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  • Randy Shell

The Importance of Being Randy

When I first decided to open up a used book store I had visions of how it would look. I pictured myself in a turtleneck sweater, with an old tome in my hand, sitting in a big leather overstuffed chair, perhaps a smoking pipe nearby for ambiance. Waiting for a customer to come in looking for a leather bound first edition of Dickens or Shelly. The truth, of course, is far from that. Constant sorting, pricing, boxes of paperbacks stacked up in corners. Piles of the old beat up novels from niche authors who crank them out on a monthly basis. I accept this as part of the book business. I am a small bookstore, in a small town. But the one thing I swore I would never stock is cheap romance novels. I held out for a long time. Then one day an elderly woman comes in to the store and said she wanted to donate a large box of books if I would help her get them out of the car. Great, be glad to. I unloaded them and set them on the counter while she browsed the shelves. I pick up the first one in the box, look at it and say to her, “This is a Super Romance” She replied “Yes, It was terrible, nothing but sex, just pure trash. But I started it so I went ahead suffered through and finished it.” I said “I totally understand once I start a book I feel obligated to finish it too.” I then picked up the next book in the box and said “This is another Super Romance” She replied “Oh yes” I asked “How many are there?” She said “127”, I just looked at her and said “That was a lot of suffering” She said “Oh, it was, it was” So I put the box of books in the back room in a corner and as luck would have it a woman comes in the following day and asks if I have any romance novels. I said “yes, 127”. I take her to the back to look through them and she asks “Any Historical Romance?” I had no idea, didn’t even know there was such a thing. So I quickly go through them and proudly grab one. “Here’s one. Takes place in 16th century Scotland. The Border Lord: Ann was the sauciest wench who ever entertained an outlaw. She said “No, that really falls under Celtic Romance. We call people who like that genre Kilt Climbers.” Kilt Climbers! I apparently have a lot to learn. She found a few she liked, left and word quickly got around that I was a purveyor in cheap romance novels. People started frequenting the store and asking questions like “Do you have any Paranormal Romance? Western Romance, Super Romance, Christian Romance, Amish Romance (those are real bonnet rippers), Inspirational Romance, Romantic Suspense, Historic Paranormal Romance and so on. It now no longer phases me when someone walks in and asks “Do you have any Exotic Locale Romances? I can quickly respond, Station Six Sahara: A band of desperate men and one man-hungry woman, a novel as searing and violent as the desert sun. I’m sure I will be going to hell for all this but I take comfort in knowing that I will be surrounded by a group of older women who will be baking me cookies and knitting me socks. Though, why I will need socks in hell I’m not sure.

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Jun 03, 2021

Hi Randy, it’s interesting how our vision changes with reality, isn’t it.Always surprising and often better than we imagine. Think how many women (do men buy romance novels?) say to themselves, “This book made my day!”


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