Shelf Awareness for Monday, July 17, 2017

S&S / Marysue Rucci Books: The Night We Lost Him by Laura Dave

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

Quotation of the Day

Brechner's Goals & Gandalf’s Advice

"I want to help increase the stature of independent bookselling in school markets. Secondly, ABA has been hard at work on strengthening our bonds with traditional publishers, a vital undertaking that needs our ongoing attention, to be sure. Finally, bearing in mind Gandalf’s advice that it is our duty 'to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till,' we need to create dynamic outreach that results in building public will and consensus around the principle that antitrust regulation should be reanimated from the cave in which it has been slumbering." 

--Kenny Brechner, newly elected ABA board member and owner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week


BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Bookstore Sales Up 1.7% in May

May bookstore sales rose 1.7%, to $787 million, compared to May 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. This marks the third month in a row bookstore sales have risen following three months of sales drops, going back to November 2016. For the first five months of the year, bookstore sales are $4.3 billion, essentially even with the same period in 2016.

Total retail sales in May rose 5.4%, to $496.9 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 4%, to $2,292.6 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

Tattered Cover's Joyce Meskis Honored at Retirement Party

Joyce Meskis at her retirement party last evening.

Several hundred people gathered last night at the Tattered Cover in Denver to honor Joyce Meskis, the legendary bookseller and passionate defender of the freedom of expression who bought the tiny store in 1974 and built it into one of the most highly regarded indies in the country. Joyce officially retired on July 1; Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan are now the owners of the Tattered Cover.

The crowd included many former staff members (including employee #1, after Joyce herself), as well as current staff, booksellers from other stores around the country, reps, publishers, her family and others. Among the speakers were Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who sent a video greeting, and Jack Jensen, who recently retired as president of Chronicle Books and is now president of its owner, McEvoy Group.

Representing thousands of indie booksellers as well as current and former ABA staff and board members, ABA CEO Oren Teicher called Joyce "our leader, our mentor, our role model, our source of inspiration, and our friend."

He recalled that when he began his career in the book industry as a First Amendment and free expression advocate, he was told to get in touch with "a bookseller from Denver who set the standard for what free speech advocacy should be." He did so, and 30 years later, "I am still learning from Joyce Meskis.... No one--and I mean no one--has been a more powerful and effective advocate for free speech than Joyce--for bookstores, for the broader community here in Denver, and for the entire nation."

Teicher praised how, "from modest beginnings," Meskis built the Tattered Cover into "a cherished institution" and "helped invent 21st-century bookselling." The store, he continued, "has always been magic, bringing together readers, authors, and, most importantly the vast array of ideas represented by the books on these shelves." Generations of booksellers "will forever be in your debt for pioneering the modern indie bookstore and inspiring us all."

Teicher presented a gift: a copy of a speech by John Milton setting forth principles about free expression while, in 1644, he protested efforts in Parliament to restrict free speech. In an interview with Chris Finan, who earlier this month left the American Booksellers for Free Expression to become executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, Joyce had said her understanding of free speech and free expression had roots in Milton's writings.

We at Shelf Awareness are grateful for Joyce Meskis's devotion to the principles of free expression, for building such a marvelous bookstore, for her inspiring leadership at the ABA and other organizations, for her support of so many in the book world, and for her friendship.

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

New England Mobile Book Fair Opens in New Location

Congratulations to New England Mobile Book Fair, which has opened in new space "just down the road," in Newton, Mass. The store is now in Marshalls Plaza, between a CVS and Newton Warehouse Wines & Spirits, resulting in a retail stretch of "band aids, books, and booze!" as the store wrote on Facebook.

New England Mobile Book Fair had decided to move when the lease on its 32,000-square-foot space in Newton Highlands ended in March, wanting to downsize significantly after several years of sales declines. Tom Lyons, who bought the store in 2011, said earlier this year that he wanted to cut his inventory of a million volumes, and carry more children's, mystery, fiction, history and cookbooks and fewer business, humor, sports, religion and self-help titles.

The store location is part of 30-acre redevelopment area that will include housing, retail and office space. The new space is available only for two years, but the city and the real estate investment company doing the redevelopment have indicated that they hope the store will be a permanent part of the project.

New England Mobile Book Fair is now located at 241 Needham St., Newton, Mass. 02464.

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Tampa's Inkwood Books Signs Lease for New Location

Inkwood announces its new location.

Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla., has signed a lease for a new location at 1809 N. Tampa St., several miles from its current location in Hyde Park and in Tampa Heights, just north of downtown Tampa, Inkwood said on Facebook.

Earlier this month, owner Stefani Beddingfield told the Tampa Bay Times that a move to the spot was in the works because the building where the store has been for 26 years is being sold. Beddingfield purchased Inkwood from Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner in 2013 and leased the space from Jimenez and Reiner.

Beddingfield described Inkwood's new location as "right across the street from the Hall on Franklin," a new restaurant cooperative, and near Hidden Springs Ale Works and Foundation Coffee. "I think we'll get a little more synergy" with the nearby businesses. "People can walk across the street for a cocktail, or have coffee and then come to a book signing."

Obituary Note: Fay Zwicky

Australian poet Fay Zwicky, whom author David Malouf called "one of the absolutely essential voices" for his generation, died July 2, the day after her 400-page Collected Poems was published by UWA Publishing in Perth, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. She was 83. 

Zwicky won the Patrick White Award in 2005 as well as the New South Wales Premier's Award for Poetry for Kaddish and Other Poems (1982) and Picnic (2007). She published eight poetry collections, an essay collection and a book of short stories.

Lucy Dougan, co-editor of Collected Poems, noted that Zwicky "is attuned to the musicality of the human voice, and that's increasingly what her work moves towards. As she ages as an artist, she wants a line that is fluid and expressive but perhaps a little less freighted, a little more natural. There is this beautiful line in her journal: 'Plain speech, like playing Mozart, is the hardest to come by. Sometimes I think I am getting there.' It's quite late in her life that she says this."

From "Boat Song," one of her last, uncollected poems:

And we turned them away, yes we turned them away
As we went out to play
In our dead-hearted country, the bounteous place
Where neighbourly love puts a smile on each face.


Image of the Day: Who Was That Masked Man?

The anonymous Instagram poet Atticus appeared at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles last week. The masked poet read from his just-released debut collection, Love Her Wild (Atria).

Happy 50th Birthday, Titcomb's Bookshop!

Congratulations to Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass., which celebrated its 50th anniversary with a party on Saturday. The Cape Cod Times reported that four generations of the family have worked in the shop founded by Ralph and Nancy Titcomb, including Nancy's mother, Edna Ericksen, who worked there until age 90.

In 1991, Vicky, daughter of Ralph and Nancy, returned to take over the bookshop and expanded its offerings. "We looked at what people wanted and tried to respond to their needs," she said, adding that collaboration has been a key to their success at bringing countless big-name authors to town. "There's no trick to it--it's just working together."

The Titcombs also cite their location on Route 6A, which brings in plenty of tourists during the high season, as a factor: "Many of our customers see us as a destination from the Boston and Providence areas," Nancy said.

Vicky described business as good and said she expects it to stay that way: "The future, I think, looks really bright."

Eslite Opens 'Longest Book Street in Taiwan'

The bookstore chain Eslite "has transformed part of the Zhongshan Metro into the longest book street in Taiwan," Taiwan News reported, noting the company won a bid in March to replace the shops in Zhongshan Metro Mall, an underground shopping street in Taipei, with a bookstore.

"This is the first underground book street built by Eslite," said Lin Hsuan-ying, senior manager at Eslite. The book street is 300 meters (about 985 feet) long. The grand opening is scheduled for August 7.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Al Gore on Colbert's Late Show

CBS This Morning: Joshua Green, author of Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (Penguin Press, $27, 9780735225022).

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Al Gore, author of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Rodale, $25.99, 9781635651089).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Chris Bianco, author of Bianco: Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like (Ecco, $34.99, 9780062224378).

TV: Invisible City

Toni Collette's Vocab Films and RadicalMedia (What Happened, Miss Simone?) are adapting Julia Dahl's novel Invisible City into a series, Deadline reported, noting that Collette has already written the pilot script. The actress optioned the book and will serve as executive producer along with Jen Turner. Jon Kamen, Jon Doran and Justin Wilkes are executive producers for Radical Media.

Books & Authors

Award: Harper Lee Legal Fiction

James Grippando has won the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for Gone Again, the 12th book in his Jack Swyteck series. Lee authorized the award, sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law, to be given to a novel that "best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change."

Grippando, who is counsel at the firm of Boies Schiller, told the ABA Journal: "I don't know who's happier, James Grippando the writer or James Grippando the lawyer. Winning the 2017 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction is easily the proudest moment of my dual career." He will receive the award September 14 at the University of Alabama School of Law--and receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Lee, who earned a law degree at the school.

Gone Again opens with Swyteck, a Miami criminal defense attorney, being approached to help stop the execution of a convicted murderer--by the mother of the purported victim, who believes her daughter may still be alive.

"Grippando's book does a masterful, entertaining job exploring the important topic of the death penalty and actual innocence," said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal.

Runners up were The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

Book Review

Review: Darkansas

Darkansas by Jarret Middleton (Dzanc Books, $26.95 hardcover, 216p., 9781945814297, August 8, 2017)

There is plenty of dark in Jarret Middleton's cleverly titled novel Darkansas. Rooting through the Ozark hills and hollers reminiscent of the hillbilly noir of Daniel Woodrell, Middleton kicks up the violent secrets of generations of Baynes and their genetic legacy of twins and patricide. Like Woodrell, Middleton (editor of Pharos Editions and author of the experimental novel An Dantomine Eerly) packs a lot of hamburger in a small bun--200 pages of serious drinking, country lore, a bear attack, guitar picking lessons, an abandoned mine collapse, bootleg logging, both mindless and attentive sex, a motorcycle crash and a vengeful immolation.

At the center of his story are noted bluegrass musician Walker Bayne and his twin sons, Jordan and Malcolm. An accomplished guitarist himself, Jordan bolts from the Ouachitas in rebellion against his father's fame. He plays country honk, drinks shine and whores his way through dive bars like "Bourbon & Boots, one of the most worn out shitholes in all of San Antonio." Malcolm is the solid over-achiever who always caught the most fish, killed the most ducks and picked up the pieces after a Jordan rampage. As Jordan explains to an old girlfriend: "He followed the rules, I broke them. I used my hands, he used his brain. I went through life like a freight train and he slipped by undetected."

In the shadows behind the story of the Bayne family are a pair of strikingly described mountain phantoms stalking Jordan and Malcolm with murderous intent: the seven-foot Andridge Grieves and his partner Obediah Cob, "a fully grown homunculus... a meld of earthen substances. Semen and ewe blood, sunstone, willow sap, sputum, and manure." Without missing a beat, Middleton weaves these supernatural ghost-like characters into the hyper-realism of a story that vividly describes the de-feathering, dressing and roasting of a wild duck, a local chophouse "serving sides of cow larger than blown tires in a setting of catalog décor and fake candlelight." On a crazy night with a hard-drinking girlfriend, Jordan laid "a trail of wreckage from bar to bar that followed the same pattern of beer, whiskey, weed, and pills, landing them in a cheap motel room. Then the real drinking began, the kind functioning human beings don't know exists, solely the trade of the violent, the depressed, and insane."

Old grudges, regrets, jealousy and 150 years of buried secrets blow up any chance of a heartwarming Baynes reunion at Malcolm's wedding. Bleak, perhaps, but Darkansas also shines with a light of empathy for a family with more than its share of bad luck to go along with its bad genes. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Jarrett Middleton's vivid novel of an Ozark family bearing generations of twin sons with a legacy of violence casts understanding light on their fatalistic darkness.

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