Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bookstore Review: Unity Books (High Street, Auckland)

In the third of an irregular (hopefully increasing) series on this blog, I take a look at how well (or not) the Unity Books store on High Street in Auckland displays, publicises and otherwise supports New Zealand crime and thriller writing instore.

Unity Books is a small bookstore, started in Wellington in 1967. The brand now has one store in Wellington, and one in Auckland. So for the third instalment in this series, after evaluating two big chainstores on the main drag in downtown Auckland (Whitcoulls and Borders), I thought it was time to see how a smaller, independent store fares.

Here are some of my findings:
  • Unity Books has a dedicated crime section, as well as a dedicated New Zealand section - the crime section is very well located right inside the front door.
  • While it is a smaller store than its chainstore counterparts, Unity Books still seemed to have a nice array of titles in the crime section - and seemed to have some rarer or harder to find books such as new Hamish Hamilton hardback imprints of classic Raymond Chandler and several translated Andrea Camilleri novels - and the store has a nice 'feel'.
  • There were several copies of the latest New Zealand crime title, Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN, front facing in the crime section, as well as spine-facing copies of Paul Cleave's THE CLEANER and BURIAL by Neil Cross (GOOD/GREAT);
  • There were five Ngaio Marsh titles available, as well as her autobiography BLACK BEECH & HONEYDEW, in the crime section (GOOD/GREAT);
  • There did not appear to be any books from Lindy Kelly, Vanda Symon, or Andrea Jutson instore (POOR);
  • There was one copy of Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND in the New Zealand section, although I had to ask as it wasn't easily seen (OKAY);
  • Unity Books had one Joan Druett non-fiction maritime title, but none of her Wiki Coffin mysteries (POOR)
So overall, it was a mixed result for Unity Books. Unlike Whitcoulls they had some Paul Cleave (although not his latest title) and Neil Cross, but then they didn't have Vanda Symon or Joan Druett. Like Whitcoulls they seemed to be missing Lindy Kelly and Andrea Jutson, but had Alix Bosco (the newest Kiwi crime writer), which Borders did not have.

In the end if I was giving Unity Books a grade on crime fiction in general, they would probably get 3.5-4 out of 5, given the prominent display, nice mix of titles, availability of nice versions of old classics and good 'feel' - but as this assessment is based solely on how well they display, publicise, and otherwise highlight and support New Zealand crime and thriller fiction, I have to give Unity Books 2.25 out of 5.

They do some good things, but could do so much more for New Zealand crime and thriller fiction - especially as one of their founding principles and ongoing ideals is to support New Zealand writing. Thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Our local socalled bookstore is really more of a stationary or gift shop :(
    In August they had pulled themselves together, though, and had a nice summer sale with 15-20 proper crime fiction titles, mainly Scandinavian, but also a few good British ones, e.g. Ann Cleeves. So apparantly they know tourists like crime!?