Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Local Authors Pay Tribute to Chevalier’s Liz Newstat

There’s a special place at Chevalier’s Books and in our hearts for former manager Liz Newstat, who passed away last year.

The Larchmont community was deeply saddened last December when we learned of the passing of Liz Newstat, longtime manager of Chevalier’s Books. Shortly thereafter, Abbi Waxman, author and Windsor Square resident, collected tributes for Liz from local authors to share with fellow readers and book lovers. Now that Chevalier’s has re-opened across the street from its old location, and there is a space in the new shop dedicated to Liz (even though everyone knows she’d hate the idea, we all love it!), we thought it was time to share their remembrances. Our thanks to Abbi and all the writers for taking the time to share their thoughts with us.  Thanks also to Julia Johnson for editing, and Theresa Phung, Chevalier’s manager, for her final review.

Stephanie Barbé Hammer, author of HOW FORMAL? and The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior

When you asked Liz Newstat for a recommendation, she got The Book Face, squinting slightly as the gears slipped seamlessly into motion and she walked you through the bookstore, gasping “Oh, this one” and “Oh, this one.” You’d walk out with a personal, artisanal collection — a cookbook, some Japanese noir, a graphic novel, poetry, and a postcard collection a kid she talked to last week loved.  Every book perfect, because she could read you like a volume too. She had that genius.


Derek Haas, author of the novels The Silver Bear, Columbus, and Dark Men.

Liz emanated cool, and she had that great, gravelly laugh. Anything she recommended was worth reading.  Tell her a couple of authors you enjoyed, and she’d load your bag with five books she knew you’d love.  She always included my boys in Chevalier’s events, too, gave them her attention and made them feel like they were important customers in the store.  The Haas family will miss her dearly!


Michelle Latiolais, author of She:Fiction; and Widow.

I could not begin to tell you how many years I’ve known Liz. She’s been a fixture in my life, her whiskeyed voice saying hello; or on the phone, “Would I come for Independent Booksellers Day?”  Liz presiding at a reading, making the first welcome, the initial introduction, and then saying I was one of Chevalier’s Books favorite humans. Liz laughing, and she was so often laughing, bemused, a person nothing got past, and yet somehow she loved us and we knew that.


Stuart Gibbs, author of five bestselling middle grade series: Spy School, FunJungle, Charlie Thorne, Moon Base Alpha and The Last Musketeer.

Liz always acted as though asking me to sign books when I came into the store was a huge imposition, no matter how many times I told her it wasn’t.  In fact, I told her that being asked to sign books was really the greatest thing that could ever happen for a writer. Still, Liz was always adorably self-conscious about it.

She had the best t-shirt collection.  In particular I loved her one that said “The Book Was Better” and her Schroedinger’s cat one that said “The Cat Is Alive” on one side, and “The Cat Is Dead” on the other.  It takes a very special type of person to appreciate Schroedinger’s cat humor, and to rock a t-shirt at her age. One of the last conversations we had was about how I needed to get her a new Spy School T-shirt I was having designed.  Sadly, I never got the chance to give it to her.


Leslie Margolis, author of Ghosted We Are Party People, If I Were You, The Annabelle Unleashed series and The Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries.

Liz organized incredible events, packing the store with crowds for authors, both local and global.  When there was not an empty chair at the Roxanne Gay and Terry McMillan reading five years ago, she gave up her own seat behind the cash register for my mom. Three years ago, she told my son that at 9, he was the youngest person on the waitlist for Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff. He was so proud. Two years ago, Liz hid behind her desk, as if scared to relay the news that my book on anger management wasn’t in yet. One year ago, she laughed when she overheard my kids ask me why Stuart Gibbs had more books on the shelf than me. “Come on, mom. Write more. What are you doing?” she teased.

What am I doing? Well, today, I am searching for some Liz-inspired t-shirts. The Book Was Better, I Would Prefer Not To, and Schrodinger’s Cat. I will find and wear all three. Tomorrow, I will try and figure out how to write a character like Liz into my next novel. I will struggle to capture her spirit, and I will do my best. It won’t be enough.


Abbi Waxman, author of I was Told It Would Get Easier, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Other People’s Houses, and The Garden of Small Beginnings.

I made Liz a character in my books because, to me, she was one of those rare people who are immutably themselves. I admire people like that, and I admired her. She was consistently Liz-ish, reliably droll, redolant with pages and words and startlingly accurate recommendations. I wrote her character for her, hoping she would find it funny or pleasing, smiling to myself as I did so, because simply thinking of her made me smile. I didn’t know her personally, which made it easier to base a character on her, but now makes me sad. I wish I had known the real Liz better, but I know she liked the fake Liz, and that will have to be enough.


Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

Liz told me early on that she had trouble recognizing faces. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea — it’s quite possible she just didn’t remember me from our previous interactions. Chevalier’s has a lot of regular customers, many — like myself — dedicated locals. To save us both embarrassment, I got into the habit of announcing myself each time I came into the store. “Hi, Liz. It’s Steven. I did an event in your store last month.” That sort of thing. (This was long before masks made this a courtesy.) The looks she would shoot me! Withering. Then we would both laugh. It was like an inside joke and made me feel very cool. I will miss seeing her. When I visit the new Chevalier’s location and I’ll introduce myself to whomever is working. They won’t be in the joke, but hopefully Liz will be looking down with one of her signature looks.


John August, screenwriter and author of Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.

When you’re touring with a book, you get to talk with a lot of booksellers. With Liz, I felt like I was talking to the store itself — its history, its catalogue and its place in the neighborhood. Her passing is a great loss, and only increases my resolve to see Chevalier’s thrive in the years to come.


Steph Cha, author of Juniper Song novels and Your House Will Pay

When my son Leo was born this April, Liz sent me a sweet congratulatory email. She also picked four beautiful picture books, which Chevalier’s sent him as a birthday present. I’ve gifted those same books to other friends’ kids and gotten strong positive responses, since they were just wonderful books that even second- or third-time parents had never encountered. I love the bookstore and its staff, but Liz is irreplaceable. I’m devastated that she never got to meet my son and tell him what to read. He will grow up with Chevalier’s (I hope it stays open for another hundred years), but I’m sad that Liz will not be part of his life like she has been a part of mine.


Adam Greenfield, author of Circa: a novel

Every time I walked down Larchmont the first thing I’d do is pop my head into Chevalier’s to see if Liz was working.  I loved joking around with her, giving her shit about a book recommendation that I pretended to hate, when in reality I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of the author before.  She turned me on to Percival Everett and Ocean Vuong and even convinced me I should read the My Struggle books.  And I knew, whatever they were, they were going to be good because Liz was smart as anything.  She had a wicked sense of humor and when she’d lean across the counter and talk trash about an annoying customer, her gruff voice like a cloud of smoke blown in your face, you just knew it was going to be good.  When my book came out Liz was a champion like no other.  She put it in the window of the store, emailed the mailing list, and even hosted a reading.  It made me feel like a real author and for that I’ll always be grateful.  Thanks for everything Liz.  I’ll miss you terribly.


Rich Ferguson, poet and author of 8th & Agony, New Jersey Me. His newest poetry collection Everything is Radiant Between the Hates was published in January.

I’d sometimes find Liz in front of Chevalier’s on a smoking break, her cigarette a flaming torch, a quintessential beacon of Larchmont. On nice days, she would wear her sandals bearing bold and bubbly plastic fruit, as if she were wearing a Carmen Miranda headpiece on her feet. She’d tap the ashes from her cigarette, and lean in close as if we were the only two people existing on the bustling street, to recommend new books in her soft but scratchy smoker’s voice, She was a dear friend, a mentor, and a champion of my work. For all those things and more, I am forever indebted to her.


Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank with Me and Better Luck Next Time.

Liz always told me I was her favorite human and I always believed it, even though I knew she told all us authors who hung out around the store that. But here’s the thing—she meant it. Every time. That woman loved her authors! When I was writing my second novel, I got the bright idea of naming a character after Liz, by way of thanks for all the support she’d given me over the years. I was so excited for her to see that. Alas. I know I wasn’t the first grateful writer to do that, and I doubt I’ll be the last. Liz may not be here in the flesh with us anymore, but she’ll live on in many, many books.

Donna Spruijt-Metz
, poet and author. Her latest collection poetry collection is Slippery Surfaces 

As soon as this is over, I thought—(‘This’ being the reign of ‘he who shall never be named again’ – ‘This’ being our cruel and grueling pandemic)—as soon as this is over I will pay Liz back for all the kindness and humor she bestowed on so many of us, for all her insight into our strange literary world. I will get to hang out with her again on Larchmont, at Chevalier’s where she presided over a fine and quirkily curated explosion of literature, I will get to make her laugh (never difficult) I will get to ask her for book advice. I will get to bring decent wine to the readings for her. But I am not going to get that chance, am I? So instead, I am writing words for her, as I so often end out doing—writing words. Trying to unravel a bit, for myself, the delight and mystery that is and was Liz.

I started everything late in life, except poetry – that is to say, I started poetry early early early (maybe first grade?), and then abandoned it. First for music, and then for science, until the circle was round and I stood again where I began, with poetry. Which meant starting late, again. Hang on—this is relevant, I promise.

Since we re-immigrated from The Netherlands twenty-odd years ago, Chevalier’s has been my neighborhood bookstore. I knew Liz when I was primarily ordering esoteric psychology and philosophy books. She loved to talk about them, she would peek into a book I had ordered before I picked it up and we would discuss. She had a well-founded opinion on just about everything, yet she was a good listener. And she was always interested in my taste in poetry.

Changing careers while living in the same town isn’t simple, and I can’t say that the Los Angeles poetry scene has been easy to decipher, but from the get-go Liz saw something in me as I morphed from scientist to poet. We would exchange lists of poetry books we thought it would be great to stock, and she got me involved in the Chevalier’s reading series. This was perhaps the biggest blessing of my budding writing life. She let me invite people, plan readings, taught me which days and times work best for readings and why. She let me play around with setups and number of readers, she introduced me to many LA poets, and when my chapbook came out, she invited me to do the book launch at Chevalier’s. She always invited me to Independent Booksellers Day. Liz gave me a poetry ‘home’ in LA. She made me feel like I had a natural place in the world as a poet.

So now what are we going to honor her? I say—make sure Chevalier’s thrives—or at least survives through the pandemic—support them in their move across the street—and READ—keep reading dear ones. She would want us to read, and debate. As she would sometimes say when I picked up a book at the store, pointing out something I never would have chosen for myself—‘Have you read this yet?’

Not yet, Liz. But I will.


Sholeh Wolpé, Iranian- American poet and literary translator

When I think of Liz, I see a book with angel-wings, covered with meandering calligraphy that roll out its alphabetical tendrils and stroke the other books to life. Before long, there is a huge book party like the ones many of us attended at Chevalier. I can still see her. Hovering behind the register. Beautiful, kind Liz. And what a smile.


Kayla Cagan, author of Piper Perish and Art Boss

Liz was my favorite goth in Larchmont. She was wearing a black t-shirt, black jeans, and her cool glasses the first time I met her, and pretty much all the other times afterward that I stopped in the bookstore. She was always helpful to me as a customer, recommending the kind of fiction I enjoy, usually a bit left of center, and then when I became a published author and reached out to her, she enthusiastically agreed to host my debut launch at Chevalier’s, and then my second book’s launch there as well. I felt like I was in Liz’s Club, accepted even though I no longer looked as edgy or as gothy as I did in my high school days. The more I shopped at Chevalier’s, the more I felt like Liz was a staple of what made the neighborhood feel just a little weird and more unexpected than it looked to the passerby. Even when she fed our dog Banjo milk bones, she seemed like she was doing a very cool favor for us both. Liz and Banjo would give a healthy dose of skeptical side-eye to each other every single time and make me laugh.

Liz and I shared a dark sense of humor about a certain author’s reputation and liked to trade stories about how his bad behavior got him called out in the New Yorker. There was nothing I liked more than hearing her take an obnoxious writer down a peg with a quick Lizicism. She was sharp, strategic, and didn’t suffer fools, at least the way I knew her.

I hate that she’s gone. In a year when nothing feels stable, Liz not being a part of the neighborhood anymore feels particularly cruel. I will miss her. I’ll wear black in honor of her. I’ll finally read the Steph Cha work she had been pushing on me. And I will do my best to sell great fiction by word-of-mouth to readers, like me, who need good stories now more than ever. It’s the best way I can honor her legacy. Rest in Prose, Liz.


Kim Dower, author of Last Train to the Missing Planet and City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. Her latest poetry collection is Sunbathing on Tyrone Power’s Grave

I would always visit Chevalier’s bookstore – close to where I live, fun Larchmont Village street, my go-to place for a book and an ice cream cone, but when Liz started working there Chevalier’s took on a whole new charm. At first shy and quiet, Liz would roll out her quirky often hilarious observations and remarks with that husky voice, crunchy laugh, half smile. I knew she was always thinking something she wouldn’t dare say but then she’d say it and it made my day! I couldn’t resist strolling into Chevalier’s just to get a hit of Liz. I’d ask about books I didn’t even care about just to hear her candid appraisal –“not so good,” she’d say, shaking her head, referring to a #1 NY Times bestselling book, “just really not my thing.” Then she’d pull out some obscure book I’d never heard of, and go on about its merits and I was sold. She read poetry and that’s what mattered most to me. When I did a reading at Chevalier’s I could feel how she enjoyed it, was a generous listener, would always gift me a book for reading at the store. More than anything Liz loved books and writers. The community has lost a great friend and champion. A real bookseller who loved her work. She and I would have lunch across the street at the Greek restaurant. She liked it there. I told her a few months ago that as soon as this pandemic ended we should go back and celebrate. We had a plan. I will miss her, and I will forever look up when I pull a book off the shelf at Chevalier’s and wait for her approval.


Aimee Bender, author of Butterfly Lampshade, An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures

Liz was always such a presence of smarts and warmth in Chevaliers— so supportive of writers, so accepting of kids running around the shop, genuinely interested to hear of new titles and orders, a true champion for books and those who read and write them. I will really miss seeing her and am very sad to hear this news.


Hilary Liftin, ghostwriter/collaborator specializing in celebrity memoir and author of Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, Candy and Me and Dear Exile

Liz made me feel special, like I was a real writer, an author, coming into a bookstore and that was partly why she knew me. This is a writer’s dream come true, of course, just above seeing someone reading your book on the subway. At the same time as I felt that specialness, I knew that I wasn’t the only one–that she somehow knew all of us and made each of us feel that way. But what made it particularly generous and funny in my case is that the books I write are generally not Liz’s cup of tea, and she was just as kind to me anyway, always with a glint of recognition in her eye, like we were both in on the joke.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Thank you for publishing these tributes. Loved Liz and it’s wonderful to hear how special and she was to all these writers.
    I miss her suggestions and interacting with her, too.

  2. I miss her so much. She let me do a book signing once when I appeared in an anthology. She loved my sons. She and I ate lunch and drank coffee together and always — the books.


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