Monday, May 7, 2012

Wordcraft -- Murder in the mystery book store

Murder By The Book

2342 Bissonnet St.

Houston, Texas


Off the freeway from the recent Houston Writers Guild conference, I turned the wrong way on Bissonnet Street in the funky neighborhood near Rice University. A sign on a strip mall storefront read, Murder By The Book. Could I have found -- after miles of driving past franchise everythings -- an actual independent book store?

Barely avoiding collision with an oncoming SUV, I whipped into a parking place. The sign on the bookstore’s door read: “Book Signing by Carolyn Hart today.” I checked my watch -- the signing had just begun by the author whose popular Death on Demand series is set in a Southern mystery book store amazingly like Murder By The Book.

I bragged to the clerk at the cash register about the unimaginable luck of finding a shop that just happened to have a signing by one of my favorite authors of cozy mysteries. Not luck, it turned out. There’s an author signing almost every day at the store specializing in mystery, crime and espionage fiction. Ms. Hart’s signing, in fact, was the third one that day.

Inside the suitably dim, cozy and memorabilia-packed store, a group of readers young and old gathered around the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award-winning Ms. Hart to hear about the latest feat of her protagonist and mystery bookstore proprietor Annie Darling Laurence, in Death Comes Silently.

Oklahoma-born Ms. Hart began her writing career as a reporter, switching later to mystery and suspense. Her World War II novel, Letter from Home, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, but stardom struck with 1987’s Death on Demand series. Although her listeners mourned the demise of her journalist-sleuth Henrie O series, she is well into a new series starring a ghost, Bailey Ruth Raeburn, who returns to Earth to help her fictional hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma.

The success of Ms. Hart’s series has prompted the re-issuance of some of her earlier stand-alone novels, such as Escape from Paris, A Cry in the Night, and Brave Hearts, on Kindle.

Answering a question about Death on Demand’s Annie and her husband, Max, Ms. Hart told her listeners she doesn’t expect the couple, still young after twenty-five years of wedded bliss, to have children until the last book of their series -- whenever that may be.

“A responsible mother doesn’t go out chasing murders when she should be picking up the kids from school,” said Ms. Hart, herself a mother.

I’ve got to use that quote in a story of my own someday.

For more about Ms. Hart and her books, see For more about Murder By the Book, including a mouthwatering list of author readings, see or call (888) 4-AGATHA.


An addendum to last Monday’s contest issue -- Carve Magazine announced the 13th annual Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. Prizes of $1000, $750, $500 and two $250. Deadline is June 30. See the site, for guidelines. Thanks for the tip from Facebook friend Beatriz Terrazas, who’s both a writer and an award-winning photographer.

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