Friday, April 03, 2009

The Poisoned Pen--- It's More Than a Bookstore, It's an Experience!

I've mentioned more than once on these pages that the Poisoned Pen is my favorite bookstore, that their staff is the best, and that their selection of books is so great that I have to limit my visits there. I began to realize that I should take you there so you can see for yourself, and it just so happens that I visited a few weeks ago with a camera-toting friend who snapped away while I drooled and kept choosing books to buy. (All photos were taken by Mike Birindelli and are clickable to view them full size.)

What are you waiting for? Let's hop in the car and GO!

The Poisoned Pen
4014 N Goldwater Blvd. Suite 101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

If you love mysteries, the Poisoned Pen is the place to visit. It's one of the top independent mystery bookstores in the United States. Fortunately we visited on a quiet Sunday because Mike was out in the middle of the street to take this shot of the front entrance!

I love the outside lighting fixtures. There's just something about gargoyles that tickles my fancy!

Parking is behind the store, so I normally use the side entrance. Got your list ready? Follow me!

This is what greets you when you walk into the front and side entrances: new releases on the tables and hardcover and trade paper on the shelves. I have to admit that I try not to look at the new releases...unless one of the books on my list is hot off the press. New releases are just too tempting to this bookaholic!

Here are more hardcovers and trade papers. I always start along this (left) wall, follow it down to the end, look at the displays in the middle, cover the back wall, and make my way toward the register along the (right) wall. Yes, I'm a creature of habit! In the photo above, you can see a bit of a comfy chair in which to sit. One of my friends came to visit me a few years ago, bought her books much faster than I, and sat down in that chair to begin reading. She read one of Christopher Moore's books, and I can still remember hearing her laughter while I browsed.

You can also buy Poisoned Pen-themed merchandise along with all those scrumptious books: tote bags, sweatshirts, mugs, caps....

This is the one and only section of the Poisoned Pen that I don't browse. It's filled with signed, first editions, which I don't collect. One of these days, I know I'll do some snooping here whether I collect them or not!

This is the back wall of the bookstore which holds children's books, history, historical fiction, and other genres. Although the Poisoned Pen's main focus is mysteries, the owner (the fantastic Barbara Peters) does not limit the store to just that one genre. I've been known to buy historical fiction, histories and biographies here, too. One of the major reasons why this bookstore is so good is because it's not limited to US publishers only. I love British mysteries, and I never have any trouble finding them here. If you happen to want a book that they don't have, the staff is more than happy to look it up, get a copy for you and contact you when it's arrived.

[Slight pause while I call the Poisoned Pen to ask them to mail a book to me....]

The Poisoned Pen hosts many author signings, and one with Sandi Ault was scheduled for the afternoon that Mike and I were there. If you take a look up at the rafters in the above photo, you can see portraits of all the authors who have appeared in the bookstore. Author signings and book buying aren't the only two reasons to frequent the Poisoned Pen; however, they also sponsor many book of the month clubs such as Mystery of the Month, First Mystery Club and British Crime Club.

This is the mass market wall and the homestretch of my book buying. Just writing this post and uploading photos makes me itch to get in the car and drive over there.

The photo above shows the end of the mass market wall as well as an endcap and table featuring books published by the Poisoned Pen Press. Yes, not just a bookstore, but a publisher, too! Two of my favorite Poisoned Pen Press authors are Donis Casey and Judy Clemens.

I've finally made it to the register. See that stack of books on the counter with the bright yellow dust jacket on the bottom? That's my (incomplete) haul of books! I've bought many a wonderful book at this counter and had many a great book conversation with the staff and other customers. I've spent my life in the customer service field, and the Poisoned Pen is the only place where I consistently rave about the staff. They are all friendly, they all love books, and they all want to make each and every customer happy.

Hopefully I've convinced you that a stop at the Poisoned Pen is a must if you live here or if you have a trip planned to the Phoenix metropolitan area. And...if you happen to dislike city driving, I'll happily volunteer to drive you there. The price of being your chauffeur? One book, please!


  1. I wish I could make a trip out there to see that store (and you, of course). Wouldn't it be fun to do a bookstore tour of the US?

  2. What a wonderful tour, it sure is a lot larger than it looks from the outside!

  3. OMG!!!! I love, love, love it. The outdoor light fixture, the outline on the floor. WOW! And it's mysteries!! What a fabulous place. Dang, wish I still lived in Prescott!

    Thanks for letting me visit.

  4. Ok - salivating here!

    I think it is worth a trip to Scottsdale just to visit this mecca for book lovers. Actually, one of my dreams is to take a vacation that is dictated by independent bookstores I want to visit throughout the country. The Tattered Cover in Denver and The Poisoned Pen are at the top of the list.

  5. Thank you for the tour, Cathy! I hope to someday visit. It reminds me a little of the Mystery Book Store in Westwood, although I think the Poison Pen is larger.

  6. I'm so sorry I haven't been around your blog for a long time. I haven't been blogging much myself, but I just wanted to drop by and say hi, wish you a good weekend and a nice Easter (if you celebrate that) and apologize for being scarce.

    I am finishing my Master thesis and this takes up most of my time. Hopefully, by the end of May, I will be able to blog more and participate more around the blogosphere.

    I am still reviewing books from time to time on my blog, but I am not really active.

    I don't expect you to come running visiting and commenting, I just wanted to let you know that I am very much alive and I miss reading and commenting on your blog very much.

    This is a personal message written to all the blogowner, whose delightful blogs I visit on a regular basis, but it has been copy/pasted. So if you find it on other blogger's blogs, that is why.

    I look very much forward to be active again - and apologize once again for not being active the past month and not being able to be active for another month or two.


    (PS. LOVED this book-store post!!!)

  7. What a deliciously delightful looks place! I have hear of The Poisoned Pen and would absolutely love to visit it someday! Come and kidnap me and take me there, please! lol!

  8. Your photographer did a great job, Cathy, along with your write-up. Barbara should be pleased.

    I used to go to signings quite often, and I never miss John Connolly (the Irishman) when he makes his annual visit. He's known to have a pint with a customer or two after the signing.

    And something you didn't mention. TPP will get the British version of the book for you. It isn't cheap, but it sure beats dealing with It comes in handy when you really want a book and know that there'll be a year-long lag before the American edition (so they can "Americanize" it).

  9. Oh, this looks like Ali Baba´s cave to me. Embarrassing how few proper bookshops we have in Denmark, but at least we have a great library where the staff are just as kind and helpful as in your wonderful store.

  10. Loved it, but I have a question:

    Re Charlie's comment. Do publishers really Americanize books that way? Why? Any American I have ever met is perfectly capable of reading books written with other culture's references etc. I've seen it done with a picture book I reviewed recently. The main characters' names were changed and I thought someone must have decided they would sell more books if the names weren't British/Australian.

    Has anyone ever compared the two versions? Doesn't it ruin a book to do that?

  11. Kathy--what a wonderful idea! I'd love to tour the country stopping at bookstores all along the way!

    Alea--I agree with you. It looks smaller from the outside!

    I'm glad you liked it, Beth. Why don't you come along with Kathy on her bookstore tour?

    Molly--the Tattered Cover would be on my must-see list, too!

    Claire--I love it when bookaholics drool over books and bookstores!

    Wendy--I think you'd love it!

    Louise--it's so good to hear from you. I'm looking forward to the time when you can return to blogging!

    April--I would love to get you (and everyone else) to that bookstore. I think I might have to phone ahead and tell them to expect a deluge of booklovers!

    Charlie--thanks for bringing that up. I'd forgotten about it because I usually order UK books that I can't wait for from the Book Depository. Wonderful packaging, get 'em within a week, and FREE shipping!

    Dorte--it sounds as though your library more than makes up for the lack of bookstores. Good for you!

    Susan--I've gone through a couple of UK/US versions, and there's really not that much difference between the two. The titles seem to be changed the most. (Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close became Fleshmarket Alley, for instance.) Then the publishers will go through and revert certain words to the standard American spellings. (Removal of all those extra U's, exchanging s's for z's, etc.) I have to admit that I'm not au courrant with all the changes that might be made. 99.9% of the time, if the book is by a UK/Australian author, I read that version, not the American one. If I get stumped on something in a UK book, all I have to do is ask my husband about it, and he'll shed all the necessary light I need. Comes in handy, 'e does! :)

  12. i love the outline at the register--i'd fit perfectly in it after the cashier rings up my purchases and i faint from sticker shock!

    my favorite bookstore is the northsire in manchester, vermont. it's sublime!

  13. What a great bookstore! I'm putting this in my travel file right now for next time I am down your way.

  14. I cannot find the words to express the extent of my jealousy Cathy :)

    We have no such thing in this entire country let alone within driving distance you lucky thing. I have to be content with online stores for my book buying.

    You've done a fabulous job with the post too - given a great sense of what it's like to visit such a place. Thanks...sort of :)

  15. Natalie--I've never fallen into that outline, but then I usually keep a firm grip on the edge of the counter!

    Rose--We'll be more than happy to see you!

    Kit--here dear, a towel for you. :o)

    Bernadette--since you love mysteries as I do, I have an idea of how jealous you may be. All I have to do is put myself in your place! I wish I could clone an Aussie one for you!

  16. I've heard a lot about this store and if I ever do go to Arizona I'll make a point of stopping by! For now I just have to content myself with pictures. It looks awesome though!

  17. I was just down there visiting this bookstore last month! They have some very-hard-to-find historical fiction and the friendliest staff around. People can go online and they will mail you whatever book you desire.

  18. Wow! What nice pictures of a terrific bookstore. It pains me greatly that I live on the East Coast, nowhere near Arizona.

    Well, can vicariously enjoy the bookstore through photos and the Poisoned Pen's excellent emails and website.

    Thanks. If only one could take a mystery bookstore cross-country tour. That's a great idea.

    Kathy D.

  19. Michele--I'm so glad you've had a chance to visit the Poisoned Pen!

    Kathy D.--I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and that mystery bookstore tour would be absolutely fantastic!

  20. I lived in Arizona for a few months and I visited The Poisoned Pen once for Sue Grafton's booksigning that year (I lived too far away from Scottsdale to visit often). TPP IS a wonderful bookstore. I've ordered books from there since moving away from Arizona.

    Thank you for posting all these photos - it's just like I remembered. I remember gawking at all the books and the photos of the authors who had signed books there.

    TPP was one of my favorite bookstores in Arizona. Another that I visited once (and have also ordered from since moving away) was The Singing Wind Bookshop (I think that's such a cool name) in Benson, Arizona.

    Thanks again for posting these pics (I got the link from TPP's newsletter).


  21. DH--Thanks so much for stopping by, and for telling me where you found the link. I was wondering where all these Poisoned Pen post readers were coming from! I also appreciate the reminder about Singing Wind. My husband and I are heading down to Bisbee in June, and since we go right through Benson, that will give me the perfect excuse to stop there!

  22. Thank you for the lovely, lovely tour of The Poisoned Pen! I can't believe I've missed it every time I've been over in Scottsdale the last few years. I will remedy that the next time I'm over. I can't wait!

  23. I certainly hope you enjoy your visit to the Poisoned Pen, Terri!

  24. Oh why didn't I go to Scottsdale when I went to Arizona? What a wonderful bookstore - lucky you Cathy.


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