Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Forthcoming Books Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop
AN INTERVIEW WITH OTTO PENZLER
Each year, for the past seventeen years, Otto Penzler, owner of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned an original story by a leading mystery writer. The requirements were that it be a mystery/ crime/suspense story, that it be set during the Christmas season, and that at least some of the action must take place in The Mysterious Bookshop. These stories were then produced as pamphlets, 1,000 copies, and given to customers of the bookstore as a Christmas present.
Now, all of these stories have been collected in one volume—Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop. Some of the tales are humorous, others suspenseful, and still others mystifying. This charming one-of-a-kind collection is a perfect Christmas gift, appropriate for all ages and tastes.
Mary Higgins Clark
Thomas H. Cook
Edward D. Hoch
S. J. Rozan
Donald E. Westlake
About the Author
Otto Penzler is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop, the founder of The Mysterious Press, the creator of Otto Penzler Books, and the editor of many books and anthologies. He lives in New York City.
Questions for Otto Penzler.
Were you surprised by how many different approaches the writers were able to develop for your Christmas tales?
I'm always amazed at what writers can do. When I edit novels and stories, I sometimes see a plot hole or other problem and think, "oh, no, this is hopeless" but the author almost always says it's not a big deal and instantly knows how to fix it. I'd have thought the constrictions of a story confined to a specific location at a specific time of year would cause too many stories to be similar, but they aren't at all.
Were the Christmas pamphlets immediately popular?
Yes. It was gratifying to see and hear the enthusiasm of our customers. The best was from Stephen King got a Christmas story after shopping at the store. He liked it so much he asked if he could write one. As you will immediately guess, I said yes. For several years after that, he assured me he'd write one. Sadly, I'm still waiting, though optimistic.
You make appearances in several of these stories? Do you have a favorite appearance?
As I tried to point out in the introduction, I'm a real person but the guy in these stories is fictional. Still, I like the ones where I'm portrayed as brave, smart, cool, wealthy, and to whom good-looking women are attracted.
Will the series continue now that the previous ones have been collected?
Yes, that's the plan. When I started this series, I didn't know that they would be collected in a book. The motivation was merely to thank my customers for thier business. There are, unhappily, fewer customers than there used to be, but I'm no less grateful for the fact that they buy books from my store.
In your introduction you note that The Mysterious Bookshop, like most independent stores, is engaged in a "mighty struggle" to "endure" if not flourish. Since the Mysterious is the flagship of indie mystery stores, what does this say about indie mystery stores in general?
What it says for too many of them is good-bye. Most independent mystery stores have gone out of business. A lot of people lament the passing of a favorite store, but it doesn't stop them from shopping at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, and then they're shocked when their local independent closes its doors.
You mention that both the chains and e-books have doubled up to make life even harder for indies. What do you make of Barnes & Noble allegedly being put up for sale? Are they having the same problem with Amazon that indies have?
Barnes & Noble is engaged in a battle over shares with two major stockholders battling it out for control. B&N has nothing to do with books. A huge B&N opened right down the street from The Mysterious Bookshop a couple of years ago and I went in to check it out. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why anybody would shop there, unless it's for coffee. The staff knows nothing, and that's been true for every branch I've visited. Borders is already doomed and B&N may follow. Amazon won't be happy until they are the last "store" left. What irritates me is that they are good at what they do. Of course, so were the German Panzer divisions; that doesn't mean I want to root for them.
Do you have one or two favorite stories about incidents in Mysterious over its first twenty-sevenyears?
We celebrated our 31st anniversaary on April 13. How many spectacular moments are there? Donald Westlake and Brian Garfield building my bookshelves. Our annual Christmas parties. Hosting signings for Eric Ambler, John le Carre, Stephen King, William F. Buckley, Jeremy Brett (signing posters), Walter B. Gibson (signing Shadow books and magazines); an evening of magic with Richard Levinson and William Link (the creators of Columbo) trying to top Harry Blackstone and other magicians; giving Elmore Leonard his first autographing event outside of his home town; serving as the location for a television pilot for a movie titled Murder Ink--31 days of filming and location fees that kept us from going bankrupt in my second year in business; taking my baseball bat down the stairs to confront a thief (and not getting my brains beat out). Oh, that's more than one or two. Sorry.
Thanks very much, Otto