My good friend, the fine writer John Daniel, has a new novel, and if it's anything like his last one, you won't want to miss it. I'm going to turn it over now to John:
From 1970 to 1971, I worked for Kepler’s Books and Magazines in Menlo Park, California. It was a big and exciting store, by far the best bookstore on the Peninsula south of San Francisco. It was also a gathering place for the counter-culture: peaceniks, hippies, rock musicians, and radical free-thinkers. The seventies were a decade with issues: the anti-war movement, black power, women’s liberation, gay pride, the human potential movement, not to mention the sexual revolution.
Surprisingly, the 1970s also saw an upsurge in book theft. Maybe it wasn’t surprising, given the rebellious spirit of the times; but it was ironic that the hip thieves, perhaps inspired by Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, were ripping off a counter-cultural center that supported free thought.
Anyway, Roy Kepler, the pacifist bookseller who owned the store, took it personally and decided to catch these bibliokleptos in the act. He hired a series of “bookstore cops,” guys who patrolled the aisle, pretending to browse the shelves, but in fact keeping an eye out for anyone slipping a book into a backpack or under a shirt. Roy acknowledged that these cops cost him more money than they saved by catching one or two thieves a week, but at least he was fighting back against an unruly tide.
My new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, set in Palo Alto in 1972, takes place in a fictitious store called Maxwell’s Books and is inspired by this crime wave. The hero, Hoop Johnson, hires on as a bookstore cop whose mission is to catch book snatchers in the act. He’s wrong for the job for a number of reasons: he basically trusts people, he pays more attention to the books than the browsers, and he has a crippling stammer, which makes him no good at confronting strangers. But he needs the job. Before long the job gets him in big trouble.…
Here’s Hooperman doing his job:
Meanwhile, Hoop became more and more a hunter. Tuesday afternoon he saw a tall, attractive middle-aged woman in the Human Sexuality section slip a copy of Open Marriage into her large straw purse and head toward the front of the store. Hoop took another copy of the same book from the shelf and followed her to the front, past the cash register, and out the door. Before she reached the corner, he caught up with her and said, “Meh,meh,mem…am?”
She whirled around. “Yes? What do you want?”
“I think you fuh,fuh,forgot something.” He showed her his copy of Open Marriage.
The woman shook her head. “I didn’t forget it,” she said. She reached in her bag and produced the copy she had swiped. “See?”
“You fuh,forgot to peh,peh,pep—”
The woman’s hand flew to her flushed face. “Oh, hell! You’re right. I did forget! No, that’s a lie. I was embarrassed. But you’re right. I’ll go back in and pay for my book. Thank you, sir.”
They walked side-by-side back to the store. After paying Bill Harper at the register for her purchase, she approached Hoop with a nervous smile. She gave him a hug, breathed deeply into his bearded cheek, and whispered, “I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. You’re a sweetheart. Are you…available?”
At a loss for words, Hoop stepped backwards, bumping the shelving trolley against a cardboard dump of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which tipped over and landed in a heap on the store floor. He stooped to pick up a handful of books, and when he turned back, the woman, her book, her handbag, and her wedding band had left the store.
“Pleasant and unusually good-natured, this novel from Daniel harkens back to a time when printed books mattered and an independent bookstore could be a social club for passionately eccentric bibliophiles.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review for Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery
photo by Clark Lohr
John M. Daniel is a lifelong bibliophile, having worked in eight bookstores. He’s also the author of fourteen published books, including the well-reviewed Guy Mallon Mystery Series. He lives among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California, with Susan Daniel, his wife and partner. They publish mystery fiction under the imprint Perseverance Press (Daniel & Daniel).
Buy or order Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery from your local bookstore, from Amazon, or direct from the publisher:
Oak Tree Press
1820 W. Lacey Blvd. #220
Hanford, CA 93230
For more info about Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery: