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Writers Pledge Help for Scammed Bookstore

Ruth Erb, owner of Book People, recently lost $9,000 in fraudulent online book orders. Now her customers and friends are rallying to help her.

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Book People, one of the city's few independent bookstores, pulls people in this way. It's truly quaint: a little bookstore tucked in a little house at 536 Granite Ave.

But a few weeks ago Erb shared with local news media that she had been scammed out of $9,000 from bogus Internet book orders. Her store was in trouble, she said. Friends and book enthusiasts thought Erb might close up shop, as much out of a sense of disillusionment as anything. They didn't want to see that happen.

So they decided to do something. So far, friends and customers have pledged nearly $2,000 for Erb and her business. And they hope to raise more. On Dec. 17, they plan to have a benefit at the store, selling or auctioning off autographed books donated by regional and national writers.

Friends of the Richmond Public Library have pitched in with a mailing to let people know about the event.

"It was important for us to show our support," says Dean King, author of two books about author Patrick O'Brian.

King recalls the serendipity of a good find.

About 15 years ago, King uncovered and purchased an entire collection of Charles Dickens' novels from Book People. The rare old tomes have a permanent home.

"I have no problem with chain bookstores, but I think we need to keep our independents around," King says. "It's such a cool place." — Brandon Walters

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