We’re heartbroken to learn today of the death of G.M. Ford. Jerry died on December 1st according to his partner-in-crime Kathleen Skye Moody. We know he was born on July 9, 1945 in Everett, MA. At this time, we do not know where he was living when he died, or the cause. He was 76.

Jerry was an early customer of the shop. He and his dear friend Arnie would stop in on weekends to chat, chew the fat, buy some books and complain about the quality of the books he’d been reading. He’s laughingly say that he could write a better book, and Bill would say sure, sure, Jerry, sure you could. He would threaten to do it and Bill promised to give him his first signing if he got it published.

Pretty soon, he’d say that he was writing one, then that it was finished, then that he had an agent and the agent had sold it. We were left to swallow and hope it was good. Son of a gun – it was.

That was Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?, and, of course, Bill and Tammy and I loved it. Just like Jerry, it was funny and smart and one-of-a-kind. The release date was set for May 1995. We were thrilled to set up a signing. But then an odd thing popped up. When Bill saw the publisher’s proposed dust jacket, he frowned at it said something to the effect that a brown paper bag would be better. Bill, you see, being an old bookman, had clear thoughts about book promotion… And lead us to the idea of making our own dust jacket to celebrate the book and the premiere signing.

It took off with a life of it’s own. 200 numbered, signed and dated copies, dated and signed on the date listed on the dust jacket. We weren’t sure how it was going to work but, boy did it. We found ourselves doing something similar for the next seven books – the next five Leo Watermans, and the first two Frank Corsos. It was a big production and great fun. Jerry admitted that he was in no way a collector but I think he was bemused and gratified that so many fans, from across the country, demanded to have the same number of their limited editions, year after year.

If you don’t live in the Puget Sound area, you may not get the joke of the first book’s title. One of “The Boys”, the drunks that acted like Leo’s Baker Street Irregulars, asked that question in the book, taking the waterway for a woman’s name. His second book also had ties to another geographic spot, Concrete, WA. Jerry didn’t want to get locked into a title gimmick that he would regret so he stepped it sideways. Instead of original, Set in Concrete, he used Cast in Stone.

we stole the idea for the dance steps from the sidewalks along Broadway, on Capitol Hill

There came a time when he grew tired of battling his publisher over titles. He wanted to call his third Leo The Pigeon Shit Shuffle. Strangely, his publisher declined to use it. We did. His fourth book, his homage to Nero Wolfe, was to be A Steak in the Action, but the publisher wanted something shorter and punchier, so it became Slow Burn (not for our dj). For the fifth, he refused to give it a title and allowed them to pick one. We used his working title, Whatever #5.

By 2006, Jerry had seemed to have retired Leo Waterman, and he left Frank Corso in Blown Away in 2006, pleading for help with a bomb wired around his neck (Jerry was gleeful at the ending, happy to have used that odd, true 2003 crime that was at that time unsolved but that he remembered!) After that, he began writing stand-alone thrillers and then began publishing through SPECTRE (Amazon) as so many local authors were doing. We explained to him that we couldn’t sell books from them and I think he felt we’d turned our backs on him. The last signing we had with him was in 2008.

He would still drop in to chat. He’d find a reason to come down to Bakeman’s for lunch and spend some time with us. And then, when we were occupied with customers, he’d wander out, often without saying goodbye. It always felt as if we’d see him again sometime. Until we didn’t.

We’re not ones to bring religion into the shop but, if there is an afterlife, a heaven, we’re heartened to think he’s there swapping stories with John D. MacDonald and Rex Stout (two of his favorites). And we hope that he’s wandered into that Big Bookshop in the sky to say hello to Bill Farley, a man Jerry dedicated Black River to as “master of all things mysterious and bookseller extraordinaire”.

Gerald Manson Ford.

G.M. Ford.

Jerry Ford.

Thanks, Jerry. It was wonderful!

Taking a break from reviewing

It’s been a year since I left the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been busy. Rather than review, I thought I’d give you a peek into my new world. Come on in.

We bought a tiny pistachio farm. We have 103 pistachio trees, one almond, a peach tree, and a couple pomegranate and lime trees. We’re in the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico, which is a HUGE change from the PNW, but we’ve lived in New Mexico before.

Obviously bookshelves were the first priority.

Oh, and yes, it does rain here. Sometimes like a firehose has been opened.

It snows here too, by the way. So yes, we feed the birds.

And yes, we got puppies. Look at them. Aren’t they adorable? The one on the left is Tank, who is beating up on his sister, Mazikeen. Don’t worry, she can hold her own.

But now, you see…

Now, at about a year old, they’re much more sophisticated.

LOL, no, they’re not. They’re complete doofuses, and firmly believe that they’re still lap dogs, even though they weight well over 50 pounds each. But they’re cuddle bugs and we love them.

You may not know it, but the Tularosa area in New Mexico is great for roses.

The pistachios grew beautifully, and we had a great harvest.

See those red pods? Those are pistachios still in their protective hull, which is easy to remove when they’re ready for harvesting. It was amazing to watch.

And yes, they’re tasty!

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m still reading and will obviously keep on reviewing, but I’ve missed chatting with all y’all, and wanted to take a moment to catch up. Have a great holiday season!


Out of the Night, When the Moon is Bright – – – ZORRO!

First of 5 parts, introducing Don Diego de la Vega who secretly fights for justice as the swashbuckling hero Zorro of Spanish California (1769–1821)

After Douglas Fairbanks released his 1920 movie, The Mark of Zorro, demand for more stories was great. Johnston McCulley would write over sixty more Zorro stories, beginning in 1922 with ‘The Further Adventures of Zorro’. His last Zorro story appeared posthumously in April 1959.

McCulley was a prolific writer, publishing under many names other than his own: Harrington Strong, Raley Brien, George Drayne, Monica Morton, Rowena Raley, Frederic Phelps, Walter Pierson, John Mack Stone, among others as did so many pulp writers.

In addition to Zorro, McCulley created numerous pulp characters who continue to inspire today: Black Star, The Spider, The Mongoose, Thubway Tham, The Green Ghost, The Thunderbolt, and The Crimson Clown.

Mid-Month Musings

I was in my teens when I started reading Gothic mysteries. It seemed like a natural progression, y’know? Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Ken Holt, and then Gothics crossed my path. From a teenage perspective, they made sense. Strong women facing danger with more romance than Nancy ever saw.

I noticed that people tended to fall into two categories: Jane Eyre or Jane Austen. That’s obviously over simplistic, but I found that a lot of folks found their footing either with the perils presented by the Brontes or the human drama showcased by Ms. Austen. Both are excellent, and of course a whole lot of people love both, as they should.

In my opinion, there’s a misplaced dismissal and, frankly, snobbish elitism when mystery readers consider Gothics. They’re dismissed as formulaic, and more than a little silly.

I beg to disagree.

The Gothic tradition is formulaic to an extent, yes, because there are certain elements that need to be met – a woman out of her element, isolated in some way, the dashing hero (or is he?), the scowling villain (or is he?), and an overwhelming feeling of something dire, sometimes with a supernatural twist, but often not.

To me, that’s as formulaic as a thriller, with it’s obligatory car chases, gun play, and the hero getting shot in the shoulder but shrugging it off. Mind you, I love them both!

And that brings me to what may be the Gothic’s Gothic novel, HOUSES OF STONE by Barbara Michaels.

Whether you know her as Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Mertz, or Barbara Michaels, no one can deny that she could write a compelling tale, but her cleverness in putting the Gothic novel on display in this book is phenomenal.

Basic plot, Karen Holloway has created a name for herself by finding a small book of poems by a heretofore unknown 19th century poet known only as Ismene. When she’s presented the partial manuscript by the same unknown lady, Karen finds herself in a race to figure out who Ismene really is, but of course the challenges, both physical and emotional, keep piling up.

The manuscript is a 19th century Gothic, and that’s the area of Karen’s expertise. It also happens to be an area of expertise for Barbara Michaels.

What makes HOUSES OF STONE particularly special is that it’s a Gothic novel about a Gothic novel, while the protagonist discusses the elements of the Gothic novel. What Ms. Michaels did was write a great treatise on the Gothic novel and then use the story she was telling to illustrate all her points.

Those points are not light and fluffy, though. She discusses racism, feminism, chauvinism, and looks hard at the politics of repression of the female voice in literature, with a strong nod to Virginia Woolf’s observations about a woman needing a space of her own.

It’s also a page turner, and a must-read for anyone who loves books.

If you’ve ever dismissed the Gothic, you should read this book. If you love Gothic novels, you should read this book.

Ah hell. You should read this book!

March 2021

Editors’ note: we’re going to take a break from the usual Words of the Month and take the opportunity to inject some color into the issue…

Words of the Month

orange (n.) From the late 14th C., in reference to the fruit of the orange tree (late 13th C. as a surname), from Old French orange, orenge (12th C., Modern French orange), from Medieval Latin pomum de orenge, from Italian arancia, originally narancia (Venetian naranza), an alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s “orange tree,” a word of uncertain origin.

Not used as a color word in English until 1510s (orange color), “a reddish-yellow color like that of a ripe orange.” Colors similar to modern orange in Middle English might be called citrine or saffron. Loss of initial n- probably is due to confusion with the definite article (as in une narange, una narancia), but also perhaps was by influence of French or “gold.” The name of the town of Orange in France (see Orangemen) perhaps was deformed by the name of the fruit. Orange juice is attested from 1723.

The tree’s original range probably was northern India. The Persian orange, grown widely in southern Europe after its introduction in Italy 11th C., was bitter; sweet oranges were brought to Europe 15th C. from India by Portuguese traders and quickly displaced the bitter variety, but only Modern Greek still seems to distinguish the bitter (nerantzi) from the sweet (portokali “Portuguese”) orange.

Portuguese, Spanish, Arab, and Dutch sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. Introduced in Florida (along with lemons) in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. It was introduced to Hawaii in 1792.

TIME’S UP. Carl Hiaasen is retiring his Miami Herald opinion column, but not his outrage

Tim Dorsey on Writing About Florida as a Floridian

Here is a deeply soothing bookmaking video for your Friday escape.

Sarah Weinman To Take Over Marilyn Stasio’s Crime Column

How Magazines Helped Shape American History

Feast your eyes on this gorgeous Tokyo bookshop-slash-hotel.

Serious Stuff

How the Great Depression and WWII Gave Birth to the Modern Serial Killer

The Librarian War Against QAnon

Writing About the Russian Mob: The Brutal and the Absurd

He escaped a lynch mob, then sued its members in court

Malcolm X family demands reopening of murder investigation

Malcolm X family says letter shows NYPD and FBI conspired in his murder

Was Bugsy Siegel the ‘Supreme Gangster’? A Biography Makes the CaseBUGSY SIEGEL: The Dark Side of the American Dream By Michael Shnayerson

An Ex-KGB Agent Says Trump Was a Russian Asset Since 1987. Does it Matter?

Pensacola Navy base mass shooter had accomplices, help from Saudi Arabia, victims claim in terror lawsuit

Woody Allen’s memoir publisher threatens to sue HBO over documentary

Book Publishing’s New Power Club

What the FBI Had on Grandpa

9 Ways to Support Journalists Even if You’re Broke

According to data, Black and Latinx Millennials are keeping the book industry alive.

‘By Means Fair or Foul’: America’s Conspiracy to Assassinate Black Power

PNW Stuff

Writers call for resignation of director of Seattle’s Hugo House

Hugo House director resigns amid calls for racial equity

Lynnwood’s Greg Bear, stalwart of modern science fiction, starts writing his life story

Woman finds kilo of cocaine in crochet kit bought at Seattle store

Will downtown Seattle bounce back after the pandemic? [we include this article as it deals with Cherry Street Coffee, which was just down the street when SMB closed. that the owner, Ali, had to install a buzzer at the door so that only customers could be let in says something about the state of Pioneer Square since we left. very sad!]

Seattle’s longest-running Black-owned bookstore begins a new chapter in Columbia City

Powell’s will reopen more rooms to the public at its flagship City of Books store downtown


They Tore Down John D. MacDonald’s Old Florida Home to Build a Mansion and There’s Nothing You or I or Travis McGee Can Do About It Now

Crete police ‘perplexed’ by case of dead Briton aboard sunken yacht

On discovering a secret society in an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant.

MI6 spy chiefs advertising for part-time James Bonds who ‘must love travel’

Got $18 million dollars lying around? Wanna buy Steinbeck’s house?

Can a robot write a play? We’ll find out this month.

One of these bookcases was designed by a communist; the other was manufactured by a fascist. Can you tell which is which?

Did nuclear spy devices in the Himalayas trigger India floods?

The Prices on Your Monopoly Board Hold a Dark Secret

Dead strange … in search of Britain’s most unusual tombs

A Mystery Inscription on ‘The Scream’ That Baffled Experts for Decades Was Written by Edvard Munch Himself, New Research Shows

The 120 Days of Sodom: France seeks help to buy ‘most impure tale ever written’

Now Ted Cruz may be buying his own books through a mystery company

The Sordid Tale Of The Woman Who Scammed Marie-Antoinette

Hillary Clinton, Louise Penny to Co-Write Mystery Novel

Watch a supercut of typewriters being used on screen.

Rooster fitted with blade for cockfight kills its owner in India

Words of the Month

vermilion (n.) From the late 13th C., “cinnabar, red dye,” from Anglo-French and Old French vermeillon “red lead, cinnabar, (cosmetic) rouge” (12th C.), from vermeil (see vermeil). As an adjective, from 1580s.

Depart of SPECTRE

Amazon to pay $62M to settle claims it lifted delivery driver tips

Amazon will monitor delivery drivers with AI cameras that know when they yawn

New York Takes On Amazon Over COVID Safety Measures

Militant preppers, ‘boogaloo’ members and QAnon adherents can push products on Amazon

Amazon Drivers Are Worried About New ‘Customer-Obsessed’ Disciplinary Program

Bias, disrespect, and demotions: Black employees say Amazon has a race problem

Words of the Month

violet (n.) A small wild plant with purplish-blue flowers, c. 1300, from Old French violete (12th C.), diminutive of viole “violet,” from Latin viola “the violet, a violet color,” cognate with Greek ion (see iodine), probably from a pre-Indo-European substrate Mediterranean language. The color sense (late 14th C.) developed from the flower.


Here are the finalists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards.

Book Stuff

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö: A Crime Reader’s Guide to the Classics

Jonathan Kellerman Wants to Know Why Crime Fiction Has Such a Hard Time with Mental Health Professionals

Rooms of Their Own: Where Some of the Best Women Writers Created Art

Poirot at 100: the refugee detective who stole Britain’s heart

‘I think I’ve written more Sherlock Holmes than even Conan Doyle’: the ongoing fight to reimagine Holmes

The Future of Police Procedurals: What is the responsibility—and the path forward—for authors writing crime fiction about police?

The Depths of Stephen King’s Misery

Stephen King is helping a group of elementary students publish a pandemic-themed book.

Authors Guild urges DOJ to stop Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House merger

Danny Trejo’s memoir is hitting shelves (extremely hard) this summer.

Meet the bookstore owner behind National Black Literacy Day.

Who Really Created the Marvel Universe?

My First Thriller: Walter Mosley

For Years, a Literary Villain Made Joe Ide Wary of Nurses

For the Spy Novelist Robert Littell, The Cold War Never Ended

The Women Pushing Espionage Fiction Into New Territories: A Roundtable Discussion

Elle Cosimano introduces a new generation of crime writers who started in YA.

On The Man Who Didn’t Fly, A Most Original Mystery

Interview with an Indie Press: Milkweed Editions

NYC’s Robber Baron Library Has a Flair for the Dramatic

Author Events

Third Place Books: March 18 – Virtual Event ~ Live on Zoom! Donna Leon, in conversation with Cara Black – Transient Desires (Tickets Required!)

Words of the Month

Burgundy (n.) A region, kingdom, duchy, and province in France, from Medieval Latin Burgundia, from Late Latin Burgundiones, literally “highlanders,” from Proto-Indo-European *bhrgh-nt– “high, mighty,” from root *bhergh– (2) “high.” The Burgundians were a Germanic people, originally from what is now Sweden, who migrated and founded a kingdom west of the Rhine in 411. Their story is told in the 12th C. Nibelungenlied. As “wine made in Burgundy,” 1670s; as a color resembling that of the wine, 1881 (burgundy rose as a color is from 1872). Related: Burgundian.

Other Forms of Entertainment

The Gentleman Badass: Conrad O’Brien-ffrench Was the Real James Bond

Strong bonds: Marek Reichman on Aston Martin and 007

The World Is Not Enough‘s Cut Ending Explored Something All Bonds Ignore

The James Bond Villain David Bowie Almost Played (And Why He Wasn’t Cast)

Orson Welles, Lucille Ball, and The Greatest Thriller That Never Was

“The Investigation” eschews salaciousness for a bleak yet poignant Scandi noir take on true crime (JB recommends the series)

Buckle up! “The Lady and the Dale” is a wild ride through the cons of auto CEO Elizabeth Carmichael (JB recommends this series, too)

STREET WRITER: The literary video game we didn’t know we needed.

The 45 best prison escape films, ranked

Tom Stoppard’s Double Life

My worst moment: Chris Noth and his ‘Law & Order’ ending — (dun! dun!)

Why you should watch Body Heat, the best erotic thriller ever made.

The (Almost) Impossible Oscars Success of The Silence of the Lambs

The Magic of Moonlighting

Criminal Broads Presents: An Epic Scam ~The Soothsayer: Rose Marks

Why Did Raymond Chandler Hate Strangers on a Train So Intensely?

What to Read and Watch Next If You’re Finding Yourself Oddly Fascinated by the Idea of Cults

The Bourne Challenge: How to Create a New Hero in the Long Shadow of Jason Bourne

Here’s an homage to one of cinema’s greatest homages: Paul Thomas Anderson’s love for The Long Goodbye

How two feisty Brits met, got drunk, and became true crime podcasting soulmates

Danny DeVito and Barry Sonnenfeld: how we made Get Shorty

James Bond: Die Another Day Originally Confirmed 007 Codename Theory

Amblin to Adapt Walter Mosley’s ‘Easy Rawlins’ Books for TV

Words of the Month

verdigris (n.) From c. 1300, vertegrez, from Old French verte grez (13th C.), verte de Grece (late 12th C.), literally “green of Greece,” from obsolete French verd, from Latin viridis (see verdure). The reason for it being called that is not known. In other languages, “green of Spain” (German grünspan, Danish spanskgrönt, Dutch spaansch-groen), from Medieval Latin viride Hispanum. Current spelling in English is from 1789. In chemistry, confined to a basic copper acetate; popularly applied to the green encrustation on copper or brass exposed to the air.


January 29: ‘Charming’ D.B. Cooper suspect Sheridan Peterson dies at 94, spent years dedicated to political causes

January 29: Sharon Kay Penman, Whose Novels Plumbed Britain’s Past, Dies at 75

February 1: Famed San Francisco private eye Jack Palladino dies after attack

February 2: Hal Holbrook, Actor Who Channeled Mark Twain, Is Dead at 95

February 4: Eugenio Martinez, CIA Watergate burglar pardoned by Reagan, dies at 98

February 5: Christopher Plummer, Sound of Music star and oldest actor to win an Oscar, dead at 91

February 10: Fanne Foxe, Who Plunged Into the Tidal Basin and Emerged Famous, Dies at 84

February 23: SF poet and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti dies at 101

February 26: Sheila Washington Dies at 61; Helped Exonerate Scottsboro Boys

Links of Interest

January 6: Why has the Zodiac Killer never been caught?

February 1: The Delicate Art of the English Tea Set: A Historical Mystery Writer’s Appreciation

February 3: The Killer Outside Me: Living Life In Close Proximity To A Bizarre Series of Accidents, Murders, and Tragedies

February 4: Bestselling author, Mary Kay Andrews, helps solve real-life mystery

February 5: They hunted predators who sexually abuse children and lost their lives for it

February 5: Dante’s Descendant Wants to Overturn the Poet’s 1302 Corruption Conviction

February 7: The Wild Story Of Sheila Keen-Warren, The Killer Clown

February 8: Is This the Body of a Woman Mayor Murdered During the Spanish Civil War?

February 8: French woman faces court threat in ‘quest’ to win back Nazi-looted Pissarro

February 8: His Gangster Grandpa Was a Big Frog in a Small Pennsylvania Pond

February 11: Glamorous Immorality: A Brief History of Old Hollywood’s Organized Criminals

February 12: Forgotten spies who fought the Nazis in the Middle East

February 13: Val McDermid – ‘To survive, you had to be twice as good as the guys’

February 16: Scenes from a Small City Mob Life, Circa 1960

February 18: Italian mafia boss wins legal right to play music in his solitary prison cell

February 22: U.S. arrests wife of Mexico cartel chief El Chapo on drug charges

February 22: As a Black Lord of the Rings fan, I felt left out of fantasy worlds. So I created my own

February 22: ‘The man was obviously a crook’: the decline and fall of Robert Maxwell

February 22: 8 Wonderful Libraries to Visit Post-Pandemic

February 24: When the Last Call Killer Came to Five Oaks

February 25: DNA From Vanilla Coke Can Cracks 1981 Colorado Murder

February 28: Same Gun Used in Failed Plot to Kill Hypnotist Tied to 2012 Murder of British Family

Words of the Month

blue (adj.1) “of the color of the clear sky,” c. 1300, bleu, blwe, etc., “sky-colored,” also “livid, lead-colored,” from Old French blo, bleu “pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray,” from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (source also of Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau “blue”).

This is from Proto-Indo-European *bhle– was “light-colored, blue, blond, yellow,” from root *bhel– (1) “to shine, flash, burn,” also “shining white” and forming words for bright colors. The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus “yellow,” Old Spanish blavo “yellowish-gray,” Greek phalos “white,” Welsh blawr “gray,” showing the slipperiness of definition in Indo-European color-words. Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompassing blue and green and gray; such as Irish glass (from PIE root *ghel- (2) “to shine,”); Old English hæwen “blue, gray,” related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji “gray-blue, sea-green;” Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj “gray.”

The present spelling in English is since 16th C., common from c. 1700. The sense “lead-colored, blackish-blue, darkened as if by bruising” is perhaps by way of the Old Norse cognate bla “livid, lead-colored.” It is the meaning in black and blue, and blue in the face “livid with effort” (1864, earlier black and blue in the face, 1829).

The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c. 1500). Figurative meaning “sad, sorrowful, afflicted with low spirits” is from c. 1400, perhaps from the “livid” sense and implying a bruised heart or feelings. Of women, “learned, pedantic,” by 1788 (see bluestocking). In some phrases, such as blue murder, it appears to be merely intensive. Blue was by c. 1600 the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times.

Blue pencil as an editor’s characteristic tool to mark corrections in copy is from 1885; also as a verb from 1885. The fabulous story of Blue-beard, who kept his murdered wives in a locked room, is from 1798. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under cordon. Blue whale attested from 1851, so called for its color. Blue cheese is from 1862. Blue water “the open ocean” is from 1822. Blue streak, of something resembling a bolt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, Kentucky slang. Delaware has been the “Blue Hen State” at least since 1830, supposedly from a nickname of its regiments in the Revolutionary War.

blue (adj.2) As “lewd, indecent” recorded from 1840 (in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle’s); the sense connection with the color name (see blue (adj.1)) is unclear, and is opposite to that in blue laws (q.v.). John Mactaggart’s “Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia” (1824), containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o’Blue, “any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing.” Farmer [“Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present,” 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction (from c. 1600), but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten “suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character,” and adds, from Hotten, that, “Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent.”

What We’ve Been Up To


Do you remember how excited we were when Ernest Cline wrote Ready Player One? You should, because we could not stop talking about it, and were selling it right up until we closed.

Amber even got to sit in the prize-winning DeLorean, which was extra-special cool!

So you know I was over the moon when the sequel, Ready Player Two, came out. But then, I just sat there and stared at it, not reading it, because what if it wasn’t as good? Second books often aren’t, although technically this isn’t the second book, since Armada dropped in there. But you know what I mean. What if…?

If you’re in the same place, go ahead and dive in. You’re in for a treat!

When we left Wade Watts (a/k/a Parzival, or just “Z”), he and his spunky crew had won James Halliday’s challenge and had been rewarded with his empire. Life was good.

Nine days later, Wade discovers a secret that Halliday left for him to find, and suddenly everything goes nuts. The old OASIS Haptic goggles and gloves are suddenly obsolete, but the new and completely hidden technology, OASIS Neural Interface, will literally change the world.

This is not necessarily a good thing, and it divides the crew.
And then there’s a new riddle to be solved, a game to be won. Things get even worse.


How About Lynchmob?

What Should We Call the Sixth of January?

Jill Lapore, The New Yorker


obloquious (n.): mid-15th C., obloquie, “evil speaking, slander, calumny, derogatory remarks,” from Medieval Latin obloquium “speaking against, contradiction,” from Latin obloqui “to speak against, contradict,” from ob “against” (see ob-) + loqui “to speak,” from Proto-Indo-European root *tolkw– “to speak.” (etymonline)

sedition (n.) From the mid-14th C., “rebellion, uprising, revolt, concerted attempt to overthrow civil authority; violent strife between factions, civil or religious disorder, riot; rebelliousness against authority,” from Old French sedicion (14th C., Modern French sédition) and directly from Latin seditionem (nominative seditio) “civil disorder, dissension, strife; rebellion, mutiny,” literally “a going apart, separation,” from se- “apart” (see secret (n.)) + itio “a going,” from ire “to go” (from Proto-Indo-European root *ei- “to go”).

Meaning “conduct or language inciting to rebellion against a lawful government” is from 1838. An Old English word for it was folcslite. Less serious than treason, as wanting an overt act, “But it is not essential to the offense of sedition that it threaten the very existence of the state or its authority in its entire extent” [Century Dictionary]. (etymonline)

peenge (v.): to whine, fret and complain of cold and hunger, to pretend poverty. (Says You!, episode 219). From the Oxford/Lexico site: To whine, complain in a whining voice; to mope, fret.

traitor (n.) c. 1200, “one who betrays a trust or duty,” from Old French traitor, traitre “traitor, villain, deceiver” (11th C., Modern French traître), from Latin traditor “betrayer,” literally “one who delivers,” agent noun from stem of tradere “deliver, hand over,” from trans- “over” (see trans-) + dare “to give” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). Originally usually with a suggestion of Judas Iscariot; especially of one false to his allegiance to a sovereign, government, or cause from late 15th C. Compare treason, tradition. (etymonline)

caterwaul (n.): “disagreeable howling or screeching,” like that of a cat in heat, late 14th C., caterwrawen, perhaps from Low German katerwaulen “cry like a cat,” or formed in English from cater, from Middle Dutch cater “tomcat” + Middle English waul “to yowl,” apparently from Old English *wrag, *wrah “angry,” of uncertain origin but somehow imitative. Related: Caterwauled; caterwauling. As a noun from 1708. (etymonline)

whinge(n.): “to complain peevishly,” British, informal or dialectal, ultimately from the northern form of Old English hwinsian, from Proto-Germanic *hwinison (source also of Old High German winison, German winseln), from root of Old English hwinan “to whine” (see whine (v.)). Related: Whinged; whinging. (etymonline)

lynch (v.): 1835, “inflict severe (but not deliberately fatal) bodily punishment (on someone) without legal sanction,” from earlier Lynch law (1811), in reference to such activity, which was likely named after William Lynch (1742-1820) of Pittsylvania, Virginia, who c. 1780, led a vigilance committee to keep order there during the Revolution. Other sources trace the name to Charles Lynch (1736-1796) a Virginia magistrate who fined and imprisoned Tories in his district, c. 1782, but the connection to him is less likely. The surname is perhaps from Irish Loingseach “sailor.”

It implies lawless concert or action among a number of members of the community, to supply the want of criminal justice or to anticipate its delays, or to inflict a penalty demanded by public opinion, though in defiance of the laws. [Century Dictionary, 1895]

Originally any sort of summary justice, done without authority of law, for a crime or public offense; it especially referred to flogging or tarring-and-feathering. At first the act was associated with frontier regions (as in the above citation), though from c. 1835 to the U.S. Civil War it also often was directed against abolitionists. The narrowing of the meaning to “extra-legal execution by hanging” is evident by the 1880s, and after c. 1893 lynching mostly meant killings of blacks by white mobs (especially in retaliation for alleged sexual assaults of white women). This shift in use seems due in part to the work of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells. “Lynch mob” is attested from 1838. Compare earlier Lydford law, from a place in Dartmoor, England, “where was held a Stannaries Court of summary jurisdiction” [Weekley], hence:

Lydford law: is to hang men first, and indite them afterwards. [Thomas Blount, “Glossographia,” 1656]

Also in a similar sense was Jedburgh justice (1706) and, as a verb, to Dewitt (1680s), a reference to two Dutch statesmen of that name, opponents of William of Orange, murdered by a mob in 1672. Related: Lynched; lynching. The city of Lynchburg, Virginia, dates to the 1750s when John Lynch, brother to Charles but a peaceable Quaker, had a ferry landing on the James River there. (etymonline)

mob (n.): From the 1680s, “disorderly part of the population, rabble, common mass, the multitude, especially when rude or disorderly; a riotous assemblage,” slang shortening of mobile, mobility “common people, populace, rabble” (1670s, probably with a conscious play on nobility), from Latin mobile vulgus “fickle common people” (the Latin phrase is attested c. 1600 in English), from mobile, neuter of mobilis “fickle, movable, mobile” (see mobile (adj.)).

Mob is a very strong word for a tumultuous or even riotous assembly, moved to or toward lawlessness by discontent or some similar exciting cause. Rabble is a contemptuous word for the very lowest classes, considered as confused or without sufficient strength or unity of feeling to make them especially dangerous. [Century Dictionary, 1897]

Also used of a promiscuous aggregation of people in any rank of life (1680s), and in Australia and New Zealand used without disparagement for “a crowd.” Meaning “gang of criminals working together” is from 1839, originally of thieves or pick-pockets; the American English sense of “organized crime in general” is from 1927.

The Mob was not a synonym for the Mafia. It was an alliance of Jews, Italians, and a few Irishmen, some of them brilliant, who organized the supply, and often the production, of liquor during the thirteen years, ten months, and nineteen days of Prohibition. … Their alliance — sometimes called the Combination but never the Mafia — was part of the urgent process of Americanizing crime. [Pete Hamill, “Why Sinatra Matters,” 1998]

Mob scene “crowded place” is by 1922, from earlier use in reference to movies and theatrical productions; mob-rule “ochlocracy” is by 1806.

ochlocracy (n.): “government by the rabble,” 1580s, from French ochlocratie (1560s), from Greek okhlokratia (Polybius) “mob rule,” the lowest grade of democracy, from kratos “rule, power, strength” (see -cracy) + okhlos “(orderless) crowd, multitude, throng; disturbance, annoyance,” which is probably literally “moving mass,” from PIE *wogh-lo-, suffixed form of root *wegh– “to go, move.”  “Several possibilities exist for the semantic development: e.g. an agent noun *’driving, carrying, moving’, or an instrument noun *’driver, carrier, mover’. … An original meaning ‘drive’ could easily develop into both ‘stirred mass, mob’ and ‘spiritual excitement, unrest'” [Beekes]. For sense development, compare mob (n.). Related: Ochlocrat, ochlocratic; ochlocratical. Greek also had okhlagogos “mob-leader, ochlagogue.”

Our Guardian Angel

There are three reasons for this most personal of posts:

This woman gave birth to me nearly 63 years ago. She loved words, and word play. She encouraged me to look up a word I didn’t know. She played word games with us on long car trips. She was always working on a crossword, and we’d always find scraps of paper around the house on which she was trying to create as many words as possible out of one, longer word. Oddly, for all of her love of words, she wasn’t a big reader. But she passed on this love of language to her children. Due to her, her children are big readers.

Eventually, I would find myself living in Seattle and in need of a part-time job and I’d wander into a small bookshop that was about to open in the summer of 1990. I’d work there for the next 27 years and own it for the last 18. When things got tight, when it was hard to meet the rent – especially in the last few years – she’d be my loan officer, even though we both knew it was a gift, not a loan. She loved that I had a bookshop and dearly wanted it to succeed. To a great extent, she was the reason it lasted as long as it did. If nothing else, she’d listed to my tales of woe about the state of the shop. When we closed it, she was a heartbroken as anyone.

Lastly, though it always seemed growing up that everyone knew her, that wasn’t true. I never made a public acknowledgement about her financial aid to the shop. That just wasn’t how we did things. It was between her and me – but you see it really wasn’t. It was between her and everyone who loved the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. So I wanted to acknowledge it publicly, thank her publicly for all that she did for the shop, for the extra years her help gave us all.

She was always my guardian angel, and she was the shop’s guardian angel.

She’s an angel of the first degree.

Dottie Thomas Dickey ~ April 14, 1927 – December 8, 2020

November 2020

Serious Stuff

Leaked: Confidential Amazon memo reveals new software to track unions

Indie bookstores launch anti-Amazon ‘Boxed Out’ campaign

The next economic crisis: Empty retail space

MI5 boss says Russian and Chinese threats to UK ‘growing in severity’

Russia planned cyber-attack on Tokyo Olympics, says UK

Powerful New Video From Bruce Springsteen And Don Winslow Hits Trump In Key State

Best-selling crime writer Don Winslow on why he turned his sights on a new ‘criminal’ – Donald Trump

The gangster vanishes: twist in hunt for world’s largest haul of stolen art

The So-Called ‘Kidnapping Club’ Featured Cops Selling Free Black New Yorkers Into Slavery

Why Coroners Often Blame Police Killings on a Made-Up Medical Condition

How The 1969 Murders of a Labor Leader and His Family Changed Coal Country Forever

The True Story of Min Matheson, the Labor Leader Who Fought the Mob at the Polls

This Is How The FBI Says A Network Of ‘Boogaloo’ Boys Sparked Violence And Death

Coffins unearthed as the search for victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre continues

Violent criminal groups are eroding Mexico’s authority and claiming more territory

Words of the Month

dread (v.): From the late 12th C., “to fear very much, be in shrinking apprehension or expectation of,” a shortening of Old English adrædan, contraction of ondrædan “counsel or advise against,” also “to dread, fear, be afraid,” from ond-, and- “against” (the same first element in answer, from PIE root *ant-) + rædan “to advise” (from PIE root *re- “to reason, count”). Cognate of Old Saxon andradon, Old High German intraten. Related: Dreaded; dreading.

As a noun from c. 1200, “great fear or apprehension; cause or object of apprehension.” As a past-participle adjective (from the former strong past participle), “dreaded, frightful,” c.1400; later “held in awe” (early 15c.). [thanks to etymonline]

Strange Stuff

From cut-out confessions to cheese pages: browse the world’s strangest books

Unseen spoof by Raymond Chandler shows writer’s ‘human side’

Chandler and the Fox: The Mid-Century Correspondence Between Raymond Chandler and James M. Fox

The Strange Poetry of a Notorious Gangster’s Last Words

The 12 Greatest, Strangest, Most Transfixing Dance Scenes in the History of Crime Movies

The Strange History of Mickey Spillane and New Zealand’s “Jukebox Killer”

Italian police seize 4,000 bottles of counterfeit ‘super Tuscan’ wine

I Didn’t Set Out to Write a Book About the Argentine Scrabble Mafia But That’s What I’ve Done

Why Americans Fall for Grifters

Jeffery Deaver: ‘I can always find solace in Middle-earth and Tolkien’s imagination’

Local Stuff

Spokane author Jess Walter talks about his new novel ‘The Cold Millions,’ set in his hometown

Jess Walter is getting a ton of national critical praise for his new book. The Washington Post reviewed it as “one of the most captivating novels of the year” and The New Yorker called it a “masterful novel“. Congratulations to Jess!

Seattle writer receives $50,000 grant as one of 20 Disability Futures Fellows

A Bainbridge Island children’s book author bought Liberty Bay Books. One month later, the pandemic hit

Words of the Month

mumpsinus (n): One who stubbornly adheres to old ways in spite of clear evidence that they are wrong (Says You! # 223)


Here are the finalists for the 2020 National Book Awards

Louise Glück: where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner

Here’s the shortlist for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction.

Here’s the shortlist for the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize.

Here’s the longlist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

Book Stuff

The latest Covid trend is binge-reading. Independent bookstores are happy to oblige with special offers, free delivery and more.

Mystery Writer Jacques Futrelle Died Onboard the Titanic, but His Greatest Detective Creation Lives On

Bestselling author Tana French talks about what makes a good mystery writer and her latest novel

How Elmore Leonard Really Wrote His Novels—According to His Characters

A Shakespeare First Folio sold this week for $10 million.

The Westing Game may be a murder mystery—but it’s also a ghost story.

The Agatha Christie Centennial: 100 Years of The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Crime novelists dish on writing about cops in a moment of reckoning

How bookstores are weathering the pandemic

The Unlikely Detectives: Unlicensed, Unqualified, and Fully Invested

Edgar Allan Poe and and the Rise of the Modern City: “The Man of the Crowd” was arguably Edgar Allan Poe’s first detective story. It’s also one of his strangest.

Other Forms of Entertainment

In the Nixon Years, Conspiracy Thrillers Reflected Our Anxious Times. Where Are They Now?

Errol Morris Responds to the “Wilderness of Error” Finale

In 1983, Roger Moore and Sean Connery Squared Off in ‘The Battle of the Bonds’

Why British Police Shows Are Better: When you take away guns and shootings, you have more time to explore grief, guilt, and the psychological complexity of crime.

With Iron Man Behind Him, Robert Downey Jr. Plans MCU-Like Universe for ‘Sherlock Holmes’

New ‘Dexter’ Limited Series Headed to Showtime in Fall 2021

7 Great Heist Novels, Recommended By An Art Dealer

The Con: Portraits of Grifters and Scam Artists in Book, Film, and Real Life

How Edward Hopper’s Stony Blonde Became a Noir Icon

How ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Picked the Cases for Its Second Season

10 Political True Crime Podcasts to Listen to this Election Season

Edward Gorey designed the sets for the 1970s Broadway run of Dracula

The Burnt Orange Heresy review – Mick Jagger adds dash of malice to arty thriller

Words of the Month

oubliette (n): A “secret dungeon reached only via trapdoor and with an opening only at the top for admission of air,” 1819 (Scott), from French oubliette (14th C.), from Middle French oublier “to forget, show negligence,” Old French oblier, oblider, from Vulgar Latin *oblitare, from Latin oblitus, past participle of oblivisci “to forget” (see oblivion). Used for persons condemned to perpetual imprisonment or to perish secretly. (thanks to etymonline and John Connolly)


October 11: Margaret Nolan – actor, artist and Goldfinger title sequence star – dies aged 76

October 16 : Rhonda Fleming, femme fatale from Hollywood’s golden age, dies at 97

October 16: Tom Maschler, Booker prize founder and publisher of some of the greats of 20th-century fiction, dies at 87

October 30: Judith Hennes, long-time customer and friend of the shop, died

October 31: Sean Connery, James Bond actor, dies aged 90

Links of Interest

September 30: The Modern Detective: Inside the Secret World of Private Investigators

October 1: Nazi shipwreck found off Poland may solve Amber Room mystery

October 1: Happiness, a Mystery by Sophie Hannah review – solving the most profound puzzle

October 7: Stolen Mao scroll worth £230m was cut in two by £50 buyer, police say

October 14: Snapshots in the Life of a Criminal Data Analyst

October 15 : Mario Puzo at 100 – ‘The Godfather’ author never met a real gangster, but his mafia melodrama remains timeless

October 18: The Delightful Shock of Seeing the ‘Downton Abbey’-Famous Library

October 18: The secret world of diary hunters

October 22: The Network: How a Secretive Phone Company Helped the Crime World Go Dark

October 25: Chilling find shows how Henry VIII planned every detail of Boleyn beheading

October 25: Do not hike alone’: For 21 months, the Trailside Killer terrorized Bay Area’s outdoors

October 26: Killer High: Exploring the Phenomenon of LSD-Fuelled Murder

October 29: How Sierra Was Captured, Then Killed, by a Massive Accounting Fraud

Words of the Month

mesel (adj.): “leprous” (adj.); “a leper” (n.); both c. 1300, from Old French mesel “wretched, leprous; a wretch,” from Latin misellus “wretched, unfortunate,” as a noun, “a wretch,” in Medieval Latin, “a leper,” diminutive of miser “wretched, unfortunate, miserable” (see miser). A Latin diminutive form without diminutive force. Also from Latin misellus are Old Italian misello “sick, leprous,” Catalan mesell “sick.” The English word is archaic or obsolete since the 1500s, replaced by leper, leprous, but its lexical DNA survives, apparently, as a contamination of measles. (thanks to etymonline)

What We’ve Been Up To


Books and physics

In high school, I got a D— in physics, and the only reason I got so good a grade was that my physics teacher had been really good friends with my late cousin. Ms. Lopez made me promise I’d never take physics again if she gave me that grade, and I happily agreed.

She’d be massively unsurprised at my current dilemma.

We just moved to a new place. I have 60 boxes of books, which should surprise exactly no one, especially those of you who know me. I have not only signed and collectible copies of books, but manuscripts and Advance Reader Copies and ratty paperbacks that I adore.

I also have three – yes, three – bookcases. And even they don’t have enough shelves on them; I have to add at least one more per bookcase.

Now, I’ll grant you that the lady from whom we bought the house left another one, and I’m using it, but even then, well, it’s not going to be enough. Not by a long shot.

It’s a challenge, but I’m up to it. I think. It’s making my wife a little crazed, but she knew this about me when she married me, it’s going to be fine.


All of this is in order to explain why I don’t have a review for you this month. Also why I got a D— in physics back in high school.


I guess I’m not in an objective mindset to be able to write up the last two books I read and do justice to them. The new John Connolly, The Dirty South, is sort of a prequel, taking place after his family was wiped out but before he caught The Traveler. Great idea, great characters, great story and… [a shrug of the shoulders….] The new Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand, also gets a shrug – interesting germ for a story, characters I adore, etc, but…. guess I’m getting tired of Longmire’s indecision about running for office again. I understand that while the indecision has been going on for years for us readers and for only a few months for the characters, I’m tired of it. It’s much like the story lines in the TV series that didn’t grab me. You’re stuck with it. Still, I love a good art mystery, so I’d recommend you read this piece by Craig about where the idea for the story came from: The Strange Life and Mysterious Disappearance of a Very American Painting. Still, the questions remains” can there be a Longmire series after or when Walt retires?


And So It Goes…


Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to the people of 2088 also applies to the people of 2020.

“This week, I stumbled upon some very good advice Kurt Vonnegut set out, in 1988, for the citizens of the world of 2088. Sure, it was part of a Volkswagen ad campaign for TIME, but it still counts as salient advice from one of our great literary minds—and though it was supposed to be for people living 100 years after he wrote it, almost all of it applies to those of us trapped in 2020 as well. (And if not, well, at the very least, I got a laugh out of “bag ladies and bag gentlemen.”) Here’s what Kurt thinks we should be doing to save ourselves:”