Please welcome guest blogger Fran Fuller, one of the awesome booksellers at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
Fran is a former teacher who taught high school students English, drama, communications and various other literature-type studies. At a fork in her career path she decided to indulge her passion for books and went to work as a bookseller. She is an eclectic mystery reader and enjoys everything from cozies to humorous to historical to science fiction. She also enjoys discovering new authors.
"I'm looking for a book. It's new and the cover's purple or something and it's set in the 1800's or so, and everyone says it's the best. About a girl named 'Sadie" or 'Janie" or something. Do you have it?"
"It's a true story about a crazy lady who blows up a school, and my friend said I need to read it, and she says I'll like it even though I don't like much violence. Or cursing. I don't like strong language. Do you know what book I mean?"
"It's about a lawyer, or maybe it's by a lawyer, and it's like that Grisham guy only not, because it's kinda funny, and the name sounds something like a department store. You know what I mean, right?"
"It's a mystery about finance. And it's not romantic at all, but I remember the cover was red. Or blue. And the hero's a guy. Or a girl with a guy's name. Where can I find that one?"
"I don't know what he writes, my friend said I had to read it. He co-wrote a bunch of books with this famous guy and everyone says his stuff is good on its own. It better not be fantasy stuff, 'cause I hate that, but if he's got something set, I dunno, in the city, or even in the country, that'd be okay. He's maybe a musician? Who is he, again?"
I'm sure by now you know who all these people are, but you're the smart one. You're the customer we love to see coming in the door, and we think you're the best possible person on the planet!
However, being a bookseller frequently means being psychic. And patient. Working in a specialty shop means that we have fewer totally clueless customers, but I have to say that there are times when I feel like I could use a Magic Eight Ball.
It's not the customers who wander in thinking that by "mystery," we mean "universal mystery." Those folks are fine. They want New Age stuff or religious stuff, and while we have New Age and religious mysteries, they generally just nod pleasantly and wander out again, and we wish them well.
But oh my, some of the questions we get!
"I want something for my dad, and he likes that Jim Grisham guy, but he doesn't like anything violent. He's read all the books by Jack Reacher and, is it Mallory O'Connell? But yeah, can you recommend something that isn't too, I dunno, mean because he doesn't like stuff like that."
Honestly, that does give us more to go on than "It's blue and has mystery in the title. Or death. Something like that," although we can work with that if we have to.
Because when you come down to it, people who buy mysteries are willing to experiment. They're willing to try new authors, new titles, simply because in general, mystery readers are voracious. They can read more than any twelve authors can write, and they can often do it in less than a week.
We love our customers. A lot. Even the clueless ones.
There was a young man who came into our shop and wanted the books by Sherlock Holmes. My co-worker at the time took him to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle section, but he shook his head. No, he wanted the real stories, the ones written by Holmes himself, not the ones made up by Doyle. He was insistent. She was patient.
When it finally sunk in to him that Holmes was a fictional character, that he hadn't ever really been alive, she said she felt like the world's biggest heel. She wanted to give him a hug and a teddy bear, he was so completely devastated. His eyes welled up and he dragged himself out of the store, shoulders slumped.
That's a tribute to excellent writing, and that's part of why I love my job. Not because I get to destroy people's illusions -- that part's really the worst part -- but because the worlds that are created in the books written by the great authors around us and exemplified by the fine writers featured in this blog are so very real.
"I want a mystery with something strange in it. Like balloons. Or tarot cards. Or hurdy gurdies. Or accordians! Yeah, you got a mystery about accordians?"
Charlotte Armstrong has balloons.
David Skibbins has tarot.
Dorothy Gilman has a hurdy gurdy.
Accordians? Hold on, it'll take me a minute. . . Nancy Means Wright!
Now as to whether or not it's still in print, that's a whole 'nother question!