The following post is written by Bob Tyrrell, founder of Orca Book Publishers.
The book community on the west coast suffered a great loss this past fall when we lost both Jim Munro and Mel Bolen, a mere month apart. Although both were well and truly retired, and had passed their businesses on to capable successors, their deaths were felt by the bookselling community at large. Bolen and Munro were undoubtedly two of the smartest, most successful booksellers in the country. Ever.
Both Mel and Jim were supportive of Orca in our early days. When my first title, Island Pubbing, came out, I was fortunate enough to get on Joe Easingwood’s show on CFAX radio, creating a certain amount of local buzz for the book. I think I went directly from the radio station to Munro’s. But sales were never my forté. I approached Jim nervously, book in one hand and my heart on my sleeve. Luckily for me, the store had already had a couple of calls about the title. Jim was happy to place an order. Four copies. By the time I got home later that day, those had been sold and he left an order for another six on my answering machine. Mel Bolen was a much easier sell. Always a supporter of local authors, she too had had calls for the book, and, if memory serves me well, took 18 copies for her first order.
I was extremely grateful for that early support, many other stores were reluctant to order anything at all from a self-publisher who might not be around a few months down the road. My respect and admiration for both Mel and Jim only grew over the years. It was wonderful to watch Mel move to increasingly larger spaces in the mall, finally creating the beautiful “superstore” that exists today. And Jim’s purchase of the Government Street bank building was a stroke of genius, creating what is certainly this country’s most impressive book emporium. Here in Victoria we are so fortunate to have these two wonderful stores, created by two unique, very different, visionary booksellers. They will be greatly missed.