Augie the Bookman

Few things have delighted me more of late than to learn that my favorite bookstore, Centuries & Sleuths, has won a 2011 Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The Raven is given annually for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing, and C&S is joined in this year’s award by Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis.

Centuries & Sleuths, specializing in mystery, history and biography, is located on a lively and eclectic retail stretch of Madison Street in Chicago’s near-western suburb of Forest Park and is run by August Paul Aleksy, known widely as just Augie. The store, which Augie founded 20 years ago, is a gathering place for mystery and history writers and aficionados. (Full disclosure: The store has sold more than 1,200 copies, collectively, of my four “Snap” Malek Chicago mystery novels.)

Battling as all indies do against the national bookstore chains as well as e-books, big box discount retailers, and Amazon.com, Augie more than holds his own by providing personal service and a cozy, welcoming and stimulating retreat both for authors and readers.

For instance, every month the 1,200-sq. ft. store hosts meetings of the local chapters of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the G.K. Chesterton Society, as well as mystery and history discussion groups. Also, the store is the scene of an annual “Meeting of the Minds” panel discussion, in which professional and amateur actors portray historical figures.

Then there are the author signings—more than 30 annually. Among those who have discussed their work and inked their books at Augie’s including celebrities Peter Ustinov and Steve Allen, as well as a Who’s Who of mystery writers, historians, and biographers of the last two decades.

Join me in raising a glass to Augie Aleksy and Centuries & Sleuths!

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