An independent bookshop is a rare and wondrous thing these days. Full of curiously personal choices in hardback on front shelves, classics in the middle, a few dodgy self-help in the back (because one doesn’t want to be spotted if things have got that bad), readings by local authors and hopefully a children’s story time on late summer Sunday afternoons.
We asked LA-based writer, George Snyder, to recommend his favorite and he said, “Let’s meet at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont”. It was an excellent suggestion. Larchmont is the land that time forgot – a 1920s-era stretch for locals to grab a newspaper, get a ‘short back and sides’ (and “something for the weekend, sir?”) at the old-fashioned barbers and gossip for hours over a decent cup of coffee.
“Larchmont is especially lovely very early in the morning,” Snyder remarked when we met, “When the gardeners have just watered the lawns and flowers and there’s a mist in the air and if you squint out the palm trees you really could be in a nice part of Ohio or Illinois or in some sweet English village.”
George Snyder, originally from the Midwest, moved to L.A from NYC where he had worked at Sotheby’s. “I came to Los Angeles for love, stayed for the weather,” he said, and found himself in the entertainment business, working on the production side of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Only in L.A. does this sort of career switch happen.
Somewhere along the way he started writing the blog called 1904 (http://georgesnyder.org) to gather material and piece together strands of interconnected lives, giving rise to many of the characters who later appeared in his three novels. Why 1904? “1904 was the year both Cecil Beaton and Cary Grant were born,” he said, “And one has to start somewhere, it seemed as good a year as any.”
Chevalier’s Books has been on Larchmont a long time (not as far back as 1904, but since 1940, which is forever in L.A history) and still bears the hallmarks of its original purpose as a bank, with a black-and-white marble floor and a copper-lined vault. Now owned by retired English teacher, Filis Winthrop, who taught at L.A High for many years, the selection of books is superb, as one might expect.
Snyder loves Chevalier’s Books (and not just because they have copies of his latest novel, “Into Deeper Water”, the third in his witty trilogy about tales of this city) because he lives nearby and there’s nothing nicer than taking an early stroll to a bookshop to find a good novel to read.
“Chevalier’s is a real independent bookstore,” he says, as we looked through the shelves together, “Very literary and traditional the way I like it, where the edgy material is a French novel by Simenon, and you can be sure they have the Duchess of Devonshire’s latest installment of her memoirs. Heaven.”
Chevalier’s Books is located at 126 N Larchmont Blvd.
Photos by Team Gloria Pictures.