Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bookstore Review: Whitcoulls, Wellington Airport

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past few days - it's been a crazy time here with various deadlines and commitments, and I was also away in Wellington for a few days, sans Internet access. The good news is while I was away in Wellington I visited a couple of bookstores (so look out for some new bookstore reviews in the coming days), picked up a couple of lesser-known (and still available/in-print) NZ crime fiction titles, and discovered some other crime fiction-related news etc I will be sharing in the coming days.

To belatedly kick things off for the week, for the seventh in my irregular series on this blog, I took a look at how well (or not) the Whitcoulls store in the Wellington airport terminal displays, publicises and otherwise supports New Zealand crime and thriller writing instore.

Along with magazines, cards, stationery, and non-fiction books, the medium-sized Whitcoulls in the airport terminal has a couple of decent-sized walls of fiction. There was also a NZ Fiction section, and others highlighting new and bestselling books etc. There probably isn't really much room for a specific 'crime/thriller' section (although there were other genre-specific sections) but a very large percentage of the books in the 'A to Z', 'New' and 'Bestsellers' are crime/thriller fiction. In comparison to the Auckland Domestic Airport Whitcoulls store (see 1.75 out of 5 rated review), the Wellington version is actually larger, so my hopes were a little higher.

Here are my findings in relation to NZ crime/mystery/thriller fiction:

  • There were no copies of recent New Zealand crime title, Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN, which had been one of the few books actually available and well-supported by all previous Whitcoulls stores (VERY POOR);
  • There were a few copies of Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND in the New Zealand fiction section, with a nice front facing (GOOD);
  • There were no copies of any Joan Druett, Vanda Symon, Paul Cleave, Andrea Jutson, Lindy Kelly, Paddy Richardson, Liam McIlvanney, or Michael Green title (all of whom have released at least one crime/thriller title in the past 12-18mths) (VERYPOOR).
  • There were no copies of any Neil Cross title - particularly galling considering Cross is a local Wellington-based thriller writer who has been Booker-longlisted, has got good newspaper coverage this year for both his crime writing and his TV writing (eg award-winning BBC show Spooks), and also received good reviews for his latest novel BURIAL (VERY POOR).
So overall, it was a very poor result (again) for Whitcoulls, especially considering the dominance of international crime/thriller titles in the 'New', 'Bestseller' and 'A to Z' sections at their airport store. I would have thought an airport would have been a perfect place to promote and sell NZ crime/thriller fiction (after all, many such books are referred to as 'airport thrillers' - enjoyable and great reads for people who are travelling places).
It's a shame that one of our largest bookstore chains continues to do so poorly overall in supporting, publicising, and selling NZ crime/thriller fiction. The store at the Wellington airport was even more of a disappointment than the equivalent store in Auckland (which at least had Bosco's debut in stock as well), especially as the Wellington store had more room and a huge, huge amount of international crime fiction titles (new and backlisted).

So, overall, I give Whitcoulls Auckland Airport (Domestic Terminal) 0.75 out of 5. Almost non-existent support. Quite terrible - and heaps and heaps of room for improvement. Thoughts? Comments? Am I being fair? Or am I expecting too much from NZ bookstores, especially large chain stores?


  1. Actually, Craig, I'm sadly surprised by your finding. As a foreigner, I'm quite sure that the first place I'd want to look for Kiwi crime fiction would be the airport bookstores. One would think they would take special care to promote local authors for folks like me who wouldn't know where else to look, at least at first, for those authors. How unfortunate!

  2. Sounds about right for Whitcoulls. Don't see it ever changing...

  3. I actually reviewed another Whitcoulls store in Wellington, and (perhaps surprisingly), they did far, far better - that review will appear in a few days.

    In some ways that makes it even worse though - you'd think if another store in the city had a nice-ish collection of Kiwi crime and thrillers, then surely the airport store, which seemed to have an even higher percentage of international crime/thrillers in its A-Z selection, would at least equally support Kiwi crime.

  4. interesting series Craig. I wonder how well the airport stores in Australia support ANZ crime fiction?