Kevin Royal Johnson
Kevin Royal Johnson founded Royal Books in 1996. He is originally from Arkansas, got an Engineering degree at Vanderbilt University, and after 15 years working for the government in DC, decided to move to Baltimore and do something more interesting. Royal Books originally operated on the fourth floor of a giant building that produced chemical sealant for underground pipes, and in 2002 made a permanent move to its present, more proper location on 25th Street.
Kevin has authored two books on the first edition sources for American film noir, The Dark Page (1940-1949) and The Dark Page II (1950-1965), both published by Oak Knoll Press. In 2012 he curated an exhibit of rare cinema-related photographs at the American Film Institute titled Behind the Fourth Wall: Actors and Directors on the Set 1926-2001.
Kevin likes pimiento cheese sandwiches toasted on one side, a pint of beer at 6PM or as soon thereafter as possible, and spending as much time as possible with his gal Nancy and their two highly untrained beagles Kirby and Twizzler. He enjoys watching movies in a fashion that might be described as autistic, organizing information for purposes that remain mysterious, reading comics and comic strips published prior to 1979, studying film history, and avoiding film criticism. He and Nancy (and dogs) reside happily in the Mount Vernon area of downtown Baltimore.
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Erin Barry-Dutro grew up in Connecticut and has been at Royal Books since 2010. She manages daily operations of the staff and store, catalogs new material, is the book fair and social media czar, and generally makes sure the store doesn't sink. Erin’s interests include magical realism, retrofuturism, and a material affinity for (nearly) all things paper. She specializes in modern firsts, archives, film scripts, and ephemera. She came to the rare book trade after working in book conservation, and has a BFA in Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. Erin enjoys obsolescing forms of media, the anthropological study of festivals, and anything holographic or neon colored.
John McDonald’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but he was first sighted in upstate New Jersey in the 1970s, and with regularity in Baltimore since 2001, where, since 2008, he has been employed at Royal Books. In addition to cataloging, his confirmed duties include handling library and consignor accounts, buying, and attending book fairs. He has strong opinions on a number of topics, including sports (he’s for them), politics (he’s against them), and religion (actually, he doesn’t really have an opinion on religion). He says he’s a film buff, but what he really means is that he streams a lot of television shows online. He likes genre fiction, but likes fiction that mixes genres more. He finds realism overrated. He finds originality overrated. Also, attribution. He ain’t got time to bleed. He has been known to enjoy good beer, good whisky, and good food. He’s also been known to enjoy cheap beer, cheap whiskey, and cheap food every bit as much. He’s gone digital.
Amber Fricke is a Maryland gal borne and bred, and has worked Royal Books since August, 2005, originally as a shipping clerk, but soon finding great enjoyment from minor repairs to books. She then attended bookbinding workshops at Cat Tail Run Bindery to further her knowledge. She has also attended a workshop at Texas A&M, and has shadowed other bookbinders to further sharpen her skills. Currently her primary role is making clamshell boxes, book repair, and general conservation. Amber likes baseball and football, and can frequently be heard yelling back at AM radio sports talk shows in the bindery. She is a great mom, and due to her lengthy affiliation with Royal Books, enjoys her status here as éminence grise.
Kate Setzler hails from the wilds of Central Maryland, and has been the store’s production designer since 2014. She handles everything image related, including photography, design, website management, amusing photoshop collages, and most especially the creation of the quarterly color catalog. She likes natural history, medical illustration, and psychological crime fiction.
Zac grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He moved to Baltimore in 2017 in a small 1979 RV named The Dolphin. He’s a graduate of Bennington College, where he spent his time painting, sewing, and studying art history. In addition to packing and shipping your orders, Zac catalogs new material and keeps the store well supplied with essentials. Since moving to Baltimore, he has taken up playing the clarinet, reading science fiction novels, and drawing cartoons. He has been sewing a series of jackets made from old moving blankets. He loves finding new pop music from around the world, and is happy to eat potatoes every day.
Sema Tok is our newest employee, the Royal Books bookkeeper, without whose numerical expertise the store would surely descend into an angry hive of bees. She has 30 years of accounting experience, with a B.S. in Accounting from Towson University. She currently lives in Towson, Maryland, and is the proud mom of three boys in college. She has a newly acquired interest in acting, and you can see her in an episode of House of Cards!