Welcome to the Neighborhood, in Book Style

Something wonderful happened at a used bookstore in Middlebury, Vermont…
      But first a little background and explanation is in order. My family and I moved to Vermont from Utah at the end of August, and we’ve been busy settling into our new home. My daughter started at a new school (and so far so good), and my wife and I have been painting the house, finding furniture, working, and trying to figure out how to get garbage service, firewood, heating oil, and pretty much everything else we’ve never had to think about until now. It’s been fun and overwhelming all at once.
      So yesterday we decided to hit a couple bookstores in Middlebury, a neat college town with that Vermont Christmas television movie vibe and marble everywhere. The first was a cool bookshop just off Middlebury’s main avenue called Otter Creek Used Books. The aisles were narrow, the shelves overflowing with books from every category – fiction, history, agriculture, poetry, philosophy, science – and the aroma was that pleasant brew of aging paper and ink. Needless to say I had trouble limiting myself to the three mass markets I brought home: The Sea Monks, by Andrew Garve (Lancer, 1964), The Hanged Man, by Douglas Scott (Tor, 1987), and Death Fires, by Ron Faust (Forge, 1997).
      I’ve never read Garve, but the description and cover artwork caught my attention. They have a bunch more, too, so if I like it….
      Douglas Scott’s The Hanged Man caught my eye for a couple reasons. The first, I dig those 1980s Tor suspense novels, and second, it had a Hammond Innes blurb on the front cover:

“Scott takes me back to the battlefields. It is the seamy side of war – brutal, exciting, authentic.”

Innes was a WW2 veteran and I don’t recall seeing his blurbs on many books. Yeah, I know. I’m too easy. 
      As for Death Fires. I can’t see a Ron Faust novel in the wild without capturing it. Faust wrote a masculine story, the virtues and vices alike, in a similar fashion as Ernest Hemingway; although Faust placed more emphasis on plot, without ever limiting himself to plot, than Hemingway. His widow told me on a long-ago telephone call, “women never read Ron’s books.”
      Death Fires is an oddity for Faust, something of an experimental suspense novel about murder and other nefarious doings, and a film crew on the Baja Peninsula. If you've never read any of Ron Faust's books, you may want to start with one of his other titles: When She Was Bad, The Buring Sky, In the Forest of the Night, Dead Men Rise Up Never.


Now, here is the truly wonderful part. After lunch we went to another bookstore a few miles outside of town called Monroe Street Books. It had the same narrow aisles and blissful fragrance and overflowing bookshelves. But those shelves! They must have been twelve feet high. And every inch was filled with books of every description and category. One book – sitting on a shelf within my reach – made me giddy: Bill Crider’s 1989 novel, Dying Voices (St. Martin’s Press). It’s the second (of four) Carl Burns mysteries. The others are: One Dead Dean (1988), …A Dangerous Thing (1994), and One Dead Soldier (2004).
      Finding a Bill Crider in hardcover is always a celebration, but this copy of Dying Voices is special because it is inscribed – to a Vermont librarian named “Jan Alexander” – signed and dated, “4-12-90”. Bill’s inscription is as kind and humble as he always was when he communicated with me across the vastness of the internet:

“It’s great to hear that a librarian likes my books! And a Vermonter at that! Thanks for reading—”

A funny, really more silly than funny, thing happened as I stood in that wonderful used bookshop reading Bill’s kind words. It felt like the universe was welcoming me to Vermont. Thanks for that Bill! I should also tell you Bill was a native Texan who may or may not have set foot in Vermont and he died in February 2018.


  1. Sounds like you're all settling in well. I love a bit of Crider. Off to look up Ron Faust.


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