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The End of Summer

September 15th, 2010 (12:44 pm)

When our friend John (who I can think of only as Johnnie) left his job at Borders last spring to go to work at Murder By the Book, I was thrilled for him. I became familiar with the Houston bookstore through writer Dean James (who I first met in a Yahoo writers' group). Dean has never failed to give me sound advice and encouragement, writer to writer, but among the best gifts he ever gave me was my first welcome to Murder By the Book, where he then worked as manager.

Anyone who shops at the store will tell you that it's like a home where an extended family drops in to talk--about books or writers or whatever other random topic comes to mind. It's a little paradise for a reader, because anyone on the staff can direct you to authors similar to those you already enjoy, introduce you to new writers whose works are destined to become mystery classics, or help you find older writers whose work you might have overlooked.

I knew the store would be a place where Johnnie could enjoy what he loves best about books and bookselling. He'd be working with like-minded people, including McKenna Jordan--who bought the store from its original owner in 2009. Like Dean, McKenna has on occasion been my go-to person when I come up with ideas for new novels. It's fun to watch them go through their mental filing cabinets when I ask, Has this been done before? They always know.

Then there's McKenna's husband, David Thompson, who worked at Murder By the Book for twenty-one years. When Dean told David about my Houston-based A Coventry Christmas, David said the store would host a signing. I told him nobody gets murdered in the novel, but he said it didn't matter. I'm a Houston author and the store is always happy to support local writers.

I was scheduled to sign with two crime novelists, Colleen Thompson and L.A. Sparks in December 2006. When I told McKenna I was sending out postcards to my mailing list to promote the signing, she said, "Bring the cards in. We'll stamp them for you." She was amused at my shocked reaction. I was so accustomed to doing all the Timothy James Beck publicity that it never occurred to me a bookseller would take on some of that. David and McKenna not only hosted that signing, but they kept my books in stock so I could sign them whenever I came into the store. David occasionally nudged me to write something else so we could do another signing, and he also indulged my reading lust by introducing me to several new mystery series that he thought I'd like.

At Dean's most recent signing, as I was paying for my books, Johnnie mentioned that I'd get home in time to watch Project Runway. He told David how I do the show's challenges by making doll clothes. David said he wasn't sure he was going to enjoy this season, and we critiqued the show for a few minutes. I was reminded of how tickled Lindsey and Rhonda get whenever Tom talks fashion. Project Runway has apparently made more than one straight man a fashion critic.

The next day, I received a direct message on Twitter from Murder By the Book: David here... last night's PROJECT RUNWAY was *much* better! :-)

I was looking forward to going back to the store with a couple of dolls dressed in my designs to make David laugh.

Monday, at age 38, David died unexpectedly. Though I didn't know him well, I know by the measure of my own sadness that his loss is devastating to those who know and love him best. The comments on the store's Facebook page, on Twitter, and on so many blogs of authors, booksellers, and readers around the country are a testament to how highly esteemed David, McKenna, Dean, and the store's entire staff are.

This is the kind of mystery we never unravel--when someone so full of joy and enthusiasm, so beloved, is taken away too early. My summer has been bookended by two such losses, and my heart goes out to all those who mourn them.

David Thompson


If you own any of the books in the opposite side bar and would like them signed, mail them to:
P.O. Box 924104
Houston, TX 77292
Please include three dollars for return postage. Thank you.

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