Saturday, October 29, 2022

I’m Not a Professional Bookseller But I Kinda Was Last Week


Scott D. Parker

I used to work in a bookstore back in the 1990s. It was a Bookstop and I enjoyed many days during my tenure as a professional seller of books.

In the late 2000s, I started a blog and began writing reviews of books I had. This included all the crime and mystery books I was introduced to as I started to see just how broad and deep the genre was. In the written word, I go into great detail about the authors’ style, the plots they developed, and how much I enjoyed the book. As an aside, I rarely write about a book I don’t like so if I’m reviewing it, chances are all but certain I loved it.

I received lots of comments over the years. Many agreed with my take while other thanked me for letting their authors know about a book that they could add to their To Be Read pile. It always made me feel good to connect readers with books.

But there’s something special about doing it in person.

Last Sunday, my church had their occasional book fair. These are all used books, most in boxes used to deliver reams of paper, and they run gamut of genres and styles. The folks who are in charge of laying out the books are readers themselves. They collect certain authors—James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, David Baldacci, Clive Cussler—in the same box or rolling cart while other authors are collected by genre.

An older lady and I had struck up a conversation about mystery books. She already had a small pile she was moving around. Since we were standing right next to the Picoult box, I pointed out that my wife has read all of those books. She thanked me and we parted.

With my interest in cozy mysteries now—thanks Murder by the Book—I was delighted to see one of the rolling carts featured just those books. I happily knelt and started to read the titles. Having just finished my first Leslie Meier book, Back to School Murder, I was hoping I would find one of the Lucy Stone novels.

Well, I found one and only one: Back to School Murder. Seriously? I want a different book, something I hadn’t read. But then a lightbulb went off in my head. I grabbed the book and went back to the older lady. She had selected one of the Picoult titles as it was on top of her stack. I literally put Meier’s book in her hands and started to explain the story, the series, and how I had literally just finished reading it the prior week. The lady smiled, seemed pleased that Meier’s catalog was twenty-eight books deep, and added the novel to the top of her stack. She thanked me and I hustled back to the sanctuary to sit in with the orchestra for the second service.

That smile was worth me not finding a Meier book. That smile told me Leslie Meier just might have a new reader.

Telling people about books is a lifelong joy to me. Telling them in person is even better.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

And the Oscar goes to...


Beau Johnson with the TBR Edition. And while you're at it, pick up Beau's newest.

“With glorious, unapologetic brutality, Old Man Rider tells, through several vivid vignettes, of Bishop Rider’s exploits. Woven in are elements of his humanity, as well as his motivation. Johnson provides a well-written, thoughtful book of revenge, glorious bloody revenge. I found it utterly delightful and want more more more.” —Shannon Kirk, author of Gretchen

“Johnson’s the kind of writer you let drag you across the broken glass screaming because you know the destination’s going to make it all worth it. Brutal, dark, unflinching—this is a hell of a Rider story.” —Angel Luis Colon, author of 
Hell Chose Me

“Beau Johnson pulls no punches in this final installment of Bishop Rider stories. And rest assured, no one will be spared or saved. Riveting, heartbreaking, and bloody as ever. This collection took a 2x4 to my head—in the best way.” —Curtis Ippolito, author of 
Burying the Newspaper Man

Get yours

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Meeting Cormac

I bumped into Cormac McCarthy the day after Christmas, 2018, in a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Well, I didn't bump into him. But I stood within two feet of him, very unexpectedly.

I am an admitted McCarthy fanboy / attempted scholar. Towards the end of Undergrad, at the urging of my advisor (who had eyed me as a teaching student in our schools Graduate program), I'd written a paper that would, according to my advisor's plan, eventually turn into my Grad-School thesis, an examination on the myth of gnosticism in McCarthy's writing, particularly in Blood Meridian, as examined through the more humanistic understanding of The Stonemason's Ben Telfair. 

It was a project I threw myself into, culminating in a trip to Texas State University's Whitcliff Collection, at which time I held in my hands handwritten drafts of McCarthy's beautiful but rarely performed play. I wrote pages and pages, while reading McCarthy's books over and over, until they all came to live in my head and heart. The Judge, of course, and the Kid, but Ben Telfair and Llewelyn Moss and Toadvine and Suttree and John Grady Cole and The Man and The Boy and Rinthy, too (maybe, oddly, Rinthy most of all). 

So, the day after Christmas, 2018. I turn the corner and see the reclusive master sitting there. 

I turned white, then turned the corner and ran. 

We'd been hiking that day. Tent Rocks. And the hotel we were staying at had an excellent restaurant on the main floor. And there he was, eating dinner with a member of his family. 

I know it sounds weird to say, coming from someone who wrote an entire paper on McCarthy, someone who spent a year focusing only on scholarly work related to the man, but until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me that I could be in the same building as him. Yes, I was in Santa Fe, and yes, I knew he lived there, but I hadn't gone to New Mexico to see him. My knowledge of where he lived was like... an interesting fact. Like how I know Harrison Ford lives in Wyoming. But you don't expect to see him. 

But there he was.

And then I ran away. 

My wife instantly knew something was wrong. She caught up to me and grabbed my shoulder. "What happened?" 

"That. That is Cormac McCarthy. Sitting right there." 

"No way." 

"It is." 

She peers over my shoulder. "Holy fuck, it is." 

My dad appears next to her. "What happened?" 

"Paul just about ran into Cormac McCarthy." 

"You should go say 'Hi!'" 

"Absolutely not." 

My wife agrees. "That probably wouldn't go well." 

My mom comes over. We catch her up. "Seriously?" 


"Well you can't let it go by without telling him what he's meant to you." 

"I very much can, thank you." 

My wife nods. "Holy shit." 


Watch this. 

And then my mother walks to the elevator, her phone in front of her, and snaps a picture of the artwork on the wall. But the photo isn't really of the artwork. It's of Cormac McCarthy, eating Day-After-Christmas dinner in Santa Fe. 

No, I'm not going to show you the picture. I've omitted a lot of details in this story, because, even though I've decided not to live a private life, I respect those who have. But I still have the photo.

Obviously, I didn't say Hello.

I'm thinking of that story today because McCarthy's first new novel in 14 years, The Passenger came out today. 

So often, with the truly mythic writers, we can think of them as Gods among us. As people whose genius touches us through their books, and, in doing so, the books themselves become almost icons of transubstantiation. Something holy. 

And I wonder, if I hadn't bumped into McCarthy those few Christmases back, would I have opened my box containing The Passenger with a reverent awe? Would I have been almost scared to touch the book, probably the last full length novel of the Great American Writer? 

When the box came today, I opened it with my pocketknife and took the book out and placed it on the kitchen counter. No matter what is inside (and I plan on taking my time with this novel), I am certain it will touch me. Move me. Make me consider humanity in all it's brilliance and craven cruelty. But I'll also know it was written by a man. Typed out by hands I have seen grip a fork and knife. That makes it more special, I think. The reminder that these great works are written human hands. It makes their genius relatable. It makes their flaws more understandable. It makes their accomplishments deeper.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A Pictorial History of Horror Movies

I don't know how many horror movie books I've read through the years, but I think the first one I ever read cover to cover was Dennis Gifford's A Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

The book covers horror films from their beginnings during the Silent Film era to the early 1970s, and it's chock-full of great photographs.  I still remember where I bought it, at a Waldenbooks at the mall near where I lived (the Nanuet Mall), and I recall that I found it while simply browsing. I must have been eleven or twelve. I was a big fan of horror movies, especially the Universal ones, Lon Chaney silents, Vincent Price flicks, and, of course, anything Godzilla-related from Japan, and this book must have caught my eye on the shelf.  I don't recall whether I had allowance money to buy it or asked my mother to buy it for me, but however I purchased it, I brought it home and sank into it.  I remember reading a lot of it on my back porch during the daytime, so it's possible this was during the summer -- warm days, no school.  

I came to use this book as a reference book for horror movies, learning a lot from it.  It contains not only descriptions of movie plots but also a lot about how the movies were made, who produced and directed them, who was in them, who did the make-up, like with Jack Pierce, the Universal makeup master, and how horror films evolved through time, turning to color and radioactive bred monsters in the fifties and on into the 60s and 70s. It has a good bit about early British horror movies, films from the 1930s, which I knew little to nothing about at the time. But absorbing above all else were all those horror movie stills, which, as a kid, I could lose myself in, imagining the stories around the one creepy or gory still of a movie I hadn't yet seen.  I could gaze at that still for long stretches.  And later, if it was indeed a still from a movie I hadn't yet watched, I'd compare whether the actual movie lived up to what I'd imagined it to be based on that photo.  This was the pre-video age obviously, so like anyone from before the advent of video cassettes and DVDs will attest, you had to make a mental list of films you wanted to see and then keep on the lookout for them on TV if you wanted to see them.  When you saw that the movie was going to be on, the expectation could be immense, an expectation that could be met, exceeded, or, sadly, disappointed.  But that expectation was fun in itself, and I give Dennis Gifford a lot of credit for evoking that excitement in me over this or that movie.

I still have A Pictorial History of Horror Movies on my shelves, though the dust jacket is pretty worn.  I haven't looked at the book, in all honesty, in years, but with Halloween coming, I thought of it again and its influence on me, the many hours of enjoyment I got reading and re-reading it, looking at the stills.  It's one of those books I'm glad has survived the decades and many moves from one place to another, that I think about with nothing but fondness, and, you know, now that I'm talking about it, I'll probably go over to my shelves as soon as I finish writing this and pick it up again.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Get Scared!


Horror is not exclusive to Halloween. In fact, every day can be terrifying if you so desire. I know many of you love a good fright and cannot bear the thought of Halloween ending. How will you spend your time once Spirit Halloween shutters the doors?

Keep the scares going with Halloween Hangover hosted by Barnes & Noble Libbie Place, Richmond VA on November 4th, 4-8PM and November 5th, 12-5PM.

Here horror fans will gather and engage in all things scary. There will be readings from your favorite writers, author panels, and Q&A events. Catch up on The Curator of Horror! Podcast. Grab a couple of signed copies of featured books.

Friday featured writers include Rachel Harrison, Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar, Todd Keisling, Michael J. Seidlinger, Mike Allen, Preston Fassel, RJ Joseph, John Edward Lawson, Mary SanGiovanni, Greg Stumbo, D. Alexander Ward, & Rus Wornom.

Saturday featured authors include Rachel Harrison, Brian Keene, Clay Chapman, Brian McAuley, Sarah Glenn Marsh, Michael J. Seidlinger, Nat Cassidy, Mike Allen, Preston Fassel, J.S. Furlong, Donnie Goodman, RJ Joseph, Todd Keisling, John Edward Lawson, Mary SanGiovanni, Wesley Southard, Greg Stumbo, T. Marie Vandelly, D. Alexander Ward, L. Marie Wood, & Rus Wornom.

Learn more about a few of the attendees.

Such Sharp Teeth

Rachel Harrison

A young woman in need of a transformation finds herself in touch with the animal inside in this gripping, incisive novel from the author of Cackle and The Return.

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.

Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver—and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else—something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?

This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage, and vulnerability.


The Rising and the new anthology CLOSE TO MIDNIGHT

Brian Keene


Brian’s brand-new short story “The Floor Is Lava” appears in the recent anthology CLOSE TO MIDNIGHT. The collection includes stories from Ramsey Campbell, Evelyn Teng, and many more. CLOSE TO MIDNIGHT is on sale now in hardcover, paperback and for Kindle.

Keene fans are also celebrating the transformation of his iconic tale The Rising: Deliverance into Audiobook form for the first time. Mr. Keene’s The Rising series, along with The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later, is a large part of pop culture’s recent hunger for the dead.

In The Rising: Deliverance, people are hunted by sadistic zombies set on decimating humanity. Reverend Martin, a preacher without a flock, toils to protect Becky and John, found survivors of the death and destruction. As the world falls and burns around them they struggle to stay alive and remember what they’ve lost, while Reverend Martin ponders if God has truly left them behind.

This special edition also includes two short stories that expand and explore The Rising mythos—"The Resurrection and the Life" and "The Siqqusim who Stole Christmas."


Pound of Flesh

D Alexander Ward

Noah Belton and his family settle into a new to town to start fresh. Instead, as his father's violent temper worsens, they are plunged into a downward spiral of cruel punishments that become a beacon for something wicked; the Huntsman, a malignant presence that roams the lakeshore.

Isolated, Noah's mother strives to protect her son even as the Huntsman takes a terrible interest in her. But what if she could give the Huntsman what he wants and, in turn, be rid of her tyrant husband? Could she even trust such an unholy pact?

Soon, Noah finds himself pitted against a phantom become flesh, battling for his mother's life and his own. They should never have come to this dark corner of the wilderness in the shadow of the mountain, where they have learned a hard lesson all too late: the Devil always gets his due

Just a taste of the scares that await you at this year’s Halloween Hangover. Be there or be normal

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Give Small Businesses a Chance

Scott D. Parker

Do you absolutely, positively have to have a brand-new book the day it is published?

Okay, for some, yes you do. I remember the Harry Potter years when folks would line up to buy a book at midnight. Ditto for many of the best-selling authors I’ve read over the decades.

But for many of us, our To Be Read pile is so huge that even if we did rush out to a bookstore on publication day, that new book might first find a place on the TBR stack vs. in our hands (even if its place is in the prime position of Next Book.

Note that so far in this example, I’ve been talking about going to a physical bookstore. What about ordering a book and having it delivered?

Well, there’s the obvious option: Amazon. If you really wanted to pre-order and book and have it delivered on publication day, Amazon would most likely make that happen for you. The other online book sellers could also fulfill your request and you’d have that brand-new book in your hands the day of release.

You can have whatever opinion you want on the omnivorous nature of Amazon. I think it’s a great service, and I use it as a writer and a consumer. But as an indie author, I’m aware that there are other options.

So when, Discipline is Destiny, the latest book from Ryan Holiday was announced, I was all in. Even though I’ve not read them all, I plan to read all of Holiday’s books. They are really good and chock full of great, thought-provoking advice.

In the days leading up to the book’s publication, Holiday went on social media and let folks know that if they per-ordered the book—from any vendor—you would receive some bonus content. It was in that moment I opted to order direct from Holiday’s website, The Daily Stoic. Why not? I would be supporting a small business. 

When I placed my order, I received a confirmation email with the following.

"PS: We appreciate your order and want to remind you that we're a small shop. We use local manufacturers and family-run businesses as our partners here in America. While this means we can feel good about everything we make, it sometimes means that products take a bit longer than expected and creates the occasional logistical issue. We don't have a massive supply chain or a massive team of people working 24/7. It's just us...doing our best...just like you. Thank you and enjoy!"

I have enjoyed the book. It’s the new book so there was high demand. Ultimately it took about ten days, but those days were spent finishing another book I was already reading (Back to School Murder) so I didn’t mind at all. And I helped a small business.

So, as our attention turns to Christmas shopping, I would like to encourage everyone to support as many small businesses as possible.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Go down with Beau

This week, Beau recommends an Ali Seay book from Grindhouse

What if a victimized woman decided to be a silent guardian angel for other women and turn the tables on predatory men? What if she stumbled into the hunting grounds of a cocky serial killer while looking for her own private murder den? What if a confident killer met his match in the form of a jean-clad, whiskey-swigging stranger in an hour glass-shaped package—and she made him want things—things he’s far too superior to want?
When predator meets predator, the only question is: Is the attraction they feel to bed one another . . . or kill one another?
Meg isn’t expecting to catch Jack red-handed with his most recent victim. Jack isn’t expecting Meg to come busting through his front door while chasing her current prey. Now that each recognizes a fellow killer, what urge will win—kiss or kill?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Noir Con Returns

This year for the first time in four years, Noir Con will be returning to action, the convention dedicated to, well, all things noir in literature, cinema, television, art, and audio.  It will be virtual this year, so anyone anywhere can register to "attend", and the lineup that's been assembled is impressive.  I've gone to a few Noir Cons, when they were held in Philadelphia, in the past, and whether I was participating on a panel or not, I've never failed to have anything but a great time. I've also, as with any good convention, always managed to learn a few things.

This year, the panels and discussions kick off on Friday, October 21st at 2:30 PM EDT, and everything runs till Sunday, October 23rd at 7 PM EDT.  Some discussions will be pre-recorded, others held live, albeit, again, virtually.  Among the topics that will be discussed: the films of Jean-Luc Godard that are noir-inflected, gender and noir, Jean-Patrick Manchette and the French crime novel, Jewish noir, and graphic novel noir.

If you register, you'll have access to the entire program for 30 days after the program ends.  Interested?  I hope so.

The agenda for the whole thing is here:

And to register you can go here:

I''ll be on the panel that's held on Friday night October 21st at 6PM EDT.  It'll be on "Lockdown Noir", the best noir films or television series that we discovered while cooped up for all those months during the pandemic.  Andrew Nette will be moderating, and the panel will have Richie Narvaez, Nikki Dolson, Halley Sutton, and myself talking about our favorite discoveries from that time period.

I'm looking forward to the talk, and I hope you can make it, wherever you are.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Jessica Fletcher: Feminist Icon?


How could I not love a character that sits at her kitchen table writing a novel?

By Claire Booth

Twelve seasons. Still in reruns. Still comfort food TV. And all because of Angela Lansbury. Lansbury died at age 96 last Tuesday, many years removed but forever connected to her role as writer/sleuth Jessica Fletcher.

Murder, She Wrote ran from 1984 to 1996 and starred no one but Lansbury. Sure there was the irascible sheriff and the goodhearted town doctor, but they were merely recurring guest stars. It was Lansbury who owned the screen, taking what could’ve been a stock role and turning it into something special.

There are still best-selling books being “written” by Jessica Fletcher (actually by Terrie Farley Moran and previously Donald Bain and Jon Land). These were at my local Barnes and Noble yesterday.

That a highly rated show belonged to a middle-aged female character who was unabashedly smart while still allowed to be kind and humorous—well, that would be rare in this day and age. It was flippin’ amazing in 1984. The character wasn’t forced to be either a femme fatale or a dowdy spinster. She sometimes got flirted with by appropriately aged men and wore sensible pumps while showing a little leg, if the occasion warranted it. She made her own living and traveled the world. She didn't have to pack any weapon other than a heavy handbag.

She, in the ultimate fantasy for women everywhere, got to be all these things and successful, too.

So is it any wonder that the show lasted a dozen years? And that people, especially women, speak of it—and Lansbury—with such fondness. Not, I would argue, because she felt like a favorite aunt but because she created a feminist role model. Which made her one in real life, too.

"Jessica Fletcher was probably about as close, not to me, but to the sort of woman that I might have been, had I not been an actress." --Lansbury, in a 2010New York Times video interview done with the understanding it would not be published until her death.