RARA-AVIS: Paige Rose

From: George Pelecanos ( shoedog1@erols.com)
Date: 04 Dec 2001

Hardboiled writers and readers lost a friend this past weekend when Paige Rose, 61, died of a massive heart attack in Baltimore's Little Italy. Fittingly, Paige had eaten one of Charm City's famous meals, and had just finished shooting the shit with a former Oriole on the sidewalk outside Sabatino's when she was struck.

Paige and Kathy Harig co-owned Mystery Loves Company, a small independent crime fiction bookstore in Fells Point. In many ways, the book store is the last of its kind in that city. It's in a Formstone rowhouse, narrow and deep, on Fleet Street. People go there to gossip, discuss local politics, and talk books. There are cushiony chairs set up in the display area where anyone can read or just take a load off and relax. It has the comfort of a living room set amidst thousands of books.

As a beneficiary of the famed St. Martin's Press publicity machine when my first novel was published in 1992, I soon realized that I was virtually on my own. Sensing a resounding silence in the marketplace, I wrote letters to several area bookstores, asking if I might do a signing. Paige was the only one to reply, and gave this new writer a break. I did the event and have done one there every year since. It has become a ritual and the only event to which I bring my kids. Paige showed genuine love to my family, and for that kindness, and for much else, I'll be forever grateful.

But the truth was, it wasn't all business for me on Fleet Street. I went for the show. There were always interesting people in that shop, from beat cops to blue collar babes to an actress who had played a bit role in a John Waters movie. In that atmosphere, Paige was the queen bee, always on, funny and bawdy and ready to go. Paige made friends easily and took them in, the way she took in a menagerie of stray animals who were forever slinking around or lying down in the shop. She could steer me to the best chili dog in Fells Point (Previs, in the market down the street) or the bar with the coldest beer. She was Baltimore down in her marrow, and knew the city more deeply than anyone I'd ever met.

Finally, Paige loved books. Hardboiled was her meat. She had read it all and could recall paragraphs word for word. She didn't like soft books or cozies and didn't mind who knew it, even potential customers. She carried good stuff, the best, books that I couldn't seem to find anywhere else and are on my A-shelf today: Paul Cain's FAST ONE, W.L. Heath's VIOLENT SATURDAY, Charles Willeford's THE WOMAN CHASER, and many others.

The store will continue under the management of Kathy Harig, and deserves our continued support. Nevertheless, a light went out when they lowered Paige into the ground today.

"Sunshine fades and shadows fall, but sweet remembrance outlasts all."

God bless you, Paige.

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