Foul Play Mystery Bookshop Sponsors PBS' Mystery!

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A "perfect fit" is how John Cross, co-owner of Foul Play Mystery Bookshop in Westerville, Ohio, described the store's sponsorship of Mystery! on WOSU, the local PBS station. "People have always come in looking for the books on Mystery!" he explained.

Advertising executives at the local PBS station approached Foul Play as a potential sponsor, but they had to court Cross for years before he finally agreed. "No one else would do it," said Cross. "And I had to get our name out there and the name of Book Sense."

The 10-second attribution of sponsorship features a voiceover announcing that Mystery! is sponsored by Foul Play Mystery Bookshop, while the store's logo, address, phone number, and Web address [], are shown on the screen. Below the Foul Play information is the Book Sense logo. The area that this ad reaches covers half the state said Cross. The sponsorship runs for 11 weeks and started July 6. Cross described the sponsorship as affordable at "about a hundred bucks a week for the 11 weeks."

Foul Play, which is located in the Uptown district of Westerville, was founded in May 1989. In December of that year, Cross and his wife, Antoinette, who is a full-time school teacher, bought the bookstore from the previous owners and moved it to a busier location. Before they owned Foul Play, the Crosses, as well as John's two sisters who invested in the store, traveled to New Orleans, Chicago, California, and New York to stock up on mysteries.

"There weren't any mystery bookstores in Ohio," said Cross, so he and Antoinette decided to buy their own. Their circa 1880's brick Victorian houses only mysteries and their Web site states that "Foul Play prides itself on carrying every book currently in print in the mystery field," though the store will order other types of books on request.

Foul Play prominently displays the books that Mystery! features each week. The first week was Peter Lovesey's On the Edge (Soho Press). Several episodes will also be based on books by Gladys Mitchell. Cross said Mystery! often doesn't select big name authors, which he appreciates.

Cross has already seen some reaction to the sponsorship. He said, "People have called to say they didn't know there was a mystery bookstore in Ohio." The television station neglected to include the phone number of Foul Play during the first episode, but Cross said that didn't deter customers who tracked him down anyway. Cross said that he was "very happy with the response." In November, he's planning to sponsor the program again when PBS airs Tony Hillerman's Thief of Time (Harper). --Karen Schechner