March on in to Mystery to Me! 
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Why Bookstores Matter
By Doug Moe

My sister sent me a great birthday gift back in January: a book called Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores, by the New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein.
         It started as an assignment from the magazine back in 2014. The editors simply asked Eckstein to walk around New York City and draw his favorite bookstores. The piece was so well received that Eckstein expanded it into a lovely book, adding commentary from authors, bookstore owners and customers to his illustrations.
         I’ve been thinking about bookstores lately, and not just due to Eckstein’s book, or because I work part-time at Mystery to Me.
         You may have seen a sign in the window of Mystery to Me saying all are welcome here. It is a fairly recent addition, and I suspect I don’t need to explain why it’s there. A story in the New York Times in February reported that independent bookstores across the country are engaged in a similar welcoming.
         “In St. Louis,” the Times noted, “bookstore owners began planning a writer-studded event to benefit area refugees.”
         The thing is – and I know I am far from alone in this – I’ve always felt like bookstores, and especially independent bookstores, are among the most friendly and egalitarian places on the planet.
         When I’m hosting an author event at Mystery to Me, I try to make a point in the introduction of welcoming newcomers to the store and applauding – OK, I may be biased – the wonderful sense of community that Joanne has created in our store on Monroe Street.
         In a new city, one of the first places I always go is an independent bookstore. In the highly unlikely event the staff isn’t friendly, you’ve still got all those friends, hundreds or thousands of them, on the shelves.
         I remember being out in Los Angeles years ago – decades – writing an ill-fated autobiography with the football star Lyle Alzado. When Lyle didn’t feel like working on the book, which was most of the time, I found a second home at a store called Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard.
         One day in the store I looked up and spotted William Hjortsberg browsing in the aisles. A few years earlier, Hjortsberg had published Falling Angel, one of the greatest mystery/suspense novels of the last 50 years, or so it says here. (It was made into a movie called “Angel Heart,” with Mickey Rourke. Not bad, but the book is better.)
         I never approach well-known people in a public place – something about giving them their privacy – and I usually regret not doing it for the rest of my life.
         I purchased a copy of the Sam Peckinpah and Walon Green screenplay for The Wild Bunch in Book Soup. That’s something I’ve tried to do over the years: Buy a book that connects to the city and store and will make me smile later when I see it on the shelf.
         I bought a copy of the book Paris! Paris! in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the Left Bank. The book’s written by Irwin Shaw and illustrated by Ronald Searle. I remember a great line by Shaw where he notes Paris is no city in which to try to lose weight or stop drinking.
         In San Francisco, it was a Jack Kerouac biography in City Lights, the celebrated bookstore started by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The current City Lights executive director, Elaine Katzenberger, was quoted in the February New York Times piece on independent bookstores.
         “All bookstores are mission-driven to some degree,” she said. “Their mission is to inspire and inform, and educate if possible.”
         To that I would only add “entertain,” and looking over the events scheduled in March at Mystery to Me, there is much that promises to be inspiring, informative and entertaining.

  • On Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m., Greer Macallister will talk about her new novel, Girl in Disguise, a fictional take on Kate Warne, the first female private detective in America. (Yes, we are open for this event on a Monday!
  • On Thursday, March 9, I will sit down with local author Angie Stanton to talk about her new novel, Waking in Time -- It takes place on the UW-Madison campus.
  • On Saturday, March 11, Annelise Ryan will discuss Dead in the Water, a new novel featuring her coroner heroine, Mattie Winston.
  • On Tuesday, March 14 at 5 p.m., Mystery to Me will host a screening of “Wisconsin Writes,” a series from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction highlighting writers and the writing process. Schools Superintendent Tony Evers will be on hand for the event.
  • On Thursday, March 16 at 7 p.m., Madison poet David Steingass will discuss and read from Hunt & Gather: Poems New and Selected 1968-2016, a new book spanning his long and productive career.
  • On Tuesday, March 30, UW-Milwaukee English professor Rebecca Dunham will talk about and read from her new poetry collection, Cold Pastoral.                              

If you’ve never been to a Mystery to Me event, I urge you to attend one – or more – this month. As should be clear by now, everyone’s welcome. And if you get a chance, check out Eckstein’s book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores. It’s a treat. Garrison Keillor wrote the foreword. The only thing that would have made it better is if it had included Mystery to Me.

March Events & More... 

Sunday, March 5
12:30 pm
History's Mysteries Book Club discusses Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Monday, March 6
7 pm (doors open at 5 pm)
In partnership with Reading Group Choices, Mystery to Me will open its doors on a Monday evening (whoop!) to welcome back author Greer Macallister. Greer is the author of two novels. Her first novel, Magician's Lie has been billed as "Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus!" -- An illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence. Her new novel, Girl in Disguise, is about Kate Warne  -- the first female private detective in America, hired by Allan Pinkerton himself in 1856 Chicago to infiltrate the city's dark underbelly. Respect is hard to come by, but danger isn't. 

Thursday, March 9
7 pm
Doug Moe will be interviewing local author Angie Stanton about her new book, Waking in Time. Although billed as a young adult novel, folks at the store think it will be enjoyed by all ages -- especially folks who want to visit a bit of UW-Madison history. 
Angie Stanton is a life-long daydreamer who grew up with her hands on a book and her head in the clouds. As an adult, she’s put her talent to use writing contemporary fiction about life, love, and the adventures that follow. Angie has a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the best selling author of eight novels including Waking in TimeRock and a Hard PlaceSnapshotRoyally LostUnder the Spotlight, Dream Chaser, Snowed Over, and Love ‘em or Leave ‘em.

Saturday, March 11
2 pm
Annelise Ryan will be here to talk with us about her newest Mattiie Winston novel, Dead in the Water. In this book deputy coroner Mattie Winston is starting to feel like she’s in way over her head . . As the single mom of an energetic toddler and an investigator working for the medical examiner’s office in small-town Sorenson, Wisconsin, Mattie is used to her life being a juggling act. But now that she’s moved in with Detective Steve Hurley and his teenaged daughter Emily, and has started planning their wedding, her home life is looking more like a three-ring circus. And with her boss and friend, Izzy, suddenly having a health crisis, she could not be more grateful for the newest staff member in the ME’s office, Hal Dawson.

Author Annelise Ryan is a pseudonym for Beth Amos, who is also published under the pseudonym of Allyson K. Abbott.  Beth has enjoyed a varied writing career that included a stint as a book reviewer and several years of nonfiction freelancing. Now she writes only fiction, and in stark contrast to her "day job" as an ER nurse, where she gets to save lives, the one common factor in her fiction, no matter what name it's written under, is that someone always dies.

As Annelise Ryan she writes a mystery series featuring the wry, and often politically incorrect, nurse-turned-coroner, Mattie Winston, published by Kensington Books.

Tuesday, March 14
5 pm

Thursday, March 16
7 pm
Poetry with David Steingass!
HUNT & GATHER (Red Dragonfly Press, 2016) is David's seventh book of poems, the one he likes most, and the first to concern itself with prose poems. He never thought much about prose poems until he had so much trouble casting acertain poem into lines that he decided to try it as prose. The idea now, after several years, is not to worry about line breaks but instead to concentrate on developing arresting imagery and as compelling a flow of attractive language as possible. He lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 22
6 pm
Shaun Harris will be at the McFarland Public Library to discuss his wonderful mystery, The Hemingway Thief. 

Paris, 1922 -- Ernest Hemingway asks his young wife, Hadley, to pack up every last scrap of his work into a single suitcase and join him in Switzerland. While Hadley waits for her train in Gare de Lyon, the suitcase containing a year's worth of Hemingway stories vanishes, never to be seen again. Until now! 

Wednesday, March 22
6 pm
Mystery to Me Book Club discusses City of Thieves by David Benioff

Sunday, March 26
Agatha Christie Book Club discusses Appointment with Death

Thursday, March 30
7 pm
Poet Rebecca Dunham will be here to discuss her newest book of poetry, Cold Pastoral.
Rebecca grew up on the coast of southern Maine and earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia, an M.A. from Hollins University, an M.F.A. in Poetry from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.

She has published three books of poetry. Glass Armonica was published by Milkweed Editions in 2013, after winning the 2013 Lindquist & Vennum Prize. Her other collections are The Miniature Room (Truman State University Press, 2006), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, and The Flight Cage (Tupelo Press, 2010). Her fourth - and newest - collection of poems is Cold Pastoral from Milkweed Editions. 

In Spring 2015, she was the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University. She is currently Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 


April -- Save the Dates! More Great Events

Tuesday, April 11
7 pm
Lori Rader Day launches her new book The Day I Died. She'll be celebrating her new book with fellow authors Susanna Calkins and Patricia Skalka

Wednesday, April 12 - it's library week and we'll be celebrating at the Monona Public Library with Nick Petrie! Stay tuned for details! 

Friday, April 21
7 pm
Poets Catherine Jagoe and Robin Chapman will be here. 

Tuesday, April 25
7 pm
Lauren Grodstein will be here to talk about her new book Our Short History. Joanne just finished the advance copy of this book. Great story, great writing!

Wednesday, April 26
7 pm at HotelRED
Sara Paretsky will join us to talk about her newest V I Warshawski mystery, Fallout! For an assurance of a seat, we'll be asking for RSVPs. Stay tuned for details -- coming soon.

Saturday, April 29
It's Independent Bookstore Day -- a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. 

We are busy scheduling more events - including others in the pipeline for April so be sure to stay in touch with us. You just never know when your favorite author is going to be here!  
Here's a little preview of who we have scheduled beyond April: 

Todd Cox - May
Robert Alexander and Alison Townsend - May
Victoria Houston - June
Steve and Ben Nadler - June
Daniel Sharfstein - June
William Kent Krueger - August 
Robert Madigan - September
Kathleen Ernst - September 

Click on the graphic here to learn more!


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