Mysterious Galaxy: Mystery Bookstore Profile

Aug 24, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Fantasy & Fangs, Kay Kendall, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kay Kendall

The year 2013 burst like a supernova upon the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in California. This year, not only did Mysterious Galaxy win the 2013 Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America on May 8, but three days later, it celebrated its twentieth anniversary!

Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego

Bestselling author, T. Jefferson Parker, has introduced his novels at both Mysterious Galaxy locations in San Diego and Redondo Beach in California. He says, “I love these stores. Together they form not just two galaxies, but a universe of wonderful books, cool author events, solid parties and of course, smart, literate people to help you spend your money! More seriously, these are real book people and fine bookstores. Walk into one and, if you’re a reader, you’ll feel like you found your way home.”

These are the qualities recognized by MWA’s Raven Award, given for “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.” The store’s three founders Maryelizabeth Hart, Jeff Mariotte, and Terry Gilman attended MWA’s annual Edgar Award ceremony in New York City to receive the award, and they invite you to drop by their San Diego location to see the handsome black statue of a raven.

Perhaps you doubt this bookstore is so special? After all, you could muse, T. Jefferson Parker might be prejudiced. You happen to know that this author with twenty crime novels to his name lives in and writes about southern California. All right then, to make this case super-air tight, let’s travel clear across these United States and ask a debut author, one who resides in the northeast, just what she thinks about Mysterious Galaxy.

TJ Parker at a Mysterious Galaxy booksigning

Jenny Milchman is the author in question, and she knows a thing or two–or perhaps a hundred–about bookstores. She founded the movement Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and is about to complete seven months of travel doing book signings all across America for her debut thriller Cover of Snow. In her knowledgeable opinion, “Mysterious Galaxy is the stuff of legends and a legendary bookstore. I’m not kidding. When I arrived for their twentieth birthday extravaganza, I was assigned a real, live hand maiden-slash-book guru who took me around, talked favorite novels and even made sure I found my way to the treat table. What more could a kingdom need?”

Lucky Jenny Milchman, to be on hand for the twentieth anniversary celebration last May. The day-long party marked two decades of solid contributions by Mysterious Galaxy to their communities. Mysterious Galaxy’s participation includes bookselling at venues like Comic-Con International and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, partnering with schools and libraries to bring authors in contact with new readers, and creating the Ladies, Lunch and Literacy program–the latter a project of managing partner, Terry Gilman.

Mysterious Galaxy’s owners strive to bridge two worlds–the community of readers and the community of authors and publishers. At the Redondo Beach location, opened in 2011, these activities are facilitated by a state-of-the-art media room and an adjoining café. This location alone stocks some 15,000 to 20,000 books in a renovated 4,000 square foot facility.

Redondo Beach store ribbon cutting

In an online article commemorating the past of Mysterious Galaxy and looking toward its future, Jeff Mariotte wrote, “We’ve hosted hundreds of authors (thousands is probably more accurate, at this point), and put tens of thousands (or more) books into the hands of happy readers. We’ve exhibited every year at San Diego Comic-Con, and have been regulars at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the Tucson Festival of Books and other events, large and small, throughout southern California and Arizona.”

Happy reader at Mysterious

Another thing that makes Mysterious Galaxy so special is that it carries not just the usual spread of crime novels, but also fantasy, horror and science fiction. While more and more mystery bookstores carry fantasy and horror these days, the inclusion of science fiction is still rare. Maryelizabeth Hart says, “Probably one of the most exciting trends we have witnessed in our two decades of being a genre bookstore is the explosion of cross-genre works to a far more significant percentage of available titles. Mysterious Galaxy has always had a broad spectrum of readers, from the hardest of hard SF fans to the coziest of cozy mystery aficionados, including a healthy smattering of readers who are passionate about both, individually or combined.” Hart also edited Akashic Books’ San Diego Noir, which contains contributions by both Mariotte and Parker.

In this age of angst for many independent bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy retains fans whose devotion guarantees that its star will continue to burn brightly in the firmament. Andrea L. of Long Beach, CA, summed up her love of the store this way in an online review: “I love my E reader and tablet, but there is something so comforting about wandering around this shop where the books are hand-selected just for you and for the love of words.”

Learn more on the store website and Facebook pages: San Diego and Redondo Beach.

Use this link to order books from Mysterious Galaxy and a portion goes to help KRL: Mysterious Galaxy Books

Watch for more mystery bookstore profiles over the next several months. Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she set her debut mystery during the Vietnam War, a key conflict of last century not already overrun with novels. Published by Stairway Press of Seattle, Desolation Row features Austin Starr, a young bride who turns amateur sleuth when her husband is jailed in Canada for murdering the draft-resisting son of a United States senator. Kay is now writing the sequel, Rainy Day Women. Learn more on Kay’s website.


  1. Informative, well-written story. And spot-on about the MG bookstores. Because I’d been hearing so much about htem, I stopped in the SD store when I went down there recently and was not disappointed. Good selection, very nice people!

  2. I was lucky enough to get be at the 20th birthday gala, and I can tell you that those women know how to run a bookstore. I had one of those if-I-had-my-own-yacht moments when I arrived and each author had been assigned someone to show them around, help make sure they were happy, etc. I would’ve been happy even if left to my own devices–how could you not be? There were books I’d never seen anyone else, booksellers to chat about them–and even some of the authors right there in the store! Thanks, Kay & KRL, for shining this spotlight on such a special place.


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