Monday, June 23, 2014

Walmart vs. Smith's in Books

Four months ago, Mom and Meridith went for a haircut at a Supercuts in the Eastern Commons shopping center in Henderson, which has the Smith's supermarket as its anchor. So Dad and I decided to go to that Smith's for a few things, and after picking up bagged mixed salad, flour tortillas (for me, because I wanted to see if there was any brand good enough at it. This one was just ok), and juice, Dad went to wherever else he goes in a Smith's, and I went to the books, to see if they had anything interesting.

Books in supermarkets lean toward romance novels in small towns, some sci-fi novels outside of the usual suspects such as Star Trek, and, at least in the West, a good selection of Westerns, namely from William W. Johnstone. And there are mystery novels in sometimes whimsical settings, such as diners, coming mainly from Berkeley Prime Crime and Obsidian.

At this visit to Smith's, I indeed found one mystery novel set in a diner, called A Second Helping of Murder by Christine Wegner, which turned out to have been the second in Wegner's Comfort Food Mystery series, but I was intrigued enough by it that I didn't care that I was starting with the second novel. I wanted to read it, and I bought it, not waiting to see if the Henderson Libraries have a copy, because they usually don't, being a much smaller system than the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. Some titles you can count on being there right away, like the latest, most widely publicized book and DVD releases, but books like this one either enter the system later, or not at all.

Then, about two months ago, before the Smith's on East Sunset Road, also here in Henderson, started undergoing a massive remodel, I went to the book section there and found Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara, the first in her Officer Ellie Rush Mystery series. While it does take place in Los Angeles, with Ellie patrolling various streets on her bicycle, and while I never want to see Los Angeles again in person after nine too-long years in Southern California, I'm curious to see how it's covered by people who live there, who clearly like it better than I ever did. So I bought this one too.

This is about the average for Smith's: Every couple of months, there's a book that interests me enough to buy it, but never the hardcovers. I won't spend $19 for whatever's on the bestseller list or whatever's been highly publicized. I know that my local library will likely have those books, or chances are that I had already pre-ordered that book on Amazon and it's within an order that includes four or five other books at a shot. Amazon's not bad when you know what you want right away.

Before yesterday's visit to my favorite Walmart in the Eastgate shopping center on Marks Street, yes, also in Henderson, I can't remember the last book I bought there. I always visit every book section, seeing what's new in paperback, always avoiding the hardcovers, and usually walking away with nothing because I don't need the latest Jack Reacher novel or its reprints. That series doesn't intrigue me.

Yet, at that Walmart, I noticed The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, billed as "The First Novel in the Longmire Mystery Series." I know that the TV series on A&E has been around for a while, but I've never watched it. And I've heard of Longmire, but never pursued the series, because I'm usually busy with other mystery series, such as Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout. But here it was. Here was the chance to see what the Longmire series was about from the start. And $5.99 for a hefty paperback is a pretty good price, a far cry from the bevy of Robyn Carr novels I usually bypass every time. So I bought it, and unlike the previously mentioned mystery novels, which still sit in my stacks unread (but I will read them soon enough), I'm going to start reading this one. The bookmark in the first page is proof of that.

(Looking at the back of both A Second Helping of Murder and Murder on Bamboo Lane, I find that both the Obsidian Mystery and Berkeley Prime Crime labels are run by Penguin. Same company, and it figures that The Cold Dish was published by Penguin too. It seems that the only time I have books from different publishers is when I pre-order them from Amazon. Walmart and Smith's seem to be for Penguin books only.)

Whether Walmart or Smith's is better for books is a draw. Smith's at least stocks more less conventional mysteries, while Walmart sticks to the standards, yet lets one like The Cold Dish into its ranks. I expect that in any couple of months, I'll find another paperback novel that interests me, and it'll either be from Walmart or Smith's yet again. But since I already have two from two different Smith's, I hope Walmart picks up the slack. It's not that I don't have enough books already, or that I don't go to Barnes & Noble whenever the mood strikes (I haven't gone lately, though). But during errands for the other parts of your life, it's good to also take care of the main part of your life.