>Last week I had to make a last minute trip to Houston, TX. I wasn’t too happy about it initially, because it was one of those things that come up on a Friday when the whole next week is chock full of hilarity and excitement, and those plans then get hosed. But I sucked it up and decided to make the best of it.
Somehow over the last few months during my binge on crime fiction I came across Murder by the Book, which, conveniently, is located in Houston. I decided I’d make sure and find time to visit while I was there. While I was between flights in Minneapolis, I logged onto my twitter account and there was an update from them that caught my attention:
Since I knew they are generally open only until 6:00, and I had no idea what my work schedule would be, the fact they would be open later for the reading seemed like a perfect opportunity to head downtown the moment I arrived. So that’s what I did — got my rental car and made the drive from the airport to their store on the other side of downtown. I actually enjoyed the drive, despite the traffic I blundered into. After leaving the frost of Missoula, it was great to cruise down the highway with the windows down. I made it just in time.
Things were just getting started for the reading, so I didn’t get to look around much at first. Just inside the door, though, was this rack of awesomeness (I’m a huge fan of the Hard Case Crime stuff; Christa Faust‘s novel for them, Money Shot, was one of those books that really blew the door open for me when it comes to this kind of fiction):
I had not heard of Lucha Corpi before the reading, but I really enjoyed her. Her book Death at Solstice is the 4th installment featuring her Chicana detective Gloria Damasco. It is published by Arte Publico Press, which is also based in Houston. I particularly enjoyed her anecdotes about the research she did for the book — including trips to a casino and a seance experience — and how she had to justify the receipts when the IRS came knocking. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have a signed copy. And I have to say this was the first time an author ever hugged me after signing my book.
After the reading, I met David Thompson, the publisher behind Busted Flush Press. He’s put out some great books. His wife McKenna owns the store. Another member of the family was on patrol as well, but I didn’t catch her name.
We had a great, if brief, conversation, exchanged cards, etc. David loaded me down with a few more books on top of what I was already getting, then invited me back Thursday night for another reading. Then it was back north to check into my hotel and prepare for the “real” reason I was in Houston. Here’s the obligatory shot out my hotel window, taken the next morning, as well as the fine establishment just outside where I indulged in a true breakfast of champions.
Mmmm, convenience store breakfast. I’ve been craving one of these little bastards ever since I saw Zombieland!
As for the work-related part of the trip . . . I’ll just say it sucked. Last minute is never a good omen. And the bigger the company is, the more of a clusterfuck it will turn out to be. Good thing you don’t come here to learn about my stupid day job.
Thursday night I was back to Murder by the Book for another reading. This one featured Susan Kandel, author of Dial “H” for Hitchcock. It also featured a talk by Dan Sneed, Houston’s resident expert on Alfred Hitchcock. It was interesting; Sneed talked about Hitchcock’s influence as a filmmaker, some of his cornerstone techniques, the artwork, the “cool blonde” archetype, etc. Then he turned it over to Kandel, who actually did a powerpoint presentation discussing her books, her main character, and the research she did into Hitchcock for the book. It was very entertaining — I came away wanting to revisit the classic Hitchcock films. It was different from any other reading/signing I’ve been to, and I thought it was pretty cool.
After the reading, I looked around some more, picked up a couple more of David’s suggestions (how do you pass on a book whose opening line reads “Chase’s first day on the job they took the sobbing chauffer out back, gutted him, then handed Chase the cap and the little white gloves“?)(that first line courtesy of The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli, I might add), and basically just lusted over a store full of titles I’d happily have in my reading queue.
It turned out to be an awesome trip. Met some great people, and actually look forward to going back to Houston. Who knows, maybe my work will appear under the Busted Flush banner one day.
Speaking of which — I know I link books I talk about to Amazon, but I do that just for the purpose of providing a little more info about them. Please avoid buying from those sons a bitches whenever possible, though. If your local indie shop doesn’t carry something, they can probably order it. And all of the books I mentioned in this post can be ordered directly from Murder by the Book — autographed copies too. So do that, and the odds of your eternal soul rotting forever in the deepest cess pools of the abyss will be greatly reduced. Trust me.