If I’m dealing with the books of someone who’s died — a deceased estate, as Shaun Bythell calls it in “The Diary of a Bookseller” — it’s a lot easier on me if family members aren’t involved. A couple of weeks ago, we removed the books from a doctor’s house as his widow looked on, weeping. Because what we get from books makes us who we are, at least in part, books represent who we were, and seeing them leave is hard on family members because of that.
A couple of days later, I got a call from an attorney’s office. They were representing the heir of an estate, and wanted the deceased’s books gone pronto. The only regrets there were because I didn’t clear out the apartment.
The dead man — Charlie — was interested in baseball, politics, the history of Denver and David Foster Wallace. He left plane tickets, notes, receipts and letters in his books. I could construct a picture of him just from that.
I think it would be neat to have a TV show about a group of booksellers who solve murders based on the stuff the victims left in their books. It would make for poor TV, though, because it would be too cerebral and have a shortage of car chases. And, in all fairness, to make it real, the perpetrators would never be caught because the booksellers, being what they are, would never agree on how best to arrest them, and would instead go off and drink beer.