The Real Scott

Okay, after that last post, I have to make it up to Scott, a bad ass man of Mystery who couldn’t even pick Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart out of a line up if he had to. According to a post today on facebook, when Craig Johnson looks at Scott, this is what he sees:

Now that is certainly more like it.

Oprah Recommends….

I’m posting this here for Scott, who swears this article innocently found its way to his computer screen and he does NOT spend more than six hours a day looking at Oprah’s website (he has to save some time for Martha Stewart, after all). I KID, I KID.

Say what you will about Oprah Winfrey, she’s done a tremendous service to book lovers everywhere by encouraging many people to pick up a book and read. She recently posted a list of 9 Mysteries Every Thinking Woman Should Read. There are some good picks on there – Jasper Fforde, Jacqueline Winspear. Take a look.

History of Mystery Class Discusses DARKER THAN AMBER

On April 1st our History Of Mystery Class will look at one of our most loved authors, John D. MacDonald. MacDonald has inspired authors from King and Hiaasen to George Pelecanos. He put Florida on the crime fiction map and gave us one swinging hero in Travis McGee.

McGee lives the male fantasy on his boat, The Busted Flush, sailing around The Keys, drinking, and bedding women. To support his lifestyle, he hires himself out as a “salvage expert”. He will retrieve any stolen or lost item for half its value. His methods of recovery run from detective work, con jobs, to just plain stealing it back. Many times he is aided by his buddy Meyer, a hairy, genial, urbane, and brilliant economist.

MacDonald has an easy going style that reflects his introspective yet cavalier hero. His book Darker Than Amber begins with Travis narrating: “We were about to call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.”

Then for most of the chapter, he tells about the few days before, bumming around with Meyer and “rejuvinating” an married ex-girlfriend. The tale is entertaining and Travis’s voice and thoughts so cool, you almost forget about the woman in the water until he returns to her at the end of the chapter. Even after that, it still takes a while for the plot to kick in as Travis and Meyer try to figure out the mysterious damsel and if she will causes as much distress as she’s in. When it comes down to it, if you remove McGee’s comments and philosophies, his thoughts about what developers are doing to his beloved Florida, his banter with Meyer, and Meyer’s philosophies, you would have only a third of the book left. The plotting is sharp and he gives us one hell of a climatic brawl, but Darker Than Amber, like the other McGee books, is about hanging out with an old and interesting friend.

Come hang out with us on April 1st at 6pm as we discuss Darker Than Amber, McGee, and MacDonald. The book is 10% off to those who attend and we’ll be giving away a few other titles in the series, as well. Before the discussion at 4pm, we’ll also be screening the hard-to-find 1970 film version of Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor as Travis McGee.

The History of Mystery Class is a free class that meets on the first Sunday of each month on BookPeople’s third floor to discuss the roots of the genre from its beginning to present day. All are welcome to join us!

3 Books to Read Right Now

Force Of Nature by CJ Box

The latest Joe Pickett novel focuses on his lethal sidekick Nate Romanowski. The Five, the mysterious paramilitary group from Nate’s past, is after him, putting Joe and his family in danger as well. Many of Joe’s secrets will be revealed. Signed copies are now available.


Blood On The Mink by Robert Silverberg

Before Silverberg made a name for himself in the science fiction scene, he wrote this hard boiled treasury agent versus counterfeiters yarn for a magazine. Hard Case Crime finally prints it in novel form along with two other of his early crime pieces.


Gods Of Gotham by Lindsay Faye

Faye looks at mid-1800s New York with a member of its first police force with this sweeping noir historical.

Who Wrote ‘In Cold Blood’? – Guest Post by RJ Ellory

We’re currently hosting a weekly series of guest posts by bestselling crime fiction author RJ Ellory. He came through Austin in January while on tour for A Quiet Vendetta. We had the pleasure of having him here at the store, and will now have the pleasure of sharing a new Ellory post with you every Monday for a few weeks. If you haven’t checked out his thrillers yet, I highly recommend you pick one up and find out what British readers have been raving about for years.


In mid-November, 1959, Truman Capote, renowned author of Other Voices, Other Rooms and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was struck by a newspaper article that appeared in the New York Times.  Little more than a brief squib, it outlined the brutal shotgun-slaying of a farmer, his wife, and their two children.  It reported that in the small village of Holcomb, Kansas, Herb Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, had been found bound and murdered, the mother and daughter in their beds, the father and the son in the basement of the home.

Capote, at the time a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, decided that this was the story he next wanted to write about.  He left for Kansas almost immediately, taking with him as his ‘researcher and bodyguard’ Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird and lifelong friend of Capote’s.  As children they had grown up beside one another, and even in Mockingbird, the character of Dill was supposed to have been based on Capote.

So began one of the most famous and fascinating trips in literary history – the diminutive, effete, homosexual Capote, the methodical and pragmatic Lee.

But the story of how In Cold Blood came to be written is not really the subject of this little article.  That story has been covered in two recent films – Capote (with a deserved Oscar-winning performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Infamous starring Toby Jones.  The book itself is the issue at hand, and there are two very simple reasons I have chosen this book above all others.  I am of the belief that non-fiction possesses as its primary purpose the conveyance of information, whereas fiction is there not to entertain (as we are so often told), but to evoke an emotion.  Those books that continue to stay with me, regardless of how long ago I read them, are those that somehow connected and impinged on an emotional level.  I remember being quarantined at boarding school with chicken pox, aged thirteen and sleeping alone in a locked room.  Through the porthole window in the door all I could see was a black and white chequerboard-floored corridor, and what did I read while I was there?   The Shining of all things.  Half of it I didn’t understand, the other half scared me witless.  That was emotional impingement.

So we have these two elements – non-fiction conveying information, fiction evoking an emotion – and in In Cold Blood Capote does both brilliantly.

Even before you begin the book you know that the Clutter family are dead.  This is a matter of public record.  It is a fact.  And yet we begin the book with them alive.  A human, real, honest, hardworking, religiously-minded family, helping one another, helping their fellow townsfolk, the bright and talented Nancy, the father – a rock, a pillar of the earth.  Capote leads us down a road, a brilliantly constructed road, and as we travel he shows us everything we need to see to become so emotionally involved with this family, this town, these events.

The ending is inevitable, terrible and brutal.

And his protagonists – Hickock and Smith, the brief and breathtaking events of the night of November 15th, 1959, and the subsequent years they spent on Death Row.  The way that Capote draws it out, the way he shares their viewpoint with us, the way he opens up this world and shows us all the inhabitants.

A truly remarkable work.

And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the edges of the longstanding and unresolved question: Who wrote In Cold Blood?  Was it Capote?  Was it Lee?  Did they write it together?  And who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird?  Again, was it Capote, was it Lee, or did they conspire to produce two of the most remarkable books in modern American literature?  To Kill A Mockingbird was the only book Harper Lee ever published.  We do not know whether it is the only book she ever wrote.  It spawned a film that won an Oscar for Gregory Peck.  In Cold Blood made Capote one of the most respected and influential authors in American literary history, and yet he spent the subsequent twenty years drinking himself to death and never really published another word.  Norman Mailer wrote an article about this very issue, and he raised the question: Were they individual authors in their own right as far as these two seminal works were concerned, or did they create them together, and then keep that truth from the world?

Who knows?  I believe we will never know.  I just know that In Cold Blood, certainly for any crime author, is perhaps one of the most necessary books to read, and written in an inimitable style, and constructed so well.  A work of genius.

Though it is utterly impossible to say ‘This is my favourite book’, I believe that if I was destined to be marooned on a faraway island and could take one book and one book only, then In Cold Blood would very likely be first on the list.

Longmire Preview

It’s been great to watch the news roll in about our buddy Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire books being turned into a new show for A&E. They just released the trailer, take a look:

Craig’s swinging back through town soon for his latest Longmire novel, As the Crow Flies. We’ll host him here at BookPeople on Wednesday, May 16, 7p.

Craig’s one of our all time favorite authors. We love his books, and we love having him at the store. If you can make it down, you won’t be disappointed. An event with Craig is always a good time.


Hard Word Book Club Continues with The Red Riding Quartet

On Wednesday, March 28, 7p, the Hard Wood Book Club takes it’s next step reading through David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet this year with the second novel, Nineteen Seventy-Seven. It takes place during the year of the Yorkshire Ripper Murders and two men will discover much worse is going on.

Bob Fraser and Jack Whitehead, two minor characters in the First Red Riding installment Nineteen Seventy-Four, find themselves in one cruel summer. Fraser is a police detective having an affair with a hooker, trying to protect her from the street life that has become more violent. Whitehead, the rival of Seventy-Four’s Eddie Dunford, is a star crime reporter whose politics of the job have made him subservient to the Yorkshire police. His coverage of The Ripper Murders reveal that not all of the murders were committed by the serial killer.

Their parallel journeys plunge into Yorkshire’s corruption. They find themselves against the system they are both a part of. Much light is shed, revealing the dark souls of characters we met in Seventy-Four. You also won’t ever look at a screwdriver the same way again, either.

The book makes for great discussion of institutionalized and individual evil. Nineteen Seventy-Seven is 10% off at BookPeople for those who attend. Also, there’s plenty of time to catch up with Nineteen Seventy-Four. We’re planning to discuss the third book, Nineteen Eighty, in August.

Just Who Is Richard Castle?

(Post by Tommy)

Just who is Richard Castle? If you have to ask that my friend then your literary finger is very far from the pulse of the mystery world. Richard Castle is the darling of the New York mystery scene and has been for the last ten years. He first broke into the field of mystery writing with In a Hail of Bullets, the winner of the Nom DePlume Society’s Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature, though he is probably best known for his Derrick Storm series that ended four years ago with Storm Fall. Recently, Castle has been hotter than ever with the release of his newest detective character: Nikki Heat, based on real life NYPD detective Kate Beckett.

Nikki Heat, for those of you who do not know, evolved out of Castle’s research into the NYPD that he conducted by shadowing and assisting NYPD detective Kate Beckett, or so he told me at a swanky publisher’s dinner this winter in New York. Either way, helping Beckett or not, Castle’s writing has shown itself to be very much like good wine; it only gets better with age. Rick Castle’s Nikki Heat has brought readers inside the long closed world of the NYPD and has given us a wonderful cutting edge thriller series that has the entire mystery world buzzing.

What sets Heat apart from even Derrick Storm is the depth of characterization that takes place with Heat and her fellow detectives Raley and Ochoa. Though the character of Jameson Rook, a magazine writer shadowing Heat much the way that Castle shadowed Beckett, does indeed bear marked resemblance to Castle himself, the character gives us a fascinating window into what Castle’s experiences with the Twelfth precinct have been. One of the big selling points of the series is the steamy on again-off again relationship between Heat and Rook. Though both real life parties deny it, there has been rampant speculation on page 8 that the two of them are in fact romantically involved.

The other thing that draws us to Rick Castle’s Nikki Heat is the emotion that can be found if you make a little effort to read between the lines. As you read both further in each book and further in the series as a whole, you can see the affection that Castle feels not just for Beckett but for 12 precinct detectives Ryan and Esposito and the recently deceased Captain Montgomery.

The saying goes that art imitates life and in this case I’m very glad it does because it has brought us the wonderful world of Nikki Heat from the fantastic mind of none other that my favorite mystery writer, and occasional poker buddy Richard Castle.

-Thomas Wilkerson, Modern Lit Magazine
March 19th, 2012


A note to all readers, the above piece was written as though I had bought into ABC’s wonderful story that Castle is real and the only fiction is the Nikki Heat books. While I’m sure many of you may think that the idea of tie-in books for a television series is just another new way for a giant media conglomerate to make more money, and while they may indeed be raking in a pile of money on this, ABC has also done everything they could to make these books an absolute joy to read. For fans of the television show who have yet to grab a copy of one of the books, go out and get a copy of Heat Wave right now!

The book reads like something that could only spring from the wonderfully diseased mind of Richard Castle. The books characters are not exactly carbon copies of the show characters but they are definitely thinly, or maybe not even so thinly, veiled versions of Fillion’s Castle and Stana Katic’s Kate Beckett. The best things about these books is that they are able to explore the characters of Rook and Heat, basically Castle and Beckett, in fashions that the show cannot or will not. The biggest of these explorations, of course, is what a relationship between Castle and  Beckett might look like.

This relationship, played out through the proxies of Rook and Heat, jerks through ups and downs worse than most roller coasters, but it also gives us the thrill of finally seeing Castle and Beckett together, something most fans have wanted to see since the first episode. The books also take an affectionate jab at the characters of Esposito and Ryan and the friendship and partnership the two have by naming their book characters Raley and Ochoa and dubbing the duo ‘Roach’.

For lovers of the show these books are an absolute joy to read, and for those who have never read  the books they are still a wonderfully witty and entertaining way to pass several hours as you tear through their compelling stories. The best thing that ABC does with these books is that they go to somewhat ridiculous lengths to preserve the idea that Richard Castle is a real person and these books were written by him. The dedications, author bios and photos, and acknowledgments are all written in character. The books are dedicated to Kate Beckett and other members of the show’s character list, the photos are all pictures of Nathan with his trademark smirk in place, and the bio is a short writeup of the fictional author Richard Castle.

ABC’s attempt to make Castle a real boy, much like Pinocchio, doesn’t end there. With each book release they host several ‘author signings’ which Nathan attends in character as Castle and where he signs the books and other merchandise of the fans lucky enough to be in the New York area.

In short, if you’re thinking of giving the Castle tie-in books a pass simply because they are a television tie-in series, don’t. They’re a blast to read, even for people who aren’t fans of the show, and they add that much more depth to the world of the already pretty amazing television show that they were spawned from.

Thomas Wilkerson, BookPeople bookseller
March 22nd, 2012

Review: ‘Edge of Dark Water’ by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale speaks about & signs 'Edge of Dark Water' here at BookPeople Thurs 4/5, 7p.

It’s always a thrill to get the latest Joe R. Lansdale book. He is one of the most most entertaining and engaging authors out there with a style all his own. Like Elmore Leonard, even his “weaker” books outshine the complete works of others. At his best, a Lansdale book can be a religious experience. Get ready to see the light with his latest, Edge Of Dark Water.

The book is reminiscent of his coming of age tales The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line, with a darker tone. It begins when Sue Ellen, a sixteen year old in Depression era Texas, finds her friend May Lynn’s body in the Sabine River tied to a sewing machine. She tells her two other pals, Jinx and Terry, about it. Since all three see no future where they are, they decide to burn May Lynn’s body, go down river on a raft with her ashes, get a ride to Hollywood, and deliver the remains to the town where she planned to be a movie star. At the last minute Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother forces her daughter to take her along. To finance the trip they come across money hidden from a bank robbery that put a crooked constable and his demented henchmen, Skunk, on their trail.

The journey structure is perfect for Lansdale. His loose narrative style can flow with ease. The river trip allows his characters to breath and talk in that dialogue that only he can create. It also allows him to throw in anything and anyone, like a bitter, old, pistol waving woman who grew up in the Civil War. We travel through a dusk world that is mainly reality, with a touch of harsh enchantments, and punch of what can only be described as Lansdale. There is a point the book reaches where the style becomes an important part of the substance. Picture Huckleberry Finn crossed with the film Night Of The Hunter.

Edge Of Dark Water has Joe R. Lansdales’ talents singing in harmony. He is able to to employ his talent for dark satire and deliver dialogue that his both pointed and realistic. He uses an unsentimental eye and still delivers a work of true emotion. It’s easy to tell that he’s a Mark Twain fan. That said, I think Mr. Clemens, himself, would love this particular ride down the river.

We’ll welcome Joe Lansdale and his daughter Kasey, who will perform a few songs, to BookPeople to speak about & sign his new book on Thursday, April 5, 7p.