Mystery Pier is a book lover's dream. There's an 1876 copy of "Leaves of Grass" signed by Walt Whitman, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Princeton yearbook, and a copy of "Hell House" autographed by "Twilight Zone" writer -- and former customer -- Richard Matheson.
Owner Harvey Jason, who's been running Mystery Pier in West Hollywood for 16 years, says books can be big business:
Books, which a lot of people don't realize, books escalate at a much more rapid rate than art. Books escalate quicker than paintings do... These things escalate like crazy. 'Catcher in the Rye,' you could've gotten a good 'Catcher' ten years ago for $3,000. We just sold a perfect copy for $20,000.
Harvey's business partner is his son Louis, who says their business isn't as simple as just selling old books: "The only value is in first edition, first printing, and that's crucial."
Harvey says the value of a book doesn't always lie in its age. Sometimes, they turn big profits on freshly printed books, like the time they unknowingly came across a signed Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) while they were in London.
Harvey was an actor who worked steadily from the original "Batman" TV series to "Jurassic Park" to "Star Trek." But then something snapped:
It was always a pipe dream. I remember walking down the street on the backlot of Universal with the director of this picture. And I said to the director, 'Steve' -- it was Steven Spielberg -- and I said 'Steven, you know what, when we wrap this picture, it's four months, and I'm in the book business.' He laughed and said, 'You can't do that, you're one of the stars of this movie.' And I said I've had it. I've had it with the egos, I've had it with the whole business. I never want to do this again, I really don't. Not long thereafter we opened the shop.
Even though Harvey isn't in the movie business anymore, his store feels like the set for a magical bookshop, with priceless books bursting out of glass cases, teetering on the edges of wooden tables or even stacked on the floor. Set off the Sunset Strip by way of a narrow passageway, Mystery Pier's location in an unassuming bungalow makes it a favorite spot for paparazzi-wary celebrities with a taste for the finest in antiquarian books and literature-related collectibles.
Harvey says he's sold books and collectibles to Natalie Portman, Flea, Guillermo del Toro, Patti Smith, and many other celebrities. But it's still the books that steal the show at Mystery Pier. Harvey says they keep getting approached to make a Mystery Pier reality TV show. But that's not really their style.
"We're just quite happy being the humble booksellers and that's fine, that's great," Harvey says.