"This [used book] business is well-stocked with misanthropes and curmudgeons." That was the first thing John Dillman, the proprietor of Kaboom Books, said after Art Attack informed him about our plans for a series on Houston's independent bookshops. It was a peculiar sort of warning to offer up as we stood in the small fortress of books - not particularly ominous, but certainly cautionary.
At both of Kaboom's locations, books rise to the ceiling, lining the walls, invading the room in a maze of homemade shelves. They're small shops, though, according to Dillman and his wife Dee. "We had a shop for 31 years in New Orleans," says John. "After Katrina, we decided to gradually sluice everything over here, close the shop there, and open up here." They say their previous shop was medium-sized. "We had the final shop there for about 10 years; it was about 80,000 books."
Situated in the back of the French Quarter, the shop sustained damage to the building but fortunately no damage to their stock. It'd be heartbreaking to sort through soggy tomes, tossing out piles of literature, but fortunately the couple avoided such a scenario. The storm wasn't the primary reason for their relocation, though. According to John, "we had gotten to the end of the expansion in New Orleans, and there wasn't going to be - for another 10 years or so - the consumer base to do more innovative things," something they feel is possible here.