This week I've had some wild posts on my blog about radical publishing ideas. In one of the discussions someone raised a point that set me thinking about something.

I think most people here will find their referrals the same way others do, so it may be a moot point to ask, but I'll ask these questions anyway.

When, if ever, was the last time you just wandered through the bookstore, pulled a book off the shelf, read the back cover (or first page if that's your thing) and took it home and fell in love with an author?

That was how I was converted to crime fiction. I'd learned my lesson about six years ago now, about those nasty end-cap displays because I tried some stuff from them and it was crap. (I know this is highly subjective and not always the case, but at the time I knew nothing about the publishing business.) I actually went to -gasp!-the mystery section and started pulling down books.

That was how I discovered Rankin. No ads. No end-caps. No reviews. No idea who he was and didn't really care (then) - but I loved the book and bought all his stuff.

Do any of you guys still do that? Sometimes I do...

When was the last time you fell in love with a new-to-you author and how did it happen?

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Our BAM has a table with used library books for $3. I discovered Loren D. Estleman there. I read the first chapter of Retro and thought, "Why haven't I been reading this guy all my life?"
You asked for it. This is just going to be for 2007.

Burn by Sean Doolittle - I got this after reading The Cleanup which I loved.

Black Maps by Peter Spiegelman - I got this after reading Red Cat which I didn't LOVE but I liked it enough to want to read more about the character.

Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel - I got this after reading Probable Cause which I thought was fantastic.

The Blade itself by Marcus Sakey - I got this because of various blogs and websites. I loved it.

Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover - I got this because of various blogs and websites. I loved it.

Lost Dog by Bill Cameron - I got this because of your blog Sandra. I liked it a lot but didn't love it. It had a couple problems but I will read other books by him.

African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou - I got this because of your blog Sandra. I liked it a lot.

Con Ed by Matthew Klein - This was a really good caper/con-men book. At the very least I'm curious about his next book -- but I may wait for paperback on the next one.

Red Cat - As I said above I had some problems with this book but I liked the character enough to go get the first book.

Probable Cause by Theresa Schwegel - I liked this enough to go buy her first book.

Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner - I'm reading this now. I like it so far.

Ice by Vladimir Sorokin - I saw this on an "Employee Recommendations" shelf at Borders

Smoked by Patrick Quinlan - It looked cool so I bought it.

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter - I got this because of Daniel's blog. It's damn good.

Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile - I got this because of a conversation here at Crimespace. Its fucking brilliant and it broke my heart.

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall - I read something online about this while I was looking for something else. It weird. I liked it but I'm still digesting it.

Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny - I saw this on a blog somewhere ( I forget which one). It kicks ass like a summer time action movie. I cant wait for the sequel later this year.

Chasing the Dead by Joseph Schreiber - I bought this on a whim because the publisher had it priced at $16.95. An awesome book. I'm looking forward to his next book later this year.

I also read this great book. At the end of the year not only will it be one of the years best books but it will also rank among my favorites. The characters were three dimensional, real & interesting. The story was grand and intimate all at the same time. I cared for the characters and wanted only the best for them. The story pulled me along and I couldn't stop reading until I had basically devoured it in a little less then 2 days. In this gifted authors hands the two leads could become the next Patrick & Angie.

The book?

Suspicious Circumstance by Sandra Ruttan.

You'll break my heart if its your last book. Years from now when you are building an addition on to your house for all of your awards I'll be able to say that I read you from the beginning.
Wow, what a list Brian! Glad you liked African Psycho.

And, well... I'll email you. It won't be my last book, just (as we've discussed) most likely will be the only book with those characters.

Funny that when I started I (knowing nothing about this business) just thought about getting a Canadian publisher. Apparently I'm far too dark to be published in my own country. I should move to Scotland.
African Psycho - One of the things that I fouind the most interesting was that the main charcter was so bad at what he did. Except for the initial crime against is foster brother he coasted on rep. from that point on. Everything else he touched turned to shit.

Of course all of this was buried in the subjective first person narrative.

Interesting take on it all.
I do wander the shelves of my local bookstore, but if I find a book by a new author that looks interesting, I don't reach for my wallet. I look for a pen and paper. Then I head for the library. I grew up with a librarian, and using my local library is pretty much drilled into my DNA. If I get the book from the library and I like, then I'll consider buying the author's books, but only then.

If a new author is highly recommended by someone I trust or by a lot of people, then I may be willing to take the plunge right away.

This may sound harsh, but with so many mediocre books out there today, no one's getting my hard-earned cash without proving to me that they earned it.
I have bought books just through sampling them in the bookstore and getting hooked, but I do most of my shopping for crime and mystery books in The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore in Scottsdale, and I rarely buy a book without soliciting the opinion of my friend Patrick Millikin, a bookseller at the store whose knowledge of crime fiction is incredibly broad and who likes the same kind of stuff I do.
I used to purchase a fair number of signed firsts from The Poisoned Pen by phone/mail. (I live in Washington State.) Patrick was my go-to guy, as well. I found much of what Patrick recommends is noir, darkly atmospheric, hard-boiled, quirky, and/or violent. Also highly collectible. If you like what he likes, then you and I may be kindred spirits. I always found the newsletter to be quite informative, too. And every author I've talked to says Barbara Peters is "a force of nature."

Nowadays, aside from recommendations I get from various blogs, I rely on suggestions from the fine folks at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, usually Janine Wilson, because she shares my tastes. But over the years, owner, JB Dickey, and founder, Bill Farley, have never steered me wrong, either.
Yes, I am similar Norby, can't afford many full price new books! Before discovering the world of crime/noir blogs I would mostly choose new authors by wandering the shelves, but now I am more likely to be influenced by online mentions from trusted sites. Still wander the library bookshelves to look for new authors mind...

Recent new authors solely from the bookshelves:-
Newton Thornburg (Cutter and Bone)
Paco Taibo II (The Uncomfortable Dead)
Nick Stone (Mr Clarinet)
Mark Mills (Amangansett and Savage Garden)
Not too often - but that's because there aren't a lot of bookstores in my neighborhood. I do it when I go to one of the wonderful mystery indies in Minneapolis - Uncle Edgar's or Once Upon a Crime. I bought a pile o' books at Once Upon a Crime a few weeks ago. It's a great store and I want to support them. Some were books the owners had singled out with shelf talkers, and some were just ... there.

I also keep a running list of books I want to read, but because our interlibrary loan is fabulous in Minnesota that's usually where I turn first. If I bought all the crime fiction I want to read I'd have to turn to a life of crime. And I don't think the selection in the prison library is quite as good as it is outside.
I used to discover the odd gem like that from time to time. Especially at the library. Since I've joined forums like this though, I mostly find new authors from word of mouth.
Ah Giles Blunt. So wonderful. Another library find that turned into a must buy.
Probably the most recent for me was Karin Fossum. I was in Murder by the Book in Houston and decided I'd pick up a foreign (not British) mystery. I pulled out "Don't Look Back" and was hooked from that moment.

I had a similar experience with Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, on the sci-fi side. I have no idea why I picked up that book - at the time I had no idea how big it was. But it is to date one of the very best and most emotionally draining novels I've run across.


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