One of my favorite places is a pleasant bike ride* from home. It’s a place called Inkberry Books, a little shop in Niwot, Colorado, that supports local authors and other independent writers and artists.
You can’t go there right now, but you and other readers can support this indie book seller by ordering online. Some authors even read excerpts for you to help you choose!
The proprietors were kind enough to invite me to do that, so I decided to give it a try.
I’m like a lot of people who have some extra time on their hands these days. Instead of taking the bus to work and back, I walk downstairs to work remotely and walk back up later. With all that commute time saved, I’ve been poking around and moping around here at The Smith Compound.
Today after work I Zoomed a friend to wish him happy birthday and catch up a little over a remote beer. His birthday was yesterday and a surprise party got canceled, like almost everything else. We adjust.
Anyhow, while I was poking (and moping) around earlier, I came across some free ebooks that I’ve been meaning to offer to whoever is interested. I have giveaway links for four (4) Detective Red Shaw novels, one for each of the next four readers who join my mailing list.
Which reminds me I haven’t actually sent anything to the fine folks on my list in quite a while. I did promise not to overdo it, but now I’ve got an idea for something that might work.
We shall see.
Read on, my friends, and keep your social distance.
Ebooks are OK, but eventually a person gets the urge to feel the real thing, smell the ink and old paper, to riffle through pages like a deck of cards and listen to the slap-slap-slap, fast or slow or both, again and again.
On a nicer day I would have ridden my bike, but today I took the Prius the quick eight miles to Inkberry Books in Niwot. I walked in the door with two paperbacks I’d grabbed from the cart out front. A buck each.
I told Gene I felt like I was stealing from him as I dropped a faded Nero Wolfe on the desk. Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout is older than me by a year. The real steal, though: The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction from 1987.
Gene rang them up before I knew it. $2.16.
“I’m not done yet, Gene,” I said. I told him it was a great start but I was on a hunt. I wanted more crime fiction, the classic stuff. He pointed the way.
I soon latched on to The Case of the Blonde Bonanza, a hardback Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner. Continuing down the shelves I passed by my own Detective Red Shaw novels, two copies of each. Then Micky Spillane caught my eye: The Goliath Bone, a Mike Hammer novel that Max Allan Collins finished after Spillane died in 2006.
Max led a week-long mystery writing workshop I attended in Iowa City way back when I’d only written the first draft of a couple of chapters of my first crime novel. He encouraged me to keep going, as did some of the other writers. He chided us all one day for being so polite in our critiques of each other’s work. Nobody cried. He took us all out for ice cream downtown the last day.
Years later he autographed his Road to Perdition graphic novel for my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids.
Nice guy. Helluva writer, prolific as they get.
Bonus: One of his stories is in the anthology I stole from Gene.
Join me at Inkberry Books in Niwot, Colorado, at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 16. What to expect: some words about writing what you know, a little reading, some Q&A, some book signing, and an author reception.
FYI, Niwot is a cool little place with friendly people who love music and serve some great food, coffee and craft beer. It’s conveniently located about halfway between Longmont, where I live, and Boulder, where I work. I stopped in at this independent bookstore recently while riding my gravel bike on the LoBo Trail and I’m looking forward to being there again soon.
If you’re in or near Boulder County on November 16, let’s meet at Inkberry Books.
Friday was #NationalReadABookDay, as I found out this morning. From my POV, every day should be #InternationalReadABookDay. This could keep us out of so much trouble, assuming we made good reading choices.
Not coincidentally, I’ve arranged to have both of my Detective Red Shaw novels on sale – $1.99 each for the Kindle eBook editions – for today and Sunday. Maybe a little longer…
Earlier this summer I had a chance to visit Beaverdale Books, a for-real independent book store in a Des Moines neighborhood where I used to spend a lot of time. The neighborhood is also home to a fictional bicycle shop / taproom that I made up for my second Detective Red Shaw novel.
When you’re in Beaverdale, you can actually buy both of those crime novels at Beaverdale Books. However, you won’t find the bike shop Red Shaw and Phil Vega visit in the following excerpt from North of Grand.
In which detectives visit a Beaverdale beer & bike shop…
…while investigating the murder of a cyclist.
Beaverdale Bike-n-Ale sold bicycles in the same spot for
twenty years before new owners came along with a new business model. They
thought they could draw in more cyclists, many of whom liked good, trendy beer,
if they also attracted a share of the growing numbers of craft beer drinkers
who didn’t necessarily give a rat’s ass about bicycles, resting heart rates, or
power-to-weight ratios. The bicycle side of the shop sold custom-fitted road
machines and mountain bikes that cost more than Shaw’s first two cars put
together. The taproom offered an ever-changing menu of craft lagers, ales,
stouts and other concoctions as long as they came from anything other than a
brewery that had even the faintest whiff of international consolidation.
A chalkboard behind the bar caught Shaw’s
attention. “If you want Bud Light, leave now,” read the top line. The day’s
list of carefully selected brews on tap filled the rest of the board.
A bearded twenty-something behind the bar
sported a red farmer bandana and a tattered Tour de France t-shirt. He was
rinsing pint glasses and four-ounce tasters in hot water before setting them on
a mat to dry. Clean glasses hung in rows from an overhead rack. Vega eyed a
pair of patrons at a nearby table and nudged Shaw, nodding to indicate where he
“That’s a man bun, Phil,” Shaw said. “You’d look good with one.”
Bun Man overheard the comment and turned
to the detectives. “I can see that,” he said, pointing at Vega’s black waves.
“Let it grow a couple more inches and you could definitely rock a bun.”
“Yeah, and Rosa would definitely snatch it
off in a second.”
Bun Man’s companion commiserated by
rubbing his shaved head and laughing. “Sssssnatch
you bald,” he slurred.
Shaw flagged down the bartender, who
looked over after putting up the last beer glass.
“What can I get you, sir?”
Shaw caught a name on the whiteboard that
told him the Ale Agent on Duty was James. “Nothing right now, James,” he said
as he held out his badge, “but we need to ask you a few questions.”
Vega produced his own shield and James
yawned as he glanced at it then looked back at Shaw. “What?”
“Do you know a Zachary Costa?”
“Yeah, I knew Zach. He used to come in a
lot. Every few days. Not lately, though.”
“So you heard about his death?”
“Who hasn’t? It’s all over.”
“Fuck that, the newspaper,” he said as he
snatched a smartphone from a back pocket and held it out. Shaw saw Vega twitch
toward his Glock before catching himself and relaxing. “It’s all over the
internet, man. Where you from, fucking 1990?”
Vega pulled his own smartphone out and
laid it on the bar. “Nice attitude, James. When’s the last time you saw Zach
James took a deep breath and exhaled,
slowly. “Week ago. He had a couple of pints with Emma, his girl, and they
“Did you know him outside of here? You
guys hang out or anything?”
“No, we just talked beer and bikes when he
came in.” He nodded toward Bun Man and Bald Guy, who were heading for the door.
“Those guys probably knew him better.”
Shaw caught Vega’s eye and nodded their
way to send him after them.
“You know their names?” he asked James.
“Yeah. And I’ve got one of their credit
cards. Tab’s still open.”
“It looks like you need to close it out
and call a ride for them.”
James grabbed a rag to wipe down the bar.
“No, I think Gav’s okay, and he’s driving. Jeff has probably had enough,
Shaw picked up Vega’s phone. “My partner
has some pictures of Zachary Costa’s bicycles we’d like to show you.”
James smiled. “To hear him talk, he had
some nice rides.”
“He had a couple of higher-end Treks that
he raced, and another one he called his ‘investment.’”
“What was that one?”
“A Paramount from like the sixties. He
thought a collector might buy it for four or five grand.”
Bun Man and Bald Guy were back soon, after
a quick smoke in the alley, with Vega trailing behind.
“Detective Vega, can you show James Mr.
Costa’s bicycles?” Shaw asked.
Vega took the phone and flipped through
the images one by one as James provided a running commentary. “That’s one he
probably raced … that’s a beater … another beater … yeah, that’s a time trial
bike he talked about.”
“Thank you, James,” Shaw said. “That’s
“What about the other one?” James asked.
“The Paramount? No picture of that one?”
Vega dodged the question. “Let us know if
you hear anyone else asking about it, okay?”