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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Trade secrets…

“Where do you find all of these great books?”  I almost always hear this question when we have a booth at a book fair or when some customer finds their way to our home, which houses our inventory of first editions, rapidly approaching 11,000.  It’s really not a big secret, so I won’t have to kill you if I tell you.  In fact, it’s all very public and I’m always jostling other dealers, collectors and readers to find treasures.


There are two busy times of the year for book buying for me, spring and fall.  This is when all of the Friends of the Library and AAUW groups have their fund-raising book sales.  Also, throughout the year, I buy books from various internet sites, used book stores, dealer catalogs, estate sales, customers looking to thin their collections and library shops.  Here are my statistics for the last six weeks:

25 library and AAUW sales

2 used book stores

2 dealer catalogs

3 old boxes purchased in some previous year, but never processed

1009 miles on the van

794 books processed into inventory


Dead Letter Hell or Going Postal

It all started the day before Thanksgiving, 2010 when I took a package to the Royal Oak post office to ship 11 books to a new customer, who lives less than a two hour drive north of me.  Let’s call him John.  Two days later, the USPS website showed that the box had made it to the right post office, but was deemed undeliverable as addressed.  Then the fun really began.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of being returned to me, the box showed up in Atlanta, then Memphis, then Allen Park, MI, then Warrendale, PA, then Atlanta, then Memphis, then Allen Park, then Atlanta.  I must admit that I have had no experience with this.  I’ve been packaging and shipping books for over fifteen years and have never had a problem.

Of course, during this period, I had several conversations with John (my customer) and with post office personnel.  None of us were worried, it being the holiday shipping season, so it wasn’t until after the holidays that things escalated.  John, his local postmaster and I had a conference call and some form got filled out to try to find the package.  No success.

The local clerk gave me a phone number for a group that resolves issues.  When my call was never returned, I asked about it one day while shipping packages.  The clerk next to us asked what number I was calling and, when I showed it to her, said that was her old number and she had not been replaced, so no one was answering that phone!  She made copies of my receipt and delivery confirmation slip and said she would call Atlanta.  Several days later someone finally answered her call and the package was found.  More than several days after that, the package finally was delivered to John.  I’m not sure why it wasn’t forwarded from Atlanta using overnight shipping and at least priority mail, but after 10 weeks on the road its journey was over.  John was a great sport during all these shenanigans.  He said the box was battered (see photo) but the books were intact.

Free bag when you purchase 2 books

If you have one book, you really don’t need anything to carry it in, right?  But if you have two, well, then that’s another story.  So buy two books from our website and get a handy, eco-friendly bag in which to tote them around!  Or buy from us at one of two upcoming book fairs and get one free with your purchase!

13 book hacks for the library crowd

Of course you should be buying books from us but heck, even I check them out at the library.  I can’t be trusted with a $250 first edition in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other.  Our library makes it easy: I can browse online to reserve the books I want and  I get an email when they’re ready for pickup.

Here are some tips from the highly useful website Lifehacker.com on how to get the most out of your local library.

Oil spill in the gulf? Get me Bruce Willis!

In the June 18, 2010 Entertainment Weekly (no link available), Stephen King recalls the movie Armageddon.  In it, Bruce Willis is an oil rig roughneck drafted by the government’s Billy Bob Thornton to lead a team of space cowboys into the wild blue yonder to split an asteroid and save the planet.

“Armageddon is full of resonant lines, if you’ve been following the Gulf oil-spill story,” King writes. “Bruce Willis asks Billy Bob, ‘You’ve gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?’ To which the redoubtable Mr. Thornton replies, ‘No we don’t have a backup plan.’   That qualifies him for the BP board of directors in my opinion …”

Ken continues to disagree with all this and has an APB out for Dirk Pitt to cap the well and clean up the oil, just in time to hook up with that hot female marine biologist …

Elmore Leonard Literary Arts and Film Festival

The Birmingham, MI Community House (just a hop, skip and a jump up the road from us here in Royal Oak, Mich.) will honor homie Elmore Leonard November 10-13 with short story and film competitions, a screening of the pilot of the TV series “Justified” and a gala tribute to Dutch.  Read more

Marcus Sakey reviews Lee Child

In the latest Mystery Scene magazine, Marcus Sakey reviews Lee Child’s first book, Killing Floor.  He says, “Writing is about rhythm and balance and enticement.  It’s a dance, a seduction.  One good sentence eases a reader into the next one.  At a glance, Child’s basic structure and matter-of-fact description seem simplistic.  But there is a subtle, calculated beat to it that pulls a reader through like a drum for a march.  When someone says that they couldn’t put a book down, that’s only partly because they wanted to find out what happened; it’s also because the rhythm of the prose never game them the chance.”

Awards season

Mystery Scene Magazine posts the winners of the Agatha and Edgar awards and the Ellis and Poe nominations here.

Oil spill solution

BP hasn’t been able to fix the problem with the oil spill.  Our national economy and ecology are in dire peril.  What I want to know is why hasn’t President Obama asked for help from NUMA and Dirk Pitt?

Featured in Fine Books Magazine blog

At opening night of the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, we met Christopher Lancette, blogger for Fine Books Magazine.  He featured Ken in that night’s post.  See it here