Friday, May 30, 2008

Having a cow

Some mysteries are difficult to explain; others are easy.

When I first heard of Brattleboro, Vermont's annual Strolling of the Heifers, I was perplexed. Was this some sort of Quaalude-inspired version of the Running of the Bulls? Turns out it isn't. It's a celebration of all things agricultural, happens every first weekend in June and kicks off National Dairy Month.

According to a passage in the forthcoming Vermont Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Curiosities by Robert F. Wilson with photographs by Victoria Blewer (in bookstores in September from Globe Pequot Press), the parade features “100 flower-laden Holstein and Jersey cows – and occasionally a Guernsey or two – making their way down Main Street to a cheering crowd, followed by draft horses, tractors, jugglers, clowns, fire eaters... But it wouldn’t be a dairy festival without a milking contest, music by the Heifer Brass Quartet (and at least a dozen other jazz and classical groups), a Dairy Princess Pageant, and a Royal Farmers Feast and Farm Tour.”

It all starts here in Brattleboro on Friday, June 6 with a Gallery Walk at 5:15 p.m. that celebrates Women in Agriculture and is accompanied by the closing of Main Street between Elliot and High streets for a little dancing as fresco. The parade kicks off Saturday, June 7 at 10 a.m., goes down Main Street and is followed by a host of events at the Brattleboro Retreat and other locations around town.

If you haven't been to Brattleboro, this is a great weekend to get the flavor of this agricultural state: milk, cheese, ice cream. Yum.

And stop in at Mystery on Main Street to say hello. We don't have any books about cows, but you can pick up a copy of Three Bags Full, the tale of a flock of sheep who set out to solve the murder of their shepherd. It, too, is a wild and wooly time.

For more information, go to:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

High crimes

Crime books are an interesting breed. They come in all varieties: fiction, nonfiction, faction and speculative. The latest in the latter comes from an unlikely source: Vincent Bugliosi.

L.A. County District Attorney prosecutor Bugliosi came to fame with his prosecution of the Charles Manson case and followed it with its retelling in Helter Skelter, one of the bestselling true-crime titles of all time.

Today is the official release date of Bugliosi's The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, whose title alone can't go unnoticed. In it, Bugliosi puts forth the case that Bush should go on trial for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers who lost their lives fighting in Iraq. Bugliosi's evidence: that the war was sold to America under false pretenses and that it has needlessly cost the lives of 100,000 Iraqis, caused the U.S. to be seen as the villain in a world, and cost the American people trillions of dollars to wage it ... with no end in sight.

The book sounds fascinating; and while the publishers say Bugliosi presents a non-partisan argument, you can't help thinking that the book's title is totally inflammatory. Coming on the heels of former National Coordinator for Security and Counter Terrorism Richard A. Clarke's Your Government Failed You and ex-Press Secretary's Scott McClellen's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, this can't be a good week, tome-wise, for Dubya et al. (Not surprisingly, current Press Secretary Dana Perino said of McClellen's book, “We are puzzled.”)

If all this gets lost in spin this weekend as Fox News focuses on an incredulous Karl Rove and as right-wing talking heads bemoan the fact that New York State will recognize gay marriages made outside its borders, don't be surprised. News media has no attention span and, as has been seen for the past few years, can be played like a violin by Pennsylvania Avenue virtuosi.

According to the Bugliosi's publisher's website, the book “outlines a legally credible pathway to holding our highest government officials accountable for their actions.”

I won't hold my breath.

For more information, go to:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coming to a bookstore near you

Summer is upon us and publishers are revving up beach reading with some sure-fire sellers. Here's a look at what's coming in June.

June 1
The Walking Dead by Gerald Seymour
An armed protection officer in London and a would-be suicide bomber begin to question their identities.

June 2
Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook
In 1954 Mississippi, high school teacher Jack Branch befriends one of his students, the son of a notorious murderer, which leads to deadly consequences.

June 3
Nothing to Lose: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
Reacher finds himself taking on a Colorado town as he searches for the truth behind its connection to a brutal war.
The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
In 1937 Warsaw, on the eve of World War II, intelligence operatives wage their own espionage battle in a world of betrayal, intrigue and abduction.
Vineyard Chill: A Martha's Vineyard Mystery by Philip R. Craig
J.W.'s happy domesticity with Zee and the kids disrupted by a surprising call from a reckless old friend who needs help hiding from would-be assailants, a situation with ties to a beautiful woman's disappearance. A final installment of the popular series by the late author.
Murder on Bank Street: A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson
Once again Sarah Brandt teams up with Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, this time to investigate the murder of her late husband, in a mystery set in turn-of-the-20th-century New York.
Death and Honor: An Honor Bound Novel by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
In 1943 Argentina, Marine pilot Cletus Frade monitors two German operations, including a concentration-camp smuggling ring and a Nazi protection group.
Dyer Consequences: A Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton
Kelly Flynn's plans to renovate her recently purchased alpaca ranch are threatened by acts of sabotage targeting her new home and her local yarn shop, in a mystery complemented by a new knitting pattern and recipe.

June 10
The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver
Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs team up only to find themselves a killer's next targets.
Not in the Flesh: A Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell
Chief Inspector Wexford must piece together long-ago events to uncover the identity of a murder victim.

June 17
The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
Boone Daniels investigates an insurance scam that has ties to an unsolved murder case.
Fearless Fourteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum, Grandma Mazur, vice captain Joe Morelli, Bob the Dog, funeral home and a pot roast take center stage in this popular comic series.

June 24
TailSpin: An FBI Thriller by Catherine Coulter
FBI agents Savich and Sherlock head for Kentucky to discover the fates of a missing agent and the doctor he was protecting.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nordic but nice

Nordic mysteries have found a new life and I'm wondering whether Joe Queenan had anything to do with it. His Sunday article in the Los Angeles Times hit the mark (see link below).

Henning Mankell was certainly the writer who kicked open the door, and he isn't alone anymore. How many of these authors have you read? Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbo, K.O. Dahl, Maj Sjowall, Mari Jungstedt, Asa Larsson, Ake Edwardson, Helene Tursten, Fred Vargas, Matti Joensuu? And, of course, there's Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason (Jar City anyone?). And there will be more names to discover this fall.

So the next time you're looking for a mystery that will take you out of yourself, check out some of these international, Nordic names.

Long time, no blog

It's been a busy couple of months and my blogging, I admit, has suffered. Running a bookshop, it turns out, can be difficult at best ... but, finally, I'm back in the blogosphere.

Recently had author Tom Coffey in the store to sign books and answer questions of readers. For those of you who don't know Coffey, he's a sports editor at The New York Times and author of Blood Alley (Toby Press), a new novel in the noir tradition.

The book is stiletto sharp with rich dialogue and striking images. Set in post-WWII New York, it evokes a time of big city corruption, unbridled wealth and daily newspaper wars. (Not much, it seems, has changed in 60 years.) It's not a pretty book, portraying racism in the Big Apple when it was rotten to the core. There are no heroes in Blood Alley, simply people trying to do what's best for themselves. The few who do good quickly discover that no good deed goes unpunished.

The period detail is spot-on and Coffey immerses you in a time gone by. It's a great read for those who love Chandler, Chinatown and all those gritty '50s films that you knew would end badly for the protagonist.

Since Blood Alley received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, booksellers and readers around the country may soon discover Coffey's talent.