Mr. Dutton

Current mood:  contemplative


Yesterday I had the privilege of running into Davis Dutton, the man who owned one of my favorite bookstores in the whole world – Dutton’s Books on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Magnolia in North Hollywood.
Alas, it is no more and my aching heart still pines it.
For twelve years my dog and I walked to his store twice, three times a week and always left with treasures. Mine were literary, hers were literally. Mr. Dutton always gave Venus a cookie from his organic dog treat stash.
I was at the market when I saw Mr. Dutton and I greeted him. He is very sick now, his body bent over and this was part of the reason he closed his hallowed doors. The other part was the Internet. He, like all the other independent book sellers could not compete, despite his longstanding motto: Save a tree, buy a used book.
Mr. Dutton always got a kick out of my calling him Mr. Dutton and he immediately looked down saying, “Half of you is missing. Where’s your beautiful dog?”
I told him she was at home waiting for her walk and he shook his head.
“I don’t think I have ever seen you without that dog.”
No, probably not. I tried to tell him what a big influence he and his store have been on my life and career as a writer.
I know he’s heard it all before. After all, some of the biggest literary names of our times had book signings there. A group of local poets even published a book, Dutton’s Books and other Poems as an ode to their favorite hangout.
I knew all the nooks and crannies, the special sections where new found treasures awaited me. There was a whole room, tiny but packed to the rafters with exotic travels. I spent hours there, my dog moaning at my feet as I pored through old books, new books and books I just had to have.
Once, I found a stack of books on ancient Hawaii and Polynesia put in the wrong section – Armchair Travel. I didn’t point out the error. I opened the first book and saw the name Fred Zinnemann scrawled on the fly page. I could not believe it.
His name was on all the books, each volume filled with his pencil notes in the margin.
Mr. Dutton told me what they were at the same second it hit me:
This was the research he did for his 1953 classic movie, From Here to Eternity.
The books were expensive, but Mr. Zinnemann had just died and somebody offloaded his personal collection.
You can bet I bought ’em all, except one, Tahiti Aux Temps Anciens (Ancient Tahiti). It had a fascinatingly tattooed lady on the cover, its author, Teuira Henry. I simply did not have $400 for a book. Days went by and I kept going back to the store and studying the book. I coveted it, but I had never spent that kind of money on a book even though I have many wonderful antiquities in my collection.
And then one day it was gone. I walked home and wept like a nine year old girl. I could not get enough of Mr. Zinnemann’s translations of the text, his smart observations.
His research fascinated me, not just because his movie was astonishing and beautiful, but because Mr. Dutton told me that the writer-director spent two years in the South Pacific doing research. He is my kind of writer.
Some of his books led to others for me…and formed the basis of my entire “Phantom Lover” series.
One day I was back at Dutton’s and spotted Tahiti Aux Temps Anciens on the hold shelf. I demanded to know who’d placed a hold on it and nobody behind the counter would tell me. A few days later I spotted my best mate Tony in the store. I’ve never seen Tony pick up a book unless I’ve placed it in his hands and said, “Read this.” I certainly never see him walk into a store unless I am dragging him into it.
I followed him in, but he looked dismayed. Turned out he knew I wanted the book and put it on lay away for me as a gift. He was there making a payment.
It took him nearly a year, but what a friend…it was Christmas, birthdays and ten thousand holidays all wrapped up in one huge volume.
To this day I always thank him, not just for being the best bloke I know, but because thanks due in part to him, Phantom Lover was born and for me, from here to my own eternity, the books I have touched and read, that once belonged to an extraordinary film maker have changed my life.
Nothing will ever beat the feeling of browsing a bookstore.
I wish Mr. Dutton abundant health and peace and I hope that one day soon, bookstores will no longer be relics but the hot new industry again.
Aloha oe,


Currently listening:
By Bruno Pelletier
Release date: 2007-01-08

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