Suppose you could keep just one of these books. Which one would it be?
I know, it’s not a reasonable question. Why can’t I keep more than one? Why can’t I keep all of them?
Because I’m the one who got to ask the question, that’s why. 🙂
It’s a question I asked myself on Sunday while I sorted through some of the few boxes we hadn’t yet unpacked after a move to a smaller house. Rather than put a bunch of books in boxes in our backyard shed for someone to sort through down the road, I’m setting some of my favorites free now. They’ll go to a used book store for a few pennies on the dollar or I’ll donate them to a library or otherwise give them away. I’ll figure that out later.
The first step was to decide what will fit on my little shelves in the new place. A couple of homes ago, we had bookshelves covering an entire wall in my favorite room. We thinned that collection substantially before coming to Colorado, then a bit more in the past ten years. As hard as it can be to part with some old favorites, it’s that time again.
I don’t have every John le Carré spy novel but they’ve long been among my favorites. As someone who grew up during the Cold War, served a couple of years in the U.S. Navy, and enjoyed Russian language courses in college, I could easily imagine myself as part of the intrigue even though it was far from my own lived experience.
Still, as much as I enjoyed reading these books, it’s time to let someone else have them – except for one. I could keep a few more, but I’m reserving that shelf space for another author, whose identity I’ll share sometime soon.
Full disclosure: I’ve already decided what to keep, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change my mind.
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.
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.