers to make it without selling through the Internet.” Dealing mainly in old and rare selections, the antiquarian book business is more akin to the world of antique dealers than the conventional book trade. To find antiquarian books worth selling, dealers often sift through countless stacks of dusty and worthless books before coming across the proverbial diamond in the rough. Luckily, the Ressells can cull a lot of their stock from their friends and business partners at Booked Up, McMurtry’s neighboring shop. Since moving from Washington, D.C., to Archer City in the ’90s, McMurtry has established one of the nation’s largest antiquarian bookshops in his hometown. Not wanting to hassle with the Internet, McMurtry began working with the Ressells to sell the best of his collection online. “Since Booked Up is not online, it’s good to go through there and find the things that are worth selling on the Internet,” Julie Ressell says. “These would be cases where there’s only one copy of a book or just a few copies. Not anything common. There’s lots and lots of stuff there that’s pretty obscure and weird. They might not all be worth a lot individually, but cumulative sales on the Internet add up. At this stage, we still need to sell lots and lots of $50 books and a big one every now and then.” Cody Ressell adds, “The other year, we sold a book entitled A Tour of Jamaica for $14,000. It had hand-colored plates and was from the 1700s at least, a memoir by some British consulate.” Despite the impersonal nature of the Internet, the Ressells have worked hard to build relationships with repeat customers, a practice essential in the antiquarian book world. “It seems to me that the real booksellers are always going to have customers because people who love books are always going to want to deal with shops that they know and are comfortable with,” Julie Ressell says. “There are real personal relationships of trust that we build with our customers. They want to know where the book came from and what you know about it, and they’ll be perfectly happy to buy other things from you that they’re interested in. It takes trust because there’s so much out there that’s sold as something that it isn’t. Books are presented as first editions when they’re not or are sold with facsimile dust jackets. There are lots of tricky things. On eBay, there are people who subscribe to our newsletter that they receive every week, where they’re updated on what’s come into our store and what’s gone on to auction.” Looking out at the towering mountains of Big Bend National Park, the Terlingua Trading Co. bookstore is nestled within a gift shop next to the Starlight Theatre in Terlingua’s dusty and historic ghost town. Betty Moore, a former Texas Monthly production director who left Austin for Terlingua in 1985, runs the store. She also works as a river guide and helps the Peregrine Fund release birds of prey into the wild. “Tom Gaffaney actually started the store with a couple shelves of books and then expanded it,” Moore says. “He’s a golf caddy at some big course in New York who comes down here in the off-season. After a few years, the bookstore got a pretty good reputation, so that foundation was built by him. When I would go out of town, I would visit different bookstores and bring him back lists of things to order. When he quit the job in 2000, I took over.” Dealers often sift through count less stacks of dusty and worthless books before coming across the proverbial diamond in the rough. Understanding visitors’ infatuations with the Big Bend region’s otherworldly beauty, Moore stocks her store with an in-depth regional selection. “Sometimes people get here and they think they’re in a foreign country, you know?” Moore says. “This place just really captures the imagination in a way that other places don’t. They want to know more about the wildflowers, birds, geology, and Indian history. We carry JANUARY 11, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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