The Book Pages: The case of the Sherlock Holmes first editions

Beginning Feb. 10 and running through this weekend, the 55th California International Antiquarian Book Fair returns to the Pasadena Convention Center and I’m looking forward to spending part of my weekend there. (For the book gawking, of course, but full disclosure, my wife’s colleagues from Occidental College have an exhibit there.)

My own colleague Anissa Rivera at the Pasadena Star-News wrote about the event, which will include more than 120 exhibitors from around the world (and Southern California) featuring first editions, collectibles and a lot more. The exhibits highlight Southern California women bookmakers; California cuisine champion Helen Brown; Ukulele Literature and Collecting Sherlock Holmes.

That last one is the exhibit from Occidental College, which will be displaying its Sherlock holdings from the Ned Guymon Collection of Mystery and Detective Fiction. I recently saw special collections librarian Helena de Lemos give a presentation on the collection and it’s packed with cool material by writers including Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Collins, Raymond Chandler and, as they’ll be focusing on at this event, Arthur Conan Doyle (and related Holmes materials).

“The first editions are fabulous but we also have a painting, original illustrated art from ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Sidney Paget, that’s beautiful,” De Lemos told the Star-News.

So count me in. I’m not a collector of books – books seem to collect me – but I do enjoy seeing the rare editions, calculating what they would cost, and feeling grateful I haven’t developed more expensive hobbies.

There’s always time to start, though. Wish me luck out there.

Tickets are $10-$25 and there are free tickets available for students with ID or children under 12. For more information, go to

Bel Canto Books owner Jhoanna Belfer. (Photo courtesy of Jhoanna Belfer)

Book people tend to be good people, and Jhoanna Belfer is one of the best.

As the force behind Bel Canto Books, the woman- and BIPOC-owned bookstore in Long Beach, Belfer has an infectious enthusiasm for books as well as a gift for coaxing nerdy introverts away from their teacups and armchairs for fun book field trips and events.

You may remember Belfer and I spoke last year about the store, and I attended two of the Indie Bookstore Field Trips she organized with pal Christy Krumm Richard. Both times I had a blast, enjoyed good conversations and came home with books. What could be better?

Well, maybe this. Belfer has been prepping a new Bel Canto location, and now the Bel Canto Books Bixby Knolls location is open for business. I talked to Belfer last week about the store, which will be located in KUBO Long Beach, a Filipino-founded creative space whose cultural and community-building goals align with her own efforts to raise awareness within the community.

“We have so many people doing so many great things; how do we work together to amplify what everyone is doing?” she says of celebrating the local Filipino community. “We’re contributing amazing things to Long Beach and the greater U.S. society.”

“Their mission aligns perfectly with mine,” says Belfer of KUBO LB. “I’m just very excited.”

And she’s also very busy. I caught up with her the day after the new store had its soft opening and she’s been shuttling back and forth between the two.

“Since we’re just getting started at the new store, I want to be there to help train new staff and help them get to know our business and our philosophy. And then just to be there as much as I can to say hello to customers, because so many people are excited that we’re coming into the neighborhood,” says Belfer, who lets out a joyous, possibly exhausted, laugh. “I’ve layered a lot on this month. I think I have six author events going on this month.”

I already mentioned that Belfer, who spent years working in the hospitality industry before starting her bookstore in 2019, knows how to create fun, and she didn’t disappoint when I asked what else was going on.

“We are doing our very first Boozy Bookfair with a taproom that’s diagonally across the street from the new store called Ambitious Ales,” she says of the Feb. 26 event. “It’s a great brewery and taproom that’s part Filipino-owned as well.”

As she puts it on the Eventbrite page: “Think the Scholastic Book Fair but with adult beverages.”

I don’t even drink and that sounds hard to pass up. So maybe I’ll see you there, or at Bel Canto or on one of the next Indie Bookstore Field Trips.

Wherever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fun.

Tim Blake Nelson believes one novel stands above all the rest

Tim Blake Nelson will launch his novel ‘City of Blows’ on Feb. 7, 2023 in a conversation with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, at an event sponsored by Book Soup at Colburn School’s Zipper Hall. (Photo and cover courtesy of Unnamed Press)

Tim Blake Nelson is best known for his acting roles in films such as “Syriana,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” and he’s also an accomplished playwright and screenwriter. Michael Schaub spoke to Nelson about his debut novel, “City of Blows,” published by Los Angeles-based Unnamed Press. Nelson also responded to the Book Pages Q&A and shared what he’s been reading.

Q. Is there a book or books you always recommend to other readers? 

“War and Peace,” “Blood Meridian,” “The Master and Margarita,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” “But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz,” “Infinite Jest,” “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” “The Executioner’s Song,” “The Overstory,” “The Marriage Plot,” “American Pastoral,” “Ham on Rye,” “Tender Is the Night,” “The Brothers Ashkenazi,” “Dead Souls,” “A Hero of Our Time,” “The Last of the Just” … I could go on and on.

Q. What’s something – a fact, a bit of dialogue or something else – that stayed with you from a recent reading? 

From Richard Powers’ “Galatea 2.2”: “Our life was a chest of maps, self-assembling,  fused into point-for-point feedback, each slice continuously rewriting  itself to match the other layers’ rewrites. In that thicket, the soul  existed; it was that search for attractors where the system might  settle. The immaterial in mortal garb, associative memory  metaphoring its own bewilderment. Sound made syllable. The rest mass of God.”

Q. Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any titles or narrators you’d recommend? 

I do not listen to audiobooks.

Q. Is there a genre or type of book you read the most – and what would you like to read more of? 

I mostly read fiction, alternating between dead writers and living ones, and only literature.

Q. Do you have a favorite book or books?

I believe the greatest achievement in fiction to be “War and Peace.”

Q. What’s something about your book that no one knows? 

I set out writing it just to write it, not to have an end result.

Q. If you could ask your readers something, what would it be? 

What will you read next?

In a career that spans seven decades, actor Paul Dooley became more familiar for his roles as an on-screen father in films such as “Sixteen Candles,” “Breaking Away,” and “Runaway Bride.” His new memoir, “Movie Dad: Finding My Family On Screen and Off” is the story of a remarkable life in very many ways.” (Photo by Caroline Greyshock, book image courtesy of Applause Books)

Dooley Noted

Paul Dooley became “Movie Dad” even as his own children disappeared for a decade. READ MORE

• • •

Dan Smetanka, Vice President and editor in chief of Counterpoint Press, an independent West Coast publishing company, at LA’s oldest indie bookstore, Chevalier’s on Sunday, November 27, 2022. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Point, Counterpoint

Meet Dan Smetanka, the book editor who champions California writers. READ MORE

• • •

“Decent People,” the second novel from De’Shawn Charles Winslow, is set in 1976 in the segregated South. (Photo credit Julie R. Keresztes / Cover courtesy of Bloomsbury)

About Town

Why De’Shawn Charles Winslow returned to his fictional town in “Decent People.” READ MORE

• • •

“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin is the top-selling fiction release at Southern California’s independent bookstores. (Courtesy of Knopf)

The week’s bestsellers

The top-selling books at your local independent bookstores. READ MORE


What’s next on ‘Bookish’

The next free Bookish event is Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. as guests Kathryn Ma, Deepti Kapoor and W. Bruce Cameron talk books with host Sandra Tsing Loh. Also, if you missed it (or want to relive the action), you can watch our Noteworthy episode featuring our celebration of 10 Southern California writers who published memorable books in 2022.

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