Study No. 1 · Mystery Pier Books
In addition to being a bookseller to the stars, Harvey boasts his own impressive resume, having acted in films like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and on the classic TV shows Batman, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty, Family Ties, and The Love Boat. Here he proudly beams next to The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents, a rare relic full of photogravures, published in 1906 ($6,500).
Tucked away behind the music and madness of the Sunset Strip is Mystery Pier Books; one of the L.A. literati’s most coveted secrets. Years ago, when I first discovered the flower-adorned English-style cottage hidden at the end of a checkerboard alleyway, I felt like Alice down the rabbit hole. Opened in 1998 by father and son, Harvey and Louis Jason, the Pier is a dream hangout for the serious collector, as well as the ambitious novice. It’s a treasure trove of signed first editions from the 18th century onward, with a focus on American and Brit classics, crime noir, and revolutionary modern works. Despite the wealth of important items on hand, the proprietors run their trade with warmth and generosity, never an ounce of snobbery. Whether you enter with a Black Card, or nada—the only currency required is a love of reading.
Another element that makes the Pier so special, is their collection of books that have become films; many of them inscribed by the authors and filmmakers, such as their first edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) signed by Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, and illustrator Ralph Steadman. Agents and producers frequently call the Pier when in need of gifts for superstar clients and award nominees. When the director and devout cinephile Martin Scorsese received Oscar noms for his 2011 film Hugo, the film studio asked Harvey and Louis to wrap-up something unique. They chose a personal letter handwritten by George Méliès, the visionary silent film-maker and “cinemagician” that inspired Hugo’s story and surreal visual vibe. There are also many rock stars among their devoted clientele; Bono, Patti Smith and Courtney Love, for instance—romantics in need of inspirational tomes for their Byronesque lives and tunes. As the legendarily suave actor/book nerd, Michael Caine so perfectly put it, “Mystery Pier is like the most wonderful museum, except you get to buy the exhibits.”
One of Louis and Harvey’s most prized acquisitions was a 1935 printing of James Joyce’s Ulysses, with illustrations by Henri Matisse, signed by both parties. Though it was purchased by a celebrity client for $9,000, it was undoubtedly hard to set free. Shown above is a 1934 edition, designed by German typographer, Ernst Reichl.
Left; A 1939 first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, of which only 4,650 were printed. Making it even more significant is an inscription by the second woman to enter the fellowship ($30,000). Right; Keith Richards captured by photographer Michael Cooper during a trip to Joshua Tree, from his experiential 1990 book, Blinds & Shutters. Cooper was a member of the Stones' inner circle, so it's filled with deliciously candid glimpses of ‘60s rock life. Produced in an edition of 5,000, this particular copy now belongs to Tom Petty, and is signed by Allen Ginsberg, Bill Wyman, Larry Rivers, William S. Burroughs, Gerard Malanga, Kenneth Anger, Ed Moses and other artistic luminaries ($5,000).
The store’s name is derived from a prize-winning photo Louis took at age 14 of an abandoned Manhattan Beach pier, which now hangs proudly above the mantel in the shop. Mystery Pier fans include; Oprah, Jude Law, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, Daniel Craig, Barry Gibb, Flea, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons, Bette Midler, and Johnny Depp; who has been photographed wearing his Mystery Pier t-shirt so often, Japanese collectors buy them by the dozen, putting Harvey and Louis “in the schmatta business!”.
Left; Andy Warhol’s Portraits of the 70s, published by the Whitney Museum (1980), featuring Warhol’s signature and an illustrated heart on the endpaper ($2,500). Right; Two Warhol portraits of fellow painter and friend, David Hockney, as featured in the colorful book.
An extraordinarily rare, unread edition of J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction (1971), signed and inscribed by the notoriously private author (in a very flirty manner), to his reputed long-time lover, Becky Tugall ($18,500). Other impressive first editions spotted: To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee; British and American printings of Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa; and Dickens’ Oliver Twist. When visiting the shop, you’re likely to see classics signed signed by; Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hammett, Woolf, Vonnegut, Chandler, and Kerouac.
If their inventory sounds quite serious, it’s not without humor—one of Louis’s current faves is Of Muppets & Men: The Making of the Muppet Show (1981), signed by Jim Henson and Kermit ($4,250). Also on hand are Hollywood artifacts impressive enough to make Tarantino drool; like a personal inscription by Polanski to his friend, Jerzy Skolimowski, written inside Roman by Polanski (1984), where he admits being amazed at his own success ($8,500); and Jerzy Kosinski’s signed first draft screenplay for Hal Ashby’s 1979 film, Being There, of which only 25 copies were printed ($2,250). For music geeks, there's an original drawing by John Lennon of himself and Yoko, bearing the sentiment “Should we say give peace a chance! With love” ($20,000).
Among Mystery Pier's bounty; a 1734 printing (on parchment, with gilt details) of Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra ($2,500); and Prince Albert's Golden Precepts (1862)—a scarce leather-bound collection of maxims, featuring an uncharacteristically warm inscription by Queen Victoria to her cousin, Countess Blücher ($18,500). Left; A personalized bookplate inside actor James Cagney's 1st ed. printing of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Right; A signed limited edition from 1991 of Hunter S. Thompson's madcap Screwjack ($2,250).
MYSTERY PIER BOOKS
8826 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069