A note from Frank Grube:
Should a viewer of this website be interested in purchasing ANY book of ANY subject,
I would highly recommend the viewer make contact with C. Clayton Thompson - Bookseller. Mr. Thompson is a 34 year
veteran of the U.S. Navy and is now an independent bookseller who is competing successfully with some very large corporations.
Thank you to the viewers and thank you Mr. Thompson for your service to our great country.
Clayton Thompson - Bookseller
Contact information: C. Clayton Thompson - Bookseller
Briarwood Lane, Boone, North Carolina, 28607, United States
may phone us at: 828-265-4970
|C. Clayton Thompson - Bookseller
Paging Through The Warring Past
By Frank Ruggiero
Some consider C. Clayton Thompson a Civil War hero.
This is not in the literal sense, though he has
come to the aid of many a scholarly soldier seeking particularly hard-to-find books on the American Civil War.
For five and a half years, Thompson has run a local
bookstore just outside of Boone, specializing in military titles. However, he has been a bookseller for much longer.
Thompson began selling books about 15 years ago,
while stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A Navy man, Thompson retired in 1999 as a master chief. It would be simple
to say his interest in military books is derived from his 34 years in the service, but the Watauga County resident seems to
enjoy helping others find that rare, published gem.
He and his wife, Suzanne, moved to the area seven
years ago, and Thompson worked as director of the local Habitat for Humanity for about a year and a half. Part-time, though,
he would sell books.
His hobby soon turned into a living, as his store
is said to boast the largest collection of old and rare Civil War books in the state. However, Thompson started small. Fifteen
years ago, a catalog accounted for most of his book sales, but the demand grew to the point that it practically became unmanageable
for a small operation.
He would visit Civil War shows with his selection,
selling in such historic locales as Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Harper’s Ferry. His operation consisted of books, fold-up
book cases and a trailer.
Since the books were old and rare originals, prices
were set on the steep side – fine for collectors, but somewhat out of range for the casual reader and researcher. So,
Thompson began selling reprints of the old books to those who couldn’t afford the originals, such as “The Personal
Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan,” a two-volume set that sells for $400.
“And now we sell lots of books, most of which
are brand new,” Thompson said.
A conversation with publisher and author Eric Hammel
sparked an interest in titles on World War II. Thompson was skeptical about selling such merchandise, thinking there wasn’t
much of a market for the genre, but Hammel insisted. The market proved to be quite fruitful, and Thompson began carrying World
War II books from the publishers whose books he already carried, such as the Naval Institute Press.
He then expanded his inventory to include titles
on the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, though his concentration remained on the Civil War and World War II. About two
years ago, he began selling genealogy books, after realizing many of his customers were visiting to learn about their families’
histories and distant relatives that served in wartime.
“It turned out to be a really great idea,”
“People buying Civil War and Revolutionary
War books were doing so not because they were reading about a Civil War unit or a battle, but because their great-great grandpa
was in there.”
Thompson recalled when a customer contacted him
a short while back. She told him her father was said to have died in a car accident in Nicaragua but, as it turned out, her
father was an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency and did not actually die in such a manner. She found Thompson’s
Web site and located a book on the war in Nicaragua, which featured her father. Thompson shipped it overnight.
“A lot of people come because they’re
working on family history and resolving issues,” he said.
Many titles can only be found via their publishers,
some of which are “one-horse publishers,” meaning they’ve only published one title, Thompson said, adding,
“When you’re a specialist bookseller, you need to serve the customers’ needs and go to the small publishers
with one to five titles.”
Not a publisher, Thompson has more than 40,000 titles
in his database with new books coming and going, and he never returns books to publishers, unless they’re defective.
“If I decide to put a book on the shelf, it
stays on the shelf, even for two years, until I sell it,” he said.
Unique titles include reprints of original World
War II unit histories, like a unit cruise book completed after the war. Other subjects include the Holocaust and Native American
history, as well as titles on World War I, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War and Desert Storm.
His stock includes some historical fiction, such
as Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” series, as well as feature motion pictures of a historic
nature. The store is also laden with collectibles, ranging from war memorabilia to replicas to autographed books – some
dating back to the 19th century.
“People who find it and buy it get real excited
because either it’s been signed by somebody or has some connection to someone of historical note,” Thompson said.
There is also a section of North Carolina-based
Civil war books, mostly published by McFarland, the University of North Carolina Press and Parkway Publishing.
Thompson has sold books to military libraries, military
academies and museums, such as the Army Museum at Ft. Knox, to which he sent 35 books. “They know they can come to us
and get a good collection of books from the same place,” he said.
In addition, Thompson assisted the producers of
the film “Cold Mountain” by selling books on period clothing and buildings. He is also hosting a drive to send
books to soldiers serving in Iraq. Customers need only buy the books, and Thompson will ship them overseas at no cost to the
“Unlike most businesses, it’s a business
that’s always interesting and fun,” he said.
His store is not usually one for walk-in business,
as it’s located down N.C. 194 on Briarwood Lane near Green Valley School, but those who know it – or know of it
– come to visit.
Situated on old farm property, the space was converted
from an old tobacco barn into a fully climate-controlled, old-fashioned bookstore.
“When folks come out, they’re always
amazed at our selection,” Thompson said. “They’re always skeptical until they get out here.”
The bookstore is located at 584 Briarwood Lane off N.C. 194. For more
information, visit www.civilwarmall.com/bookseller/main.htm or call (828) 265-4970.
We have been selling Civil War and Military Books at shows, on the Internet and by Catalog for over
14 Years. We were the first Civil War Book Dealer to put up a site on the Internet and we own both the Civil War Mall (www.civilwarmall.com)
- and The History Mall (www.thehistorymall.com) - and have an open shop adjacent to our home in the North Carolina mountains.
We started with Civil War books, but have expanded and now offer a complete line of military books, videos, and other items
for sale. Now that we have an open shop and do this full-time, folks often come by and visit. For those of you who can't visit
in person, here are some images of our home and shop.
Our home was built in 1866 by Jonathan B. Miller, a Confederate Officer
who served in the 58th North Carolina Infantry. He returned to Watauga County after being paroled by the Union. He authored
the book The Watauga Boys in the Great Civil War. The house, although renovated, still retains most of the original interior
with pine planking on walls floors and ceilings. It has a tin roof which affords a real country flavor - and pleasant sound
when it's raining!
We have renovated the hay loft
in the barn and have a comfortable little shop where we run our business. As part of the renovations, we installed heating/air
conditioning, phone linesand computers. We replaced the original hay loft door with an insulated steel and glass door and
added a large deck and an access ramp to allow visitors to come into the store from the driveway. Incoming book shipments
are received and orders packed and shipped from an area beneath the store. We ship most books via Priority Mail the next day
and have our own postage meter with USPS daily pickup
We have a nice display area in our renovated barn, but not as much room as we could use
since we keep expanding our book offerings - we now have displays for Civil War, Revolutionary War, World War One, World War
II, Korea and Vietnam books. We special order many other general military, genealogy and Indian War titles as we need them
We have a huge in-stock selection of World War II titles - many Specialty Publishers such
as Schiffer, Bender, Fedorowicz, U.S. Naval Institute, Pen & Sword, Casemate and Battery Press.
We have a lighted antique
Oak and Glass Display Case (rescued from an old cigar shop) that allows us to display some of our special books.
We have a whole section of World War II Aviation Books, DVDs and Videos - Many of our
WWII books are Signed by the Pilots of WWII - and some by Medal of Honor Winners!
We have a World War I section that includes original battlefield artifacts including helmets,
artillery shells and hand-grenades that we have collected at battlefields in France and Germany. Many folks enjoy visiting
the shop just to look at the collectibes that are on display!
We have samples of Cannon Sets, Swords, Pistols, Caps and other reproduction
and gift items that are shipped direct to our customers from Collector's Armoury.
My wife Suzanne has helped me with this business for almost 20 years now and she packs almost all the orders. She carefully
packs every order to be sure books arrive undamaged - and we lots of great Customer Comments on our web page about her
packing!. Suzanne and I like to travel and usually Fly Space "A" using military flights. We have visited many of Europe's
castles and battlefields in Normandy, Dieppe, Waterloo, Arnhem, Verdun, the Somme and other locations. We were lucky enough
to catch a flight on Air Force Two from Germany to Andrews AFB - - pretty amazing trip with great food and lots of leg room!
Here is Suzanne in Belgium standing next to a Sherman Tank outside a military museum.
now has a Blog Page that you can visit
Visit Suzanne's Blog
We still have a small red book
trailer parked in front of the shop that we have used for shows. In the past, we have done shows in Gettysburg, Vicksburg,
Fredericksburg, Harpers Ferry and other locations, however, we are no longer doing shows, since they are a lot of work and
not quite the venues they were when we first started selling Civil War Books.