June Newzine

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Summer, right? Well, we’re now past Memorial Day, so it must be that time in which livin’ is easy… so they say.

And, a reminder: these new Newzines are not meant to be read in one sitting, as the old Friday afternoon missives could be. We imagine folks coming back to these monthly posts more than once. They’re long, but so are months. Err, or they used to be when we had summer vacation from school!

Something Special from a Good Friend

The following is from one of the SMB’s most valued customers, most supportive collectors, and trusted friends. Steve has had some thoughts since the shop closed, and sent us this:

Missing SMB

First, a confession: I am a book collector and assess bookshops with a jaundiced eye. I’ve been in every variety of bookstore from the well heeled, inefficiently designed rare book shop that is a book shy a designer’s idea of a library, to the tatty, dusty, work-of-love, paperback-only shop that can only subside due to free rent while the landlord waits for a real tenant to amble in. I collect first editions of various literary genres, but especially mysteries. My wife and I are passionate about books, so much so that when we paid off our original mortgage we took out another to build the library we’d always wanted in order to house our substantial book collection. Or at least part of it, since books are everywhere in our home and may be the only things keeping it upright.

As a result of my affliction, I loved the Seattle Mystery Bookshop (SMB). When I say that I loved the shop, I loved everything about it, everything that had taken so long for the owners (Bill Farley, then JB Dickey) to compile: the knowledgeable and affable staff; the efficient attention to customers’ needs and wants; the broad assortment of inventory composed of new and used books displayed for comfortable, lazy browsing; the quarterly newsletter focused on upcoming publications that allowed me to send a list to the staff so that they could have my published choices ready for me during my next visit; my own space on their back shelves where I could first see some of the new books I was about to buy; their locked shelves of rarer books where I might, and often did, find a treasure.

But I also loved the composite whole, an institution much greater than the sum of its parts that was a retreat from daily concerns where I could get lost in the possibilities and implicit joys of future reading.

So when SMB finally closed, I was bereft. I had a system that I had worked out with SMB’s staff to ensure that I would never miss a favorite author’s newest work. I had staff backup in case I did miss a favored new work since the staff would always question me about my error. And the staff always made certain to tell me about new authors that I’d never heard of that fell within my range of interests, either spontaneously in a statement of enthusiasm beginning “you just have to read this” or in response to my oft asked question at the conclusion of each visit: “What have I missed?”

It finally became apparent to me that I could no longer argue with JB that he ought to keep the store open. I came to understand the stress he endured from so many pressures: competition from low priced online retailers; rude so-called “customers” who came to sample books they were about to buy on-line for less money; trying to operate a retail shop in a city hostile to smaller businesses; the constant lack of nearby parking spaces; the constant construction and street closures that adversely affected business; the steadily falling income due to the deadly combination of fewer walk in customers, rising hardback prices, and the steadily increasing portion of new books which were lower priced (and, therefor, less profitable) paperbacks; the rise of the e-book; and on and on. JB was stressed by this storm of ill luck and needed a break, so I had to learn to shut my mouth and, as a friend, help him extricate himself from the lifelong dream that had gradually become a nightmare.

But what was I, the now-former customer, to do after SMB closed?  I approached this problem with my customary optimism. I have been a professional problem solver all my life, so I just knew I’d find a way. And I tried. Boy, how I tried! But like any other good thing, even I who loved the SMB institution didn’t know how good I’d had it until the institution was gone; I didn’t understand how bad the alternatives could be. I confess to failing to find a good, or even a marginally acceptable, alternative – at least so far. I am still searching.

Since SMB closed, I have tried many things to feed my passion for mysteries. I have subscribed to on-line mystery lists to see what is upcoming, but they are nowhere close to being as comprehensive as SMB’s newsletters which was blind to categorized favoritism and a major publication in and of itself. I’ve tried to deal with other storied mystery retail institutions only to find flaw after flaw in their operations. (One well known New York store never updates its listings of rare books, such that out of the six rare books I have attempted to buy from them only one has been delivered as the others were already sold. I no longer even bother to look at their on-line inventory of rare books on the presumption that if a book is listed there it must be gone. Why waste my time?) I’ve haunted the mystery sections of local booksellers, but none have the breadth of collection that SMB had, and the only one that comes close has no attentive staff dedicated to making my day’s selections as complete or as interesting as they could be. And there is no one there to ask what I might have missed before I go out their door. And even if there were, they wouldn’t know me well enough to advise me effectively.

No, nothing has worked well for me. I’ve made do since SMB closed its doors, but just making do is never very satisfying to a passionate collector. The pleasure in my monthly purchases of mysteries has been reduced from a sigh of contentment to a sigh of regret. I have to make my own lists of wants without help from a knowledgeable staff – lists I either forget to make or forget to take. There is no one who, when I become too ill to visit, will take my orders by email and lovingly wrap and mail them to me as SMB uncomplainingly did. There is no one to make each visit to their store both bookishly satisfying as well as a pleasant reunion with old and dear friends of both the quick and the tome varieties.

I’m about ready to scream my frustration. Hell, I can’t find anyone I can deal with who is even remotely efficient; I’d settle for adequate if I could ever stumble upon it. My frustration is probably Bill’s and JB’s fault for setting the bar so high. If only they and their staff hadn’t created something so perfect, I could have, in my ignorance, settled for so much less.

Sigh!

A New Series of Mystery Reprints

Otto Penzler of The Mysterious Bookshop is starting a new publisher. Penzler Publishing will reissue classic American mysteries. In some way, this press will be filling the void that Rue Morgue left. “Reprints of Golden Age classics by British writers have been very successful,” Penzler noted, “so it seems the time has come to recognize the best American authors of traditional detective fiction.” The first  batch of titles due out this Fall are from instantly recognizable authors: Rice, Queen, Rinehart, Hughes, Rawson, and Palmer.

Word of the Month

snollygoster (n.): From 1846, American English slang, a fanciful coinage – “originally an unprincipled politician or crooked lawyer, today in means someone either incompetent or “ethically challenged”, someone who will not keep a promise.” (thanks to etymonline and Says You! #906)

Author Events

June 2nd, Erica Miner, Third Place Books/Lake Forrest Park, 6pm

June 7th, Leslie Budewitz, Third Place Books/Lake Forrest Park, 7pm

June 7th, Nicola Griffith, Eagle Harbor Books, 6:30

June 11th, Ruth Ware, Powell’s, 7:30

June 12th, Ruth Ware, Third Place Books/Lake Forrest Park, 7pm

June 21st, Christine Carbo, Third Place Books/Lake Forrest Park, 7pm

June 22nd, Cara Black, Third Place Books/Ravenna, 7 pm

 Links of Interest

The Guardian, April 27th: Vetting for stereotypes: meet publishing’s ‘sensitivity readers’

Daily Beast, May 1st: The CIA Cleared Her Book Twice. Then It Took It Back. Why? It’s a Secret

The Guardian, May 1st: Books by Women Priced 45% Lower, Study Finds

The Guardian, May 1st: Why does it seem like serial killers all wear the same glasses?

The Guardian, May 1st: Are women responsible for all the extreme sexual violence on screen? (Germaine Greer has stirred up a hornet’s nest with her latest claims, suggesting women are more enthusiastic than men when it comes to depictions of sex and violence. We asked leading crime writers for their views)

BBC, May 3rd: Mystery Pooper Caught In The Act

BBC, May 4th: Whoops! Idaho State University Lost Some Plutonium

Daily Beast, May 5th: From Russia’s Secret Espionage Archives: The Art of the Dangle

New York Times, May 6th: Save Barnes & Noble!

Daily Beast, May 8th: The Surreal Story of a Purple-Faced Lady and My Mom’s Stolen Jewels

The Guardian, May 12th: Barnes & Noble: why it could soon be the bookshop’s final chapter

Daily Beast, May 12th: The Blue Diamond Affair: The Jewel Heist That Became a Diplomatic Nightmare

Vox, May 14th: Louisa May Alcott on Little Women: “I grow tired of providing moral pap for the young”

The Guardian, May 14th: Waterstones accused of breaking pledge not to take on independents

The Guardian, May 14th: Bacon, cheese slices and sawblades: the strangest bookmarks left at libraries

Seattle Times, May 14th: A 14th human foot – this one in a hiking boot – washes ashore in Canada

The Oregonian, May 18th: D.B. Cooper Case Drops Another Suspect Into the Spotlight

The New York Times, May 19th: A Staten Island Man Found a Safe of Cash in His Backyard. Then Things Got Weird.

Crosscut, May 21st: Seattle is a ‘City of Literature’. Now What?

The Guardian, May 21st: My Friend Dahmer”: is it time to stop glamorising the serial killer?

The Guardian, May 22nd: John le Carré letter reveals author’s contempt for British political class

Atlas Obscura, May 22nd: Lesbian Pulp Fiction That Saved Lives

Seattle Times, May 24th: Daniel Craig to Return as 007 in 2019, Danny Boyle at Helm

Daily Beast, May 26th: Love and Death and the Queen of Diamonds

Seattle Times, May 27th: How a Canadian Mystery Writer Found the Clues to Success (hint: she writes about Three Pines…)

The Oregonian, May 27th: End of a Story for a Hawthorne Boulevard Bookstore (JB used to hit this place on Portland book-hunting trips)

The Atlantic, May 28th: Killing Eve” and the Riddle of Why Women Kill

New York Times, May 28th: How Dostoyevsky Predicted the ‘True Crime’ Craze

AtlasObscura, May 29th: Secrets Revealed at NSA’s National Cryptologic Museum

AtlasObscura, May 29th: Grave Robbing 101

RIP

May 13th – Margot Kidder, Lois Lane in the earlier Superman movies, 69.

May 21st  – Bill Gold, one of Hollywood’s best-known creators of film posters, has died aged 97 – the creator of the iconic Dirty Harry, Goodfellas & Dial ‘M’ For Murder and 2,000 more posters!

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

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So Pretty A Problem – Francis Duncan

Chief detective inspector Jonathan Boyce’s boss has ordered him to take a holiday. A recent bout of pneumonia has left him weak and tired to the point the commissioner felt the need to intervene. Unable to do anything but comply with his boss’s order Jonathan decided it was high time he paid a visit to his sister in Falporth in Cornwall.

Wanting to impress said sister he asks his friend Mordecai Tremaine if he’d like to come along (she’s read about Mordecai’s second career in the papers and Jonathan’s letters). Mordecai readily agrees to the trip despite the uncomfortable situation it places him in. Oh not with Boyce’s family, but with a close acquaintance who also resides in the small seaside town.

A few weeks previously he discovered that the wife of painter Adrian Carthallow was having an affair, which caused Mordecai’s romantic soul to cringe. When the artist and his wife relocated to their summer home for a few months, Mordecai was relieved….until the unexpected invitation for Boyce propelled him back into their sphere.

Mordecai’s vacation soon turns into a busman’s holiday when Adrian Carthallow is shot dead by his wife. The only hitch in the giddyup? The wife’s story is so full of holes it looks like swiss cheese, and there are about a half-a-dozen other people who had a motive to want the man dead.

I love this mystery!

If you took the setting of And Then There Were None, the motives of Murder In Retrospect, the detective Columbo, and Sherlock Holmes’ pipe, then shook them up in a bag, you might come close-ish to this latest installment in the Mordecai Tremaine series.

Francis Duncan flawlessly combines the locked-room mystery with the English country house murder in this “new” book. What I enjoyed reading was the deftness which Francis manipulated and updated these classic tropes. He was able to keep them recognizable but change them in such a way that made them feel different.

The other fascinating aspect of this book? Every suspect was under the same emotional influence, love. Francis does a great job in showing the variants of this seemingly pure emotion and how it provided more than enough motive for murder.

Though So Pretty A Problem was written in 1947 this book doesn’t feel dated. Which I think broadens the appeal of this mystery to those who enjoy reading the occasional timeless trope. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a classic golden age mystery and/or looking for something to fill the void after finishing the Agatha Christie (or alternatively needing a break from them). Or someone who is looking for something without much blood that doesn’t fall into the cozy trap!

Fran

I’m loving my new job still, and it’s always interesting.  For example:

So, a guy gets out of jail on Monday. He’s supposed to show up in 24 hours, but hey, sometimes life happens so we gave him 48. Not everybody would, and not every offender gets a break, but once in a while, we’re nice. Don’t judge.

But then, by Wednesday when he’s a no-show, we sigh and put out a warrant for him. We tried to be nice, but the rules are the rules.

Thursday the warrant’s issued, and we trundle along as we always do.

Today. Today he shows up. We ask if there’s a reason he didn’t check in. Nope. Not really. Just didn’t.

We peer at him closely. “Are you high?” He nods, happily.

“Before coming here? What did you take?”

“Meth.”

There are several exchanged looks, puzzled and frowny.

“So you took meth before you came here?” He nods again.

“You know that means you’re going to jail, right?” He nods.

More exchanged looks.

“Okay, fill out this form admitting that you’ve used drugs.” He does.

“Alrighty then, you wanna tell us why you took meth and then came here on a Friday afternoon?”

Long pause. “….it might rain?….”

Like I said, my job is always interesting.

 

REVIEWS NOW:

9780544947306Now, before you go sighing, “Oh dear goslings, ANOTHER ONE?” let me tell you that Carrie Vaughn‘s BANNERLESS (Mariner) is not your typical everything’s-awful or how-will-we-survive type dystopian novel. Far from it.

It’s hopeful. And nice.

Dystopian, yes. It’s after the Fall, civilization has collapsed and has been re-formed and made into something that will work, at least for the time period we’re concerned about.

Along the Coast Road region, communities are thriving. People are organized into households within their towns, groups of people who live within their own communities to help each other. The households work together so that the towns thrive, and everyone depends on everyone else doing their part.

When a household has proven its stability and resourcefulness, they can be awarded a banner, which entitles that household to have a child. No children are allowed without a banner; population control is key to maintaining survival. Starvation is still a real possibility. Outcasts and children born outside of the rules are considered to be “bannerless” and are therefore shunned. Mostly.

Crimes tend to be of the more mundane sort – who’s hoarding food, not contributing enough, over-extending their growing fields without permission – and to handle those sorts of things, investigators travel to the communities with problems and resolve them. Investigators’ word is law; they have the power to dissolve households and even remove awarded banners as they see fit.

Enid of Haven has only been an investigator a short while. Generally, being an investigator isn’t a full-time job, so she and her household are doing what they normally do, but then she’s tasked with investigating a suspicious death in a nearby town, Pasaden. Suspicious deaths are very, very rare, so Enid takes this seriously. She and her enforcer, her former mentor Tomas, go to Pasaden to see if they can figure things out.

And on the surface, Pasaden seems to be a quiet, safe and welcoming community. What happened?

This is the first in a series, and I devoured it. In BANNERLESS, Carrie Vaughn has crafted a world that is fully functional, multi-dimensional, and captivating. It’s a straight-up murder mystery (no spoiler there, I promise) but it’s got such complexity and such deep layers that it captures the imagination.

If you like traditional mysteries and are game for a slightly different setting with rules that take a bit of getting used to but which make perfect sense once you do, I can’t recommend BANNERLESS enough. Even if you’re not into science fiction or things of that genre, trust me, you’ll enjoy this one. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

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So yeah, here I’m going to be talking about two books, but they tie in together so hang with me. ‘Kay? Thanks!

9781501118364First, if you haven’t picked up John Connolly‘s book of short stories, Night Music (Emily Bestler Books), you should have. I know there are a lot of you who don’t much like short stories, but please, make an exception here, for two reasons.

One is that you absolutely need to read (or re-read) the seventh short story, “The Fractured Atlas – Five Fragments” before you read his new Charlie Parker novel, about which I’ll talk later.

A lot of what you find out in “The Fractured Atlas” will ring bells for you from things discussed in earlier Parker novels, but having this set of short stories under your belt will make The Woman in the Woods (Emily Bestler Books) much more understandable.

Besides, they’re beautifully written and just creepy enough to make you uneasy. But then, several of the short stories are. You know how John Connolly can take something ordinary and give it a slight twist? These are distilled Connolly.

The last thing I want to say is that when you read – or re-read – the first story, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository”, if it doesn’t ring a chord deep within in you, I’m not sure we can be friends any longer. Yeah, it’s that good.

9781501171925So then, onto the The Woman in the Woods. Obviously there’s not a lot I can say about it because if you haven’t read the series, there are spoilers, and if you have and are waiting for this one to come out, which it does this month, I believe (thank you, Claire Lamb, for seeing that I got an ARC – I am forever in your debt!) then by reading “The Fractured Atlas”, you’ll know all you need to know.

However, I must say that I absolutely adore the insights into Louis and Angel’s relationship we get due to Angel’s illness, and Charlie is perfect in his response to the whole situation.

Granted, some of Louis’s anger is going to lead to problems down the line, but it’s nothing that can’t be handled. In fact I’m looking forward to that confrontation.

Enough being cryptic. Trust me, you’re going to enjoy The Woman in the Woods and it will leave you wanting the next installment Right Now. In fact, I may have to go re-read the entire series while I wait. That’ll make the time pass quickly and will be such a treat!

JB

I know I wasn’t the only one who was struck by the oddity of the 2003 bank robbery in which a pizza delivery guy held up a bank with a bomb affixed to him. I never really followed the case but I remembered it. So did GM Ford, because he used it in Blown Away, his last Frank Corso novel in 2006. On the last page, he left poor Corso trembling in a bank with  a bomb locked around his neck.

If you have access to Netflix (I hope Jerry does) I recommend Evil Genius, a four-part documentary about the crime, the cops who investigated it, and those suspected and charged in the crime. Netflix gets it right when they say “This baffling true crime story starts with the grisly death of a pizza man who robs a bank with a bomb around his neck — and gets weirder from there.” Sure as hell does.

Like any fan of crime and mystery and whodunnits, I’ve talked this series over with a number of fans, trying to figure out questions that were left and we can’t get very far. I’ll admit it isn’t for the cozy crowd, but it is a fascinating series, well constructed and engrossing.  Give it a try. netflix-Evil-Genius-s1-bg-1

Soon as I finish John Meacham’s biography of Andrew Jackson, I’m going to dig into a large pile of mysteries – new books by Mike Lawson, John Straley, Phillip Kerr, James Lee Burke, John Connolly, and, the most intriguing, Lawrence Osborne’s forthcoming Philip Marlowe novel, Only to Sleep!

When the hell will we see a new book from Carol O’Connell, Carl Hiaasen, Don Winslow, James Ellroy, and Gillian Flynn! We’re so out of the loop now that we no longer see publisher’s catalogs. We’re lost, just like all of you.

Support Small Businesses!

If you don’t, they’ll go away…

May Day!

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Here’s the old e-mail computer from the shop set up on JB’s dining room table to send out that blast about the newzine. Dedication and Dr Pepper!

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2018 Edgar Awards Winners Announced

Best Novel: Attica Locke, Bluebird, Bluebird

Best First Novel by an American: Jordan Harper, She Rides Shotgun

Best Paperback Original: Anna Mazzola, The Unseeing

Here’s the full list of winners. Congratulations to all.

Tryin’ Something New

Since the shop closed, we’ve been stymied about author events and signed copies. Maybe you’ve felt that, too… So we’re going to try (TRY) to keep track of what authors are coming into the PNW and when they’ll be signing. The trick is there is no centralized listing anymore. The papers have let it go and we’re out of the circle, so this may not work. But we’ll try ’cause we’d like to know who is coming around as well. If you’re interested in anyone who is listed, its up to you to make the moves to go see the author or order from that particular bookshop:

May 8th, Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz), Third Place Books, 7pm

May 16th, Nicola Griffith, Elliot Bay, 7pm

May 17th, Sam Wiebe in conversation with Brian Thornton, Third Place Books, 7pm

May 22nd, Nicola Griffith, Powells, 7:30

Word Of The Month

fuller (n): “one who fulls cloth,” Old English fullere “fuller” (Mark ix.3), from Latin fullo “fuller” (see foil (v.)). The native word is walker. Fuller’s earth (silicate of alumina) is recorded by 1520s; so called because it was used in cleansing cloth.

Something Serious Now

Help with a cold case: Will new sketches lead to killer of Canadian couple, slain during trip to Seattle in 1987?

This is new to us but there’s a new type of mass murderer – the “family annihilator”. Not surprisingly, most are men. But women are catching up. A recent instance is this story of an Oregon family. Deadly Hart crash stands out for experts who study family annihilators

How, we often wonder, has the human race survived this long?

Links of Interest

The Independent, March 2nd: Why Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is Still Popular 80 Years On

The Oregonian, March 8th: ‘The Godfather’ at 49: The vendettas, tirades and real Mob threats behind the classic novel, movie

New York Times, March 30th: Ernie Cline ~ By the Book

The Daily Beast, March 31st: Strippers, Cocaine and Murder: The Crazy (True) Story of Two Crooks’ Pursuit of a Soviet Submarine

The Guardian, April 1st: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø review – something noirish this way comes

BBC, April 3rd: Has London’s murder rate overtaken New York’s?

BBC, April 5: The History Detective

New York Times, April 6th: A Traffic Jam Changed Her Life (interview with Jacqueline Winspear)

Politico, April 7th: How Trump is Shaking Up the Book Industry (read this while remembering the people wringing their hands are the same ones who for decades sneered at crime and mystery novels as mere “genre fiction”)

Vox, April 7th: Apparently There’s a Longstanding and Vicious Feud Between Architects and Librarians 

The Guardian, April 10th: There’s No Female Conspiracy in Publishing ~ Your Book Just Might Not Be Good

BBC, April 12th : New Tolkien Work To Be Published

NY Times, April 12th: By the Book – James Comey

The Guardian, April 12th: : It’s no mystery that crime is the biggest-selling genre in books

Seattle Times, April 13th: Chagall stolen in 1988 New York heist turns up after aging criminal wants to clear his conscience

The Guardian, April 14th: Packing My Library by Alberto Manguel

The Guardian, April 14th: The Perfect Crime: Why Thrillers are Leaving Other Books for Dead

The Guardian, April 20: Al Pacino on Scarface 35 Years Later

The Daily Beast, April 21st: The Crazy (True) Story of One Man’s Hunt for $2 Million in Buried Cocaine Treasure

The Oregonian, April 23rd: Conservative author Brad Thor calls Donald Trump ‘unfit to serve,’ launches 2020 primary challenge

Daily Beast, April 25th: Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, Arrested After 40-Year Hunt, Authorities Say

Independent, April 27th: How Spider-Man creator Stan Lee got caught up in a web of strife

The Guardian, April 28th: Top [UK] Writers Choose Their Perfect Crime – Crime fiction is now the UK’s bestselling genre. So which crime novels should everyone read? We asked the writers who know …

Daily Beast, April 28th: Whatever Happened to the Book Herman Wrote After Moby Dick?

The Atlantic, April 30th: Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives

RIP

BBC, April 1st: Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco dies aged 74

BBC, April 15th: Full Metal Jacket actor R. Lee Ermey dies at age 74

BBC: April 30th: Twin Peaks Actress Pamela Gidley dies at age 52

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

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Murder Has A Motive & Murder For Christmas by Francis Duncan

Mordecai Euripides Tremaine

One of the best detective names I’ve seen…I think ever. He’s a sixty-something, retired tobacconist who has a secret weakness for the serials in Romantic Stories (think romance novels doled out in weekly bite-sized portions). His other hobby? Murder.

While occupying his place behind the counter of his tobacco shop, he’d refined his eye for detailed observation. The summing up of the people around him without giving them the smallest hint he was the least bit interested in them is a skill he painstakingly taught himself. Couple this skill with an inoffensive look? It’s a lethal combination, for the criminal element.

While only an amateur, Mordecai’s keen eye has come to the attention of certain members of Scotland Yard – who are more than willing (and slightly embarrassed) to use him as their “man on the inside” when needed. Much to Mordecai’s delight.

Originally both these mysteries were printed in the late 1940’s – but with the recent spat of reprints, Francis Duncan’s unique detective has found a second life on bookstore shelves. Both titles feature an English country house style of mystery which the author executes in grand style. Each character is well written, and the mysteries are engaging. And while Mordecai may have a romantic heart, it never interferes with his ability to solve whatever crime presents itself.

I reading both Murder Has A Motive & Murder For Christmas. Perhaps not as literary as Elizabeth Daly or as quick a read as an Agatha Christie, I find Francis Duncan’s more playful than either of the other great ladies. These books feel like Duncan liked her detective and the murder he was solving.

I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys reading an excellent classic English mystery in a similar vein as Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Daly or Agatha Christie.

 

IMG_7910Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

Set in the same world as one of my favorite books, Written In Red, it features a whole new cast of characters, locations, and dangers.

In Vicki DeVine’s divorce settlement she was awarded the gently decaying resort called The Jumble located on the shores of Lake Silence. Newly renovated, but still rustic, Vicki is making a real go at running her own business, which hits a bump when she finds her only guest reheating an eyeball in the wave cooker. Why? It would be too squishy to eat otherwise.

When Vicki calls the police, after confiscating the eyeball, it sets in motion a series of events which might find the resort and the small town of Sproing wiped off the map, because the Elders won’t stand for human machinations.

Lake Silence is lighter than any of the books in the first series of The Others. However, don’t let that fool you. While being smart and sassy, Bishop still keeps that dark edge hovering just under the surface of the mystery. Written in alternating perspectives of the main cast of charecters, it moves along at a breakneck pace, and I couldn’t put it down.

You don’t need to have read her first series, just knowing they exist is enough (well that and the fact that The Others have zero problem eating humans that try anything devious with them). Bishop mentions a few of the old guard, but they never make an on page cameo in the book. Otherwise, this reads more like a stand-alone mystery which just happens to be set down the road from the events of Written In Red.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy mysteries.

(Added bonus? You get to meet Sproingers. And no I won’t tell you what/who they are – you have to read the book!

Fran

It’s been interesting to see how real crime plays out. I’ve read a LOT of police reports in my new job, and there are some interesting people out there. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that murder is much less common than mystery and thriller writers would have  us believe (whew!), but drug usage is as commonplace as toilet paper.

I’ve also become accustomed to the sound of tasers being tested, something I never thought would be commonplace for me. I work with good folks, and so far things have been running smoothly in my little section of the Department of Corrections, and I’m pleased for that.

For the longest time after the shop closed, I couldn’t read mysteries, but Mike Lawson got me out of that by presenting me with a signed copy of his new Joe DeMarco book, HOUSE WITNESS, and of course I couldn’t resist. The twelfth in such an excellent series, it was the perfect re-introduction.

I’m not going to say much about the plot except to say that one of Mahoney’s past encounters has left him with a son whom Mary Pat knows nothing about. When Mahoney’s son is killed in what seems to be a random act of violence, Mahoney is compelled to find out why, and he sends DeMarco to figure it out.

But what should be an open-and-shut case becomes something completely different, and DeMarco finds himself chasing what may be an illusion. Or it may be something much more complicated and dark.

If HOUSE WITNESS doesn’t read quite like a typical Mike Lawson book, it’s because it started off being a stand-alone, with a completely different perspective – the story was told from the bad guy’s perspective. But Mike’s publishers wanted it to be a DeMarco book, and I’m so glad they did! Still, you’re going to find that the antagonist in HOUSE WITNESS is stunningly conceived and disturbingly real.

On a side note, Mike told me he’s working on a project that is not at all a mystery or thriller, but more of a comedy. I hope – oh man, I hope! – that comes to something and we get to read it! Mike Lawson has a great deal of talent, and spreading his wings can only be good for us, his fans!

Truly Devious

Fran here, again.

Remember those days when you’d walk in or call and I’d come toward you with that kind of crazy light in my eyes and a book in my hands, thrust the book at you and say, “Trust me, you want this!”?

Yeah. I’m doing that again. It’s a straight-up mystery, nothing otherworldly about it, and yes, it’s being marketed as a Young Adult book, but I don’t care, you need to read this. The only drawback is that it’s the first of a trilogy and the other two aren’t written yet.

Read it anyway.

Maureen Johnson’s newest book, TRULY DEVIOUS, is amazing, but you’ve probably already figured out I think that, and I do – to the point where I’ve given away two copies, have one for myself, and will be giving away another copy soon.

I LOVE THIS BOOK! You may have picked up on that.

It starts with a riddle, a threatening poem, really, and the story alternates between events that happened in the 1930s and today. Ellingham Academy is a school that is free to those who meet admittance criteria, and Stevie Bell has been offered a place there. She’s curious and bright and comes from a bohemian background, and she has a passion for true crime. And back in the 30s, there was a kidnapping and murder which no one has ever solved, so that’s Stevie’s goal – to figure out who did it and what happened.

She meets other eccentric types at the school – actors and singers and a writer suffering from serious writer’s block, and those are just the students. The faculty is equally unique.

You’ll bounce between what is actually happening in both timelines, seeing how the kidnapping took place, along with modern day crimes that do result in another murder. So now Stevie has two crimes to solve, if she can handle it. It’s one thing to think about historical crime, and quite another to actually be a part of it.

This is a brilliant bit of writing and an homage to a lot of the Golden Age writers, especially the Golden Age ladies who wrote, not just Agatha Christie but many of the others Amber has mentioned in the past, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

So yes, I’m coming across the shop floor with this book in my hands saying, “Trust me, you want this book. You really do!”

JB

Here’s a summation of the books that I’ve read since the shop closed. You’ll note that there’s not much crime or mystery included. I guess it’s natural that I’ve shied away from those books:

Stephen King’s It: Hadn’t read it in a couple of decades and thought I’d do it now after having seen the latest movie. Still a great, epic read.

Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James, The Man from the Train: James is the baseball writer who single-handedly revolutionized statistics in the game but he’s also a true crime aficionado. His Popular Crime is just as entertaining as his Baseball Abstract. His co-author and daughter traced a couple of famous lurid murders into something much larger, something unconnected by the police of 100 years ago.

Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century: She meant the mirror to reflect on the 20th C., but it reflects awfully well on the 21st, too. “Havoc in a given period does not cover all of the people of the time, and though its effect is cumulative, the decline it drags behind takes time before it is recognized.”

Michael  Isikoff and David Corn, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump: A clear and detailed account of Russia’s attack – on-going if reports are to be believed – from the start of their undeclared war to the time the book was released. By two, top-flight investigative journalists, sure to make your blood boil.

Malcolm Nance, The Plot to Hack America: A fuller, more infuriating explanation of the Rooskie’s attack on America and her allies. Nance is from the world of intelligence and is a smooth writer.

Mike Lawson, House Witness: Ingenious, smooth, assured, witty, smart, clean – just some of the ways to characterize Mike’s writing. His latest DeMarco is a perfect example of that. I consumed it over my last weekend and wish it had been longer to have given me more time in his words.

 

housewitness

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April 1st – NO FOOLIN’

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We’ve decided to restart the “newzine” in a different way.

All of us have run across articles that make us think “damn, that should go in a newzine…” We’d like to go back to sharing such things.

We are all still reading, though not as much or the same types of books, and have a desire to write about what we are, or have, read.

There may be other things we’d like to share and a new post will give us a venue.

And we thought maybe you’d like to know what we’ve been doing since the shop closed, so we can use the first one to catch up.

What will be different is that it will be monthly – 1st of the month – unless Big Things call for additional posts. Obviously there won’t be news of signings or signed books, or the On This Day section, but if there’s some notable anniversary we might list it. Really, who knows where this will go!

But we should be clear ~ The Seattle Mystery Bookshop no longer exists as a retail institution. We’re not going to be selling books, we’re not taking in used books, we’re not going to be issuing a quarterly newsletter, and replying to e-mails will be limited.

We are making this up as we go, creating on the fly, howling at the moon, and improvising as a trio. Let’s see where it goes!

We’ll start off with What We’ve Been Doing in alphabetical order:

Amber

After the shop closed I traveled around with my husband for his work (btw Moscow, Idaho is a very pleasant place to spend time)! Then Christmas rolled around and I was baking cookies like a mad woman for family and friends – having perfected the recipes on you folks (thanks for being my guinea pigs!).

When the shop first closed I read most anything that didn’t even hint in the direction of mysteries. Books on butter, Christopher Robin, cooking and mindfulness passed thru my hands during this period. However being a life long fan of mysteries I couldn’t stay away for very long and started tearing through the genera again (and missed raving about my favorites to you all!).

The thing which has been occupying the bulk of my time, since the shop closed, is writing. I plan to launch a serial fiction blog – very soon – just working on completing the first story arc and photos for the posts!

Fran

At first, it was kind of nice to have a vacation, even if it was unpaid. After a while, though, being away from the shop, from working every day, became a bit more difficult.

I decided to take a break from reading mysteries, and I decided to read all of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series – all 14 books, at about 800 pages each. I still haven’t finished it, but I’m in the home stretch now, and I will complete the series, darn it!

I’ve taken several breaks over the course of reading Jordan’s series, and I have some reviews coming up. You know me, always reading, always reviewing! Why should it stop because the shop closed, right?

And I did finally find employment, not too distantly related to my time at SMB. I now work for the Department of Corrections, so I’m still keeping my fingers on the pulse of crime! Just not fictional crime nowadays.

But I do miss seeing everyone, and it’s been hard for me as it has for all of you not to know what to read next. I’ll let you know what I’ve read and liked, though, and I hope that points you in directions you might not have contemplated.

Just know that you are much loved and missed by all three of us!

JB

For me, October and November were days of trying to relax and release the stress of the last decade of shop ownership. Lots of naps with the dog, walks with the dog, hanging out by the fire with the dog. It was wonderful and badly needed.

By the end of November I began to get serious about looking for work. I’d always joked that if the shop went down I’d like to work at Ace Hardware. My first application with them went nowhere. They didn’t need anyone at that time. But I persisted, while applying to a variety of places and my insistence paid off. I started at my local Ace hardware at the beginning of January. I can walk to work and I can leave at the end of my shift without bringing any “work” home with me. A number of people have already discovered that I work there and all say the same thing: “I don’t know what to read without the newsletters!”. Well, join the crowd. I don’t either. But I have to say I haven’t had much interest in reading crime or mystery books since the shop closed. Mostly I’ve been reading histories and biographies, things I had wanted to read for years but hadn’t allowed myself the time to read due to the pressure to keep up with what was new in at SMB.

But not a day goes by that I don’t miss the shop and working with Fran and Amber.

Word of the Month

Farce (n.): From the late 14th C., “force-meat, stuffing;” 1520s, in the dramatic sense “ludicrous satire; low comedy,” from Middle French farce “comic interlude in a mystery play” (16th C.), literally “stuffing,” from Old French farcir “to stuff,” (13th C.), from Latin farcire “to stuff, cram,” which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *bhrekw “to cram together,” and thus related to frequens “crowded.”

... for a farce is that in poetry which grotesque is in a picture. The persons and action of a farce are all unnatural, and the manners false, that is, inconsisting with the characters of mankind. [Dryden, “A Parallel of Poetry and Painting”]

According to OED and other sources, the pseudo-Latin farsia was applied 13th C. in France and England to praise phrases inserted into liturgical formulae (for example between kyrie and eleison) at the principal festivals, then in Old French farce was extended to the impromptu buffoonery among actors that was a feature of religious stage plays. Generalized sense of “a ridiculous sham” is from 1690s in English.

[thanks to etymonine.com]

Links of Interest

Newser, Jan 29th: Forensic Linguist Solves a Jack the Ripper Mystery

Newser, Feb 28th: Copy of Declaration of Independence was Hidden Behind Wallpaper

Esquire, March 1st: Everything We Know about Quentin Tarantino’s 9th Movie (has to do with the Manson Murders)

The Guardian, March 5th: Canada Police Find Seventh Victim of Alleged Serial Killer Landscaper

The Guardian, March 6th: “The Wire”, 10 years on: ‘We tore the cover off a city and showed the American dream was dead’

BBC, March 8th: Oldest Message In A Bottle Found…

Esquire, March 8th: David Chase is Bringing Back “The Sopranos”, but not in the way you might expect.

The Daily Beast, March 9th: Isn’t It About Time We Stopped Loathing Mickey Spillane?

BBC, March 11th: Solving the Mystery of N. Ireland’s Water

The Atlantic, March 12th: How Psychopaths See the World

BBC, March 12th: The Tutor Who Watched The Romanovs Fall

Fox, March 14: Charles Manson’s Grandson Reveals His Plans for the Cult Leader’s Remains

Fresh Air, March 14th: Danny Trejo on Acting, Addiction, and Playing /\’The Mean Chicano Dude’

The Guardian, March 20th: Danny Boyle’s 007: What Can We Expect From the Next James Bond?

The Nation, March 22nd: Floating in the Air – The World that Made Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment

The Guardian, March 23: Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh ~ an draft now finished by Stella Duffy

The Guardian, March 28th: Colonel Sun: Is Kingsley Amis’s Bond Novel the Weirdest of All?

Buzzfeed, June 17, 2017: (this is old but only recently discovered and even more timely now) From Russia With Blood, a six-part investigative series on Russian assassinations in Europe, posted long before the recent nerve-agent attack.

In Memoria

There have been a number of Notable Deaths since the end of September. Here are a few that should be mentioned:

Oct 21: Donald Bain, author who put Bill Farley into a Jessica Fletcher mystery, 82

Nov 9: John Hillerman, of Chinatown and “Magnum PI” fame, 84

Nov 11: Charles Manson, 83 (Charlie never seems to completely go away, does he?)

Dec 20: Jim French, local radio actor and mystery program producer, 89

Dec 28: Sue Grafton, one letter shy of a complete alphabet, 77

Jan 3: Fred Bass, owner of the fabulous NYC bookstore, The Strand, 89

Jan 6: Dave Toschi, one of the original detectives on The Zodiac case, 86

Jan 18: Stansfield Turner, former head of the CIA, 94

Jan 18: Peter Mayle, British novelist of light French mysteries, 78

Jan 19: Dorothy Malone, Hollywood royalty, 93

Feb 12: Bill Crider, mystery writer and blogger, 76

Mar 8: Kate Wilhelm, Oregon writer of many disciplines and a Fran favorite, 89

Mar 23: Philip Kerr, Chandlerian creator of Bernie Gunther, 62

R.I.P., all’a’youse

That’s it. See you on May Day!

From Me To You…

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Things I learned while working at SMB:

1. It is okay to not finish a book if you aren’t enjoying it.
2. How to write book reviews and blogs
3. How to manage a website.
4. That Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Daly and Georgette Heyer are some of my absolutely favorite authors.
5. How to defend highly formed opinions on Young Adult fiction and censorship
6. That enthusiasm and sincerity can bamboozle even the most jaded author into a smile.
7. I got to meet Jasper Fforde and Sophie Hannah! (While this isn’t strictly learning something, it was REALLY exciting!)

Who I met at SMB:

Working at SMB I met my friends JB and Fran, who over the past ten years have provided inspiration, guidance and a kick in the pants – when needed. Without them I never would have read Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, Carol O’Connel, Alan Bradley, Ellis Peters and the list just keeps going on. These two great people helped me work up the confidence to write My 52 Weeks With Christie (of which I am still very proud). With JB and Fran I experienced the absolutely weirdest job interview ever (which still blows my mind).

Then….

1. Ernie Cline let me check out a gull-wing DeLorean with an authentic-looking flux capacitor (thanks Ernie)
2. I got to talk soccer with Ian Rankin and a score of European authors
3. Startled Helen Tursten with my enthusiasm over her books
4. Laughed with Gail Carriger
4. Learn a totally new fist bump from Seanan McGuire
5. And I got to meet Jasper Fforde and Sophie Hannah! (have I mentioned that this was REALLY exciting!)

Even better? I met all of you guys. Readers who I got to know over the past ten years (can you believe it?). All of our great readers who recommended books that I never would have tried otherwise. Readers who when I placed a book in their hands and told them they “had to read it” they believed me and did. Maybe I didn’t always remember your names (it was a universal flaw), but my faulty memory aside – I will miss all of you.

Even better I got to bake approximately 1,000,000,000 cookies for you all!

It is still hard to believe I won’t see you almost every day. Even when I drive JB & Fran crazy and vise versa (I am sure they will not miss my penchant for organization & cleaning), they gave me the courage to try look towards the future with hope and enthusiasm. Our Readers, authors and friends helped me try some things both new and a bit scary, a little awesome and slightly twisted. When I remember The Shop, Bill, JB, Fran and you all – I will try to remember the best advise Dr. Seuss ever gave: Don’t Cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Until then keep reading.

Amber

Shop vs. Store

Shop vs. Store 

Recently a woman came up to me and said, “Tell me, Bill, why you named your place of business ‘Seattle Mystery Bookshop’ rather than ‘Seattle Mystery Bookstore.'” I was tempted to tell her, “Because I wanted people to SHOP here, not STORE things here,” but I didn’t think of it in time, and anyway she was a nice little old lady who didn’t deserve such a snarky reply.

The serious answer is because I felt that “store” implied size, and perhaps coldness, whereas “shop” implied the opposite. I think the name of a retail business is like the title of a book: it gives a first impression, which can make or break it. I was hoping for national as well as local customers, so I wanted people to visualize a small — even intimate — warm, friendly, and TRUSTWORTHY place before ever seeing it. All part of my devilishly clever business plan, including staff members’ names on our bookmarks, calling customers by name whenever possible, keeping a file of customer wants, and whatever other personal touches we could come up with.

Well, little lady, this is probably more than you wanted to know, but thanks for playing right into my hand with your question.

-Bill Farley

Where We Started

Seattle Mystery Bookshop: Serving the Northwest and the Nation Since 1990

By Bill Farley

In the Fall of 1989, while I was working at the Whodunit? mystery bookstore in Philadelphia, Aaron Elkins came in for a book signing, and talked at some length about the need for a mystery bookstore in Seattle. He could not have known that my wife, B Jo, and I had noticed that need while vacationing in Seattle, and were already considering a move to Seattle ourselves.

Before Whodunit?, B Jo and I had had our own general bookstore in Michigan, but working in a mystery specialty store was like a homecoming for me. I’d been reading mysteries since childhood, when I had the Hardy Boys books and my sister had the Nancy Drews. I read them both, and concluded that the Hardy boys were wimps (or whatever we called them then), while Nancy Drew had spunk. I think of her now as a precursor of McCone, Warshawsky, Milhone, etc. In adulthood I soon found the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout, which remain my all-time favorites to this day. And, though I’ve always been an accumulator of books, Rex Stout is the only author I’ve been driven to collect seriously. Thank goodness for that, because my Stout collecting became as manic as book collecting can get – from one copy of each book, to a copy of each printing, of each edition, in every language… When I found myself collecting gardening books written by Rex Stout’s sister (I have no interest whatsoever in gardening), I realized it was time to stop. So I no longer collect; I simply set aside for myself a copy of each new Stout reissue as it comes along. But I still treasure my photocopy of his birth certificate, and my one book personally inscribed to me by Mr. Stout (thanks to B Jo).

My time at Whodunit? was as pleasant as life can get, but by the time Aaron Elkins came to sign, I was feeling called to have my own shop one more time, and The Seattle Mystery Bookshop it would be. I wanted it to be a place where you’d feel surrounded by books, and where you’d find the widest possible selection of mysteries. I hoped to have items for the collector, but I visualized it primarily as a reader’s shop. How I expected to accomplish all of this single-handedly I have no idea, but not to worry: one of the first customers in the door was a young man named J. B. Dickey, who looked around at the dozens of unopened boxes and said, “It looks to me like you need help.” I just hope that I’d been half as helpful to Art Bourgeau, proprietor of Whodunit?, as J. B. has been to me in the years since then.

In addition to J. B., there were others to come who would help make the shop happen: Tammy Domike, who came in to sell new releases for NAL/Penguin Books to us, and has stayed on to sell lots of books for us. Sandy Goodrick, who came in as leader of a motley group called The Seattle Mystery Readers Club; she produced such a charming newsletter for the club I asked her to create one for the shop. She’s doing it still, and along the way became our bookkeeper, too. Susan Dennis, good customer and computer maven, led us from learning to use a mouse to having our own website. And most recently Karen Duncan, one of the motley mystery readers of 1990, became our newest mystery bookseller. With all these talented people in my future, I understand why I had felt called to Seattle.

In addition to staff, the support by authors has been instrumental in our success. Visualizing primarily a readers’ shop, I had no idea that we would soon begin hosting a stunning list of mystery writers for signings and informal discussions, including many of the biggest names in the field. The day that Ellis Peters (ELLIS PETERS!) walked into the shop unannounced, my heart nearly stopped beating. With the growth of our signing schedule, and the growth of interest in signed mysteries generally, plus the interest and expertise of J.B. in this area, we became more of a collector’s shop, without (I hope) losing our appeal to readers.

Collectors and readers, which is to say customers, are of course the real reason the shop has been successful beyond my wildest expectations. Aaron Elkins was right, that Seattle needed a mystery bookstore, and the response of customers, almost from day one, has proved that.

Actually, it began before day one. In June of 1990, as I was getting ready for a July 1 opening, J. A. Jance kindly stopped in to sign our initial stock of her books. While she was here, a customer wandered in and wanted to buy a signed book. I wasn’t prepared yet with small bills and coins to make change, but Judy Jance proceeded to make change out of her own purse, thus completing Mystery Bookshop’s first sale. (As it was a Saturday and banks weren’t open, I had to go door-to-door to break the $20 bill to give Judy her change back.)

By the end of 1998, I felt I’d accomplished what I had felt compelled to do, and I should step down (a whole year ahead of Bill Gates, heh, heh). J.B. had become the de facto decision-maker anyway, so I put a gun to his head and explained that it was time for him to buy the shop from me. In the first year of his ownership, the business has continued to grow, and I hope that owning it will continue to give him as much joy as it has given me. And I’m still around enough days to enjoy the books and to greet customers, many of whom have been coming in ever since 1990.

The Great Move 1 & 2

In 2005 we moved down a few doors to our current location! Then in 2014 we moved back!

Here are some photos to commemorate our 15th anniversary!