Tag Archives: Otto Penzler

Indy bookstore longings

I’m currently filled with nostalgia, for something that was never quite mine, anyway.

I spent yesterday and today in Washington, D.C.  While there, I snuck away for an hour to Kramerbooks at Dupont Circle.  I’ve been there multiple times on various occasions in the last dozen years.  It’s that kind of eclectic bookstore that was pretty rare in the age of big-box-bookstores.  And if I saw my local Borders go bye-bye with a bit of a lump in my throat, walking up to the familiar neon sign was accompanied with an unexpected pang.

There are stacks of books.  Fiction, travel books, books about writing.  A business section.  The mystery shelves, of course.  The actual smell of piles of paper.  It reminds me of the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver (LoDo).  It’s not slick, it’s comfy.   Kramerbooks has a whole standing bookshelf titled “Philosophy,”  so I called my husband to see if he had any suggestions – I wanted to buy my son a present, and he’s a philosophy major.  But, as my husband pointed out, it’s very difficult to buy a philosophy book for someone else, and he could get anything he wanted for himself.  On Amazon.  “Is there anything I can get for you?” I asked.  “Not really,” he said.

So that’s something that’s changed.  I’m used to calling people up from bookstores.  “They have a great Art section,” I said to Husband, by phone, the last time I was in Denver.  “Can I find something for you?  They have a big Cindy Sherman book.”

But of course, there’s nothing he was hankering for, nothing he had wanted but hadn’t been able to find.  Same for my younger son’s sheet music – he can get it all online.  What’s missing is the sense of discovery, the great find, the bringing home of offerings to others.  Maybe that’s what I miss.

But some things don’t change.  Kramerbooks is paired with a Cafe and coffeebar, so I was able to sit with a cup of coffee and a piece of peach cobbler while I read my new book.  Yes, the Best American Mystery Stories of 2011 are out.  Editor: Harlan Coben.  Series editor:  Otto Penzler.  So, nostalgia aside, it’s all good.

Best American Series Out for 2010!

Every year, I look forward to the appearance in bookstores of Mariner Book’s The Best American Series – an annual compilation of the best short fiction and nonfiction.  First purchase is always The Best American Mystery Stories. This year’s editor is Lee Child, and the series editor is Otto Penzler author and owner of The Mysterious Bookshop, now located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan.

Penzler selected 50 stories from among the who-knows-how-many submitted by authors, publishers, fans, as well as through the ever-so-vigilant scouring of potential publications by Penzler himself.  Lee Child then chose 20 of the 50.  Child is the author of Jack Reacher series, so it will be interesting to see if he chooses stories similar to the type he tends to write, or if he is more wide-ranging in his tastes.

I always turn first to the front of the book to scope out A) what authors I know have made the book and B) the original publication for the selected stories.   Dennis Lehane (known for Mystic River and Shutter Island, among others) has a story, as does Phillip Margolin, the criminal-defense-attorney-turned-bestselling-legal-thriller-author.

This year Ellery Queen is the source for three stories and the sister publication, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, has one.  Noir is in store with Boston Noir getting two nods and Black Noir with one.

I plan to read all the stories and rank them, with a special “call out” if there are any that I think I could have written myself.  (Don’t hold your breath on that one – typically 18 out of the 20 stories blow me away and two out of 20 are great, just not my kind of thing.)  So watch this space, or better yet, go buy the book and read the stories!

NYC Bookstores Specialize in Mystery

Like a lot of places, New York City doesn’t have as many bookstores as it used to have.  On the other hand, the number of Starbucks outlets has increased exponentially in the last ten years.  And it continues to have plenty of guys selling handbags and watches, as well as helpful folks wanting to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to go to a comedy club.

Partners & Crime, Greenwich Village

But mystery lovers who make an effort will be rewarded.  A short subway ride to Greenwich Village will bring you to the doorstep of Partners & Crime.  What’s great about this bookstore is the many hand-lettered signs, helping you find the books you’ll most enjoy reading.  I discovered a Kate Atkinson, When Will There be Good News?, that I am currently enjoying.  Atkinson’s book interweaves several perspectives and backstories in a way that reminds me that there’s more to mysteries than clomping through a chronology in first person.  (I can diss this style because that’s what I do.)  Good News is out in paperback and a heck of a bargain, so go buy it.  I also bought a thriller, Close-Up, by Esther Verhoef and translated from the Dutch.  I read a couple of chapters in the store to be sure, and its got me hooked already.   Margot’s just getting over a rough break-up when she meets a mesmerizing man… he opens new doors for her, she’s spreading her wings.  Only the reader suspects he’s a killer.  But is he?

The Mysterious Bookshop, TribecaAlso worth visiting is Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca, especially when accompanied by lunch at the Kitchenette, a thrift store stop, and less than 30 minutes in line at the TKTS booth to snag two tickets to Billy Elliott at half-price.  I was lured into a signed copy of Caught by Harlan Coben (always a favorite) as well as Linwood Barclay‘s Never Look Away, after reading a comparison of the two books in today’s New York Times.  I’ve read both authors before and am interested in reading them back to back.

The Mysterious Bookshop’s allure is burnished by its owner, Otto Penzler, well-known on the mystery scene for decades and editor of the Best American Mystery Stories and the Best American Crime Writing series for years.  So well-known is he that he was tapped to write Robert B. Parker’s obituary in Time magazine.

Both mystery bookstores are comfortable, ready for browsing, and feature comfortable chairs and nearby coffee shops.  Both are stuffed to the gills with autographed books.  And both are well-worth visiting, so bring your credit cards and a canvas bookbag!