Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PRO-File Robert J. Randisi -- Murder Ink Closes

Ed here: I'm always careful never to overestimate how many books Robert J. Randisi has written in his three decades as a full-tme writer. But every time I HAVE estimated his total, I find that I've underestimated it. I can't keep up. In addition to constantly making himself into a better and better writer, Bob co-founded Mystery Scene with me, created Private Eye Writers of America and helped launch any number of careers. His current novel EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME is getting great reviews in most major American newspapers.

Tell us about your current novel?
The current novel oin the stores is EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME, a mystery featuring the Rat Pack when they were in Vegas in 1960 shooting the film Ocean's 11. The main character is pit boss Eddie G., who gets drawn in to doing a favor for Frank Sinatra, namely helping find out who is sending threatening nnotes to Dean Martin. It is getting stringly and widely reviewed. I've just delivered the sequel, LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE.

Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?
As I said above, just delivered the second Rat Pack, and I'm working on the follow up to a book called THE PICASSO FLOP, which will be out in Feb. These are Texas Hold 'em mysteries I'm writing with poker analyst-actor-former tennis star Vince Van Patten. I'm also writing two new westerns as we speak, and have contracts for a few more.

What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Listening to people shovel snow and dig out their cars while I'm lying in bed knowing I only have to walk a few feet to go to work. Also seeing a idea I really love come to fruition, esepecially after I've been told it wouldn't work.

The greatest DIS-pleasure?
When publishers and reviewers don't get what I'm trying to do. It's frustrating. Also the whole self-publishing debacle. There's just too much of it going on and a lot of bad stuff out there

If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Have more respect for the midlist.

Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?
I'd like to see somebody bring back the Hardman books by Ralph Dennis. That was a great paperback P.I. series. I'd also like to see Thomas B. Dewey and the Kanes--Henry and Frank-- reprinted.

Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.
It was beyond exciting. My first novel was a P.I. novel called THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PENNY. The editor wanted to buy four books, but just at that moment the publisher put a freeze on buying. We waited a few months--agonizing months--and then he decided to buy them one at a time. We never got beyond the first, but we did go on to do any other things together, including the Gunsmith series, which has now cracked 300 books. Also exciting was having PENNY reprinted last year by Stark House, celebrating 25 years since it was published.


Many Suspects Seen in the Death of a Mystery Bookstore


Published: December 20, 2006

Case closed.

Murder Ink, the mystery bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is going out of business after 34 years, along with its younger sister store, Ivy’s Books and Curiosities. On Monday the owner, Jay Pearsall, posted a sign in the window announcing that Dec. 31 would be the final day.

“We’ve been having a hard time keeping up,” Mr. Pearsall said.

The list of suspects is long. The rent has been increasing by 5 percent a year and currently runs $18,000 a month, Mr. Pearsall said. A Barnes & Noble at 82nd Street and Broadway has been chipping away at business for years. Amazon and eBay killed off mail-order business and sales of rare books.

And at some point in the mid-1990s, Mr. Pearsall said, he realized something even more troubling.

“I used to do apartment buys,” he said. “Children of people in the neighborhood who had died would sell their parents’ books; lots of them immigrants, lots of them Jewish, educated, liberal, and they just had all these great books. I realized that our clientele was dying.”

For the last few years, he said, the store has depended on sales from nonbook items that yield larger profit margins, like greeting cards, journals and action figures of Carl Jung and Rosie the Riveter.

The original Murder Ink opened in 1972 on West 87th Street as perhaps the first bookstore devoted to crime and detective fiction. Its founder, Dilys Winn, sold the store after three years to Carol Brener, who owned it for 14 years. In 1989 Mr. Pearsall bought it, and three years later moved to 92nd Street and Broadway.

There are currently about 2,500 independent bookstores in the United States, not counting stores that deal only in used books, said Meg Smith, a spokeswoman for the American Booksellers Association. In 1993 the number stood at about 4,700.

Dyana Kimball, a 31-year-old theater director, noticed the sign at Murder Ink on her way to the subway Tuesday morning. “I’m so sad,” she said. “I feel like they curate books more than just sell all of the best sellers.”

As the New Year’s Eve closing approaches, Mr. Pearsall said his thoughts had turned to his 10-year-old son, Riley, who practically grew up in the store, and to Gus, the 11-year-old wire-haired pointing griffon who spends his days there.

Then there are the books.

“When I see ones that I can’t order again, it’s hard,” Mr. Pearsall said. “Whether it’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ or ‘Pat the Bunny,’ it seems impossible that we won’t order or sell those again.”
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob Randisi is one of those quiet, productive greats who has given much to two genres. I can hardly wait to read his new Rat Pack novel. I've been a Sinatra devotee since I was old enough to understand his genius, back in the 1940s. And here is a superb novelist building a story around him.

Best wishes, Bob,

Richard Wheeler