Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Good One Gone

We speak of the "mystery community" that unites readers, writers, publishers, and booksellers in a shared circle of love for one of the world's most enduring literary forms.  But if it really is a community, then booksellers -- informed, passionate booksellers -- are the campfire around which we all gather.  They're the members of the community who link all the others together.

We lost one of the very best, David Thompson, assistant manager of Houston's Murder By the Book, last week.  Murder By the Book was an extension of David's outsize personality, his love for books, writers, and readers.  Any writer who was lucky enough to visit the store came away dazzled with a vision that this was what a bookstore should be, and that Murder By the Book, rather than the big chains, was the template for the bricks-and-mortar bookstores of the future.

But David was also a truly innovative publisher.  His Busted Flush Press came to the rescue of unjustly underpraised writers with beautifully designed editions of their work -- for great graphics, look at the jackets of their Reed Farrell Coleman reprints -- and just released their first Busted Flush Original, Tower, by Coleman and Ken Bruen.

David was only 38.  He left an emotional footprint on writers quite literally all over the world.

James R. Benn, author of the Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries:  If the world were a more ordered place, some years down the road David Thompson would be reading my obituary.  Instead, as a reminder that chaos is only a blink away, I and others are reading of David's death, stunned in our common disbelief that this could happen to someone so full of energy, passion, love, and from my perspective, youth . . . . I don't know what else to say, except that tonight I will have a couple of margaritas myself, and let the idea seep into my soul that perhaps I need to carry on some small portion of the goodness David brought to the world around him.  Otherwise, none of this makes any sense at all.

Cara Black, author of the Aimee Leduc Investigations:  Shocked and saddened, like everyone in the mystery community; I'm trying to understand this.  My heart goes out to McKenna.  David -- so enthusiastic, funny, and a dynamo.  I'd first gone to Murder By the Book with Peter Lovesey for my third book and met David briefly.  The crowd was there for Peter and yet David made me feel welcome . . . . He loved connecting people, loved books, writers.  The excitement bubbled in his eyes.  He breathed . . . . publishing, finding new voices and writers . . . . I know he kept up an incredible correspondence with so many of us.  Tireless, and yet he and McKenna reserved one night a week, Wednesday, I think it was, when they stayed home and just were together.

Colin Cotterill, author of the Dr, Siri Investigations Set in Laos:  In late 2004 I was starting out on this writing game and still had no idea whether I was any good. I got an e-mail from a guy I'd never heard of in far off Texas.  He said his store had voted my first book "Best of the Year" and they all loved it.  I couldn't believe anyone would go to the trouble but that was David.  He knew what it means to a writer to have support and words of praise.  We've been in contact ever since and that encouragement never slackened.  He was a rare breed who knew writers better than they know themselves and he'll be irreplaceable.  I'm sad today.

Jamie Freveletti, author of Running from the Devil and Running Dark:  When my book launched in May 2009 we had only planned on a regional tour in my area (midwest).  However, so many people told me, "Oh, no, you MUST go to Houston to Murder By the Book, David and Mckenna know this genre and love it," and I decided to contact them.  They . . . immediately extended an invitation and I flew there for a signing.  David twittered regular updates during the session, gave me coffee to keep me going, and they both went out of their way to make a debut author feel like one of the community.  I was heartbroken to hear of his untimely death.

Leighton Gage, author of the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations:  I would never have toured for my first book had it not been for David.  He read an ARC and wrote to me in Brazil to invite me to Murder By the Book.  I thought, Why not? And went.

It was an honor to have known him.

Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly novels:  I heard this morning.  I am still stunned.  I can't imagine going to Murder By the Book and not seeing David.  What a great guy, what a knowledgeable man.

David Hewson, author of the Costa series:  I met David briefly only once but his enthusiasm, helpfulness and love of books struck me at once.  It's a great shock to think he won't be there in that lovely Houston store any more.  My sympathies go out to his family and friends, and my thanks for all he's done for so many authors.

Christopher G. Moore, author of the Vincent Calvino Bangkok Mysteries:  I met David last year at Bouchercon.  What a wonderful, witty, and knowledgeable guy.  This is such a shame.  A knock on the head for all of us in the crime fiction community.

Eric Stone, author of the Ray Sharp novels:  David was someone who always brought a smile to my face when I saw him.  Over the years we met at conferences and exchanged e-mails . . . . I had three, really fun book signings at Murder By the Book, thanks to him.  He was someone I never had the chance to get to know as well as I would have liked to, and it really saddens me to know that now I never will.

None of us will.  
Tim -- Sundays

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