Maybe it’s because the shop is in Seattle, under the shadow of Amazon, but Arundel Books, which has been in the Emerald City for the past 20 years, has long tried to offer customers something other than a traditional bookstore experience. Now it has added a trade publishing operation and has begun publishing books under the Chatwin Books imprint.
Arundel is no stranger to publishing, having originally been founded by Phil Bevis 35 years ago as Arundel Press, a fine-press publisher in Santa Barbara, Calif. He added a mail-order operation that same year and a bricks-and-mortar store a few years later in Los Angeles. Despite moving to Seattle in 1995, Bevis kept the Los Angeles store until selling it 2010. Bevis turned to bookselling to keep himself busy while waiting to complete his letterpress works. “It can take years and years to get projects out. I opened the bookstore just to stay sane,” he said. “We were a bookstore that grew out of the press.” Over the years Bevis has come to appreciate the synergy between publishing and bookselling. Plus he’s found one significant advantage to having a publishing house in a bookstore. “We can see what makes people want to hold on to a book and what makes [them] want to put it down,” he said.
When flooding forced Bevis to relocate the bookstore earlier this year, he moved it to a space at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square previously occupied by Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers. It was then that he added an art gallery to exhibit pieces by many of the authors whose work he prints through Arundel Press; he also created a space to start Chatwin. Together with Annie Brulé, with whom he founded Chatwin and who serves as curator of the gallery and design director of the publishing program, the bookstore has become what they describe as a “book arts space.”
“Creators of all kinds light up when they walk in the door,” Brulé said. “We’ve had artists whose book we’re publishing walk in and realize the power in a combined gallery show and book-release event. Initially we envisioned it as a pretty book-centric arts space, and what we’re realizing is the possibilities for cross-media collaborations are endless.” Events range from printmaking workshops to dance parties and readings.
Bevis said the reason they decided to enter the trade publishing market with Chatwin is because of two series: a 19-volume set of autobiographical novels, the Announcers, by J. Greg Perkins, and the Occasionally True series by Nicole Sarrocco, who previously published Karate Bride, a poetry collection, with Arundel Press. The pair saw both of these series as bigger than the bookstore, hence the new name and the decision to go with larger offset print runs supplemented by digital short-run.
Bevis calls Sarrocco “absolutely hilariously brilliant” and is looking forward to releasing the first book, Lit by Lightning, later this month, but he’s especially excited about Perkins’s 10,000-page manuscript written over 40 years. He claims that it rivals Proust’s Guinness world record for the largest fiction series by a single author. In the first book, Darkness Before Mourning, which came out in July, Perkins portrays a man reliving his 1950s upbringing in the Midwest, where he spent two seasons in the Little League with his father, the team’s announcer, who was secretly dying of cancer. Because Perkins’s series has what Bevis regards as various subseries, the next book to be published will be book 4, followed by book 2. By next February or March, Chatwin will have published six Perkins books; Bevis would like to release the whole series as quickly as possible.
Bevis and Brulé plan to focus Chatwin on many of the same areas of interest as Arundel Press: literary fiction, poetry, art books, and ecology-related titles. The press’s first two books, which came out in March, are both poetry collections: James B. Moore’s Spirit Unchained and Ron Ellison’s Illusions of Permanence. To date, Brulé and Bevis have published eight titles through Chatwin and hope to do two more by year’s end.