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Work It!

Work It!

A long time ago, before I was a financial journalist specializing in Asian economics, I was an actor. And one day a casting director gave me a compliment that was among the finest I’ve ever received, though it took me some years to grasp just how fine it was. I had finished reading from the script, had stopped off the stage, and she said, “I could tell immediately that you knew what you were doing, and I could relax. I didn’t have to do any of the work.” At the time, I found this somewhat underwhelming. I wanted her to...

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It’s Been Good to Know You

I met Tony Bourdain in 1995, about nine months after my bookstore opened. I pulled the galley of his first novel, Bone In the Throat, off the slush pile, and quickly realized two things: It was really, really good, and the author was a chef in New York. So the odds were that he knew other chefs in New York, and could maybe get them to donate food for a launch party, for which we could maybe get some press. I called the publicist for the book, who was dubious. Chefs? Donating food? Never been done. But Tony was on board, so...

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In Which I Become a Mystery Fan

I was supposed to spend my final semester in college working on my honors thesis, a spectacularly turgid comparison of Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud. I did not do this. Most of my time was given over to a series of romantic dramas, with some actual paid acting work on the side. With about five days till deadline, I bought a fistful of illegal diet pills, strapped myself to my typewriter, and set to cranking out some sixty pages of deathless prose.   Come that deadline I was so twitchy from five days without sleep that I could barely make it...

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From the Vault: Nancy, We Hardly Knew Ye

From the Vault: Nancy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Generalizations are the hobgoblins of little minds, but nevertheless, I’ll make one: The vast majority of mystery readers cut their sleuthing-teeth on either Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes or the Nancy Drew series, the first volume of whichThe Secret of the Old Clock—was published in 1930 (making Nancywith her roadster and her neat bobthe very model of the Golden Age heroine). 

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Evil Fruits

Evil Fruits

My bookstore specialized in what the trade calls “hand sells” – a customer would come in and say “I’m looking for a mystery set in Istanbul,” and we’d jump up to pull a copy of Belshazzar’s Daughter, or Already Dead, for a customer craving a vampire tale, or The Hot Rock for a customer in search of “something really funny.” The requests got a lot more esoteric, of course; we were secretly convinced that some people just wanted to play Stump the Bookseller. Nevertheless, I was ill-prepared when a guy bellied up to the counter and asked if we had...

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