Friday, May 23, 2008

In Memoriam Rory Root 1957-2008

Sad news of the passing of Rory Root, proprietor of Comic Relief, Berkeley California's wonderful bookstore specializing in graphic novels and comic books.

Rory was a master bookseller, hugely knowledgeable about, and a champion of, graphic novels. He was a friend to writers, certainly to this writer. I was already a steady customer when I hesitantly approached Rory about stocking my book, Scamorama. He was kind and encouraging. Seeing my book on those shelves was a high moment for me. Comic Relief is not a chain store, with buying decisions dictated from headquarters; it survives on the thin profit margin that is the lot of the independent. Rory's gesture of confidence meant a lot.

The store's 20th anniversary party, in its newer, larger location, was crammed with happy long-time customers. Rory was surrounded by people who liked and respected him - evidence of a career during which Rory not only kept a bookstore afloat for 20 years but created a social center and an oasis.

Rory often sat outside the store in the evening, making conversation. It was a pleasure to spend time with him. Talk would spiral from one topic to another (he seemed to know about everything). That is how I will remember him.

At you will see many accolades to Rory. You will also see that the fine staff are carrying on. I encourage anyone visiting Berkeley to stop into Comic Relief. You will be in heaven when you step through the door.

Comic Relief later split up into two stores, Fantastic Comics in the same location, and The Escapist on Claremont Avenue between College and Ashby. Two, count them, two comic book stores!

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