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Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway Series #1)

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First in the Cliff Janeway series from national bestselling author John Dunning.

Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he is an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local book scout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect’s spine. But the suspect, local lowlife Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding the law, and Janeway’s wrathful brand of ...

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1992 Hard Cover First Edition/4th Printing NEW Copy. NEW DJ Signed by Author NEW copy in NEW Dj. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on Full Title Page. NOT Inscribed. FIRST EDITION/4th Printing. ... No remainder marks. Not ex-library. Not price clipped. Read more Show Less

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Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway Series #1)

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First in the Cliff Janeway series from national bestselling author John Dunning.

Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he is an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local book scout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect’s spine. But the suspect, local lowlife Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding the law, and Janeway’s wrathful brand of off-duty justice costs him his badge.

Turning to his lifelong passion, Janeway opens a small bookshop—all the while searching for evidence to put Newton away. But when prized volumes in a highly sought-after collection begin to appear, so do dead bodies. Now, Janeway’s life is about to start a precarious new chapter as he attempts to find out who’s dealing death along with vintage Chandlers and Twains.

Tough, book-loving homicide detective Cliff Janeway believes Jackie Newton is to blame for the recent murder of a down-and-out rare book hunter. And when Janeway treats Newton to a brutal helping of off-duty justice, it costs him his badge. But that doesn't mean his investigation is over. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
A standout piece of crime fiction....Compelling page-turning stuff.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Irresistible....An outstanding novel.
Denver Post
A of the most enjoyable books we've read in a long time.
NY Times Book Review
A joy to read....[A] whodunit in the classic mode.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Denver cop and rare book collector Cliff Janeway is introduced in this engrossing whodunit from two-time Edgar nominee Dunning. A sensitive and introspective sort, Janeway chafes in the hard-edged role of law enforcer so often demanded of him. When a down-on-his-luck book scout named Bobby Westfall is murdered, Cliff at first suspects local thug and personal nemesis Jackie Newton. Newton's girlfriend, a victim of physical abuse, makes Cliff more determined than ever to nail Newton. Sensitivity notwithstanding, he goes after his quarry with both fists cocked and both barrels aimed, neglecting any semblance of correct police procedure. This ironic twist shapes the plot as Janeway delves further into his city's antiquarian book trade, whose practitioners display an expertise exceeded only by their greed. Crisp, direct prose and nearly pitch-perfect dialogue enhance this meticulously detailed page-turner. Mystery Guild alternate; paperback rights to Avon. (Jan.)
Library Journal
John Dunning's Booked To Die (Scribner. 1992. ISBN 0-684-19383-3. $19.95; pap. Pocket Star. ISBN 0-7434-1065-3. $7.99) is an engrossing but rather nontraditional police procedural starring Denver cop and avid rare books collector Cliff Janeway. Dunning himself owns a Denver bookstore, and his expertise is reflected in the authentic details peppering this story of Janeway's search for the murderer of book scout Bobby Westfall. Janeway combines his police skills with his knowledge of the antiquarian book trade to solve the mystery. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dunning, twice nominated for the Edgar (a pair of paperbacks), deserves to win one for this Denver cop-turned-bookman tale—a lively, seductive primer on how to open a bookstore, spot a first edition, warehouse it, price it, and enjoy it for its own sake. Cliff Janeway quits the force when he is suspended pending the outcome of brutality charges brought by his nemesis, Jackie Newton. Long a collector and frequenter of Denver's Book Row, Janeway rents space, hires the charmingly efficient Miss Pride as his assistant, and opens Twice Told Books. And, on his own time, works on a case that the Denver force has no leads on: the murder of book scout Bobby Westfall. As Janeway goes deeper and deeper into the book business, he manages to pinpoint Bobby's last day—the book dealers he sold to, the collector he bought from, and the big score he was double-crossed out of. Then a book-scout friend of Bobby's and the estimable Miss Pride are executed at Twice Told Books, and Janeway ups his investigative pace, which involves meetings (and romance) with a highly secretive rare-book dealer; scrutiny of a collection appraisal; and schmoozing with the owners along Book Row, until an alibi, like some book spines, cracks. Janeway, who can be tough, sensitive, and passionate, is a credible hero, both as cop and as book-lover. Moreover, the mystery holds its own with the atmospherics. Happily for fans, Dunning, a rare-book dealer himself, plans further Janeway books.
From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review A joy to read...[A] whodunit in the classic mode.

The Denver Post A knockout....One of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time.

The Philadephia Inquirer A standout piece of crime fiction...Compelling page-turning stuff.

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Irresistible....An outstanding novel.

Boston Sunday Globe I unabashed admirer of John Dunning's Booked to Die. No one...can fail to be delighted by the sort of folkloric advice Janeway carries with him.

San Francisco Chronicle Fascinating...Assured and muscular prose...Very cannily and creepily, Dunning shows how quiet men with civilized tastes can turn into killers...The payoff, in pleasure, is for the reader.

United Press International Very credible...An involved tale that satisfies the mystery reader's wants.

Mystery Scene Memorable...Compellng...Vivdly realistic...Fascinating and utterly convincing...A suspenseful, well-crafted mystery that should keep readers guessing right up to the closing paragraph. This novel, friends, is a keeper.

St. Petersburg Times (FL) A perfect mystery. It's intelligently written; the action is bafflingly logical; the reader learns something, and it's got a sucker punch of a finale.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) Crisp, direct prose and nearly pitch-perfect dialogue enhance this meticulously detailed page-turner.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684193830
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 1/1/1992
  • Series: Cliff Janeway Series , #1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting's most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die, which won the prestigious Nero Wolfe award; The Bookman's Wake, a New York Times Notable Book of 1995; and the New York Times and Book Sense bestsellers The Bookman's Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman's Last Fling. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated Deadline, The Holland Suggestions, and Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime. An expert on rare and collectible books, he owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years. He is also an expert on American radio history, authoring On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Visit his website at

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Read an Excerpt

BOBBY THE BOOKSCOUT was killed at midnight on June 13, 1986. This was the first strange fact, leading to the question, What was he doing out that late at night? To Bobby, midnight was the witching hour and Friday the thirteenth was a day to be spent in bed. He was found in an alley under one of those pulldown iron ladders that give access to a fire escape—another odd thing. In life, Bobby would never walk under a ladder, so it would seem ironic to some people in the Denver book trade when they heard in the morning that he had died there.

You should know something about bookscouts and the world they go around in. This is an age when almost everyone scouts for books. Doctors and lawyers with six-figure incomes prowl the thrift stores and garage sales, hoping to pick up a treasure for pennies on the dollar. But the real bookscout, the pro, has changed very little in the last thirty years. He's a guy who can't make it in the real world. He operates out of the trunk of a car, if he's lucky enough to have a car, out of a knapsack or a bike bag if he isn't. He's an outcast, a fighter, or a man who's been driven out of every other line of work. He can be quiet and humble or aggressive and intimidating. Some are renegades and, yes, there are a few psychos. The one thing the best of them have in common is an eye for books. It's almost spooky, a pessimistic book dealer once said—the nearest thing you can think of to prove the existence of God. How these guys, largely uneducated, many unread, gravitate toward books and inevitably choose the good ones is a prime mystery of human nature.

They get their stock in any dusty corner where books are sold cheap, ten cents to a buck. Ifthey're lucky they'll find $100 worth on any given day, for which an honest book dealer will pay them $30 or $40. They stand their own expenses and may come out of the day $30 to the good. They live for the prospect of the One Good Book, something that'll bring $200 or more. This happens very seldom, but it happens. It happened to Bobby Westfall more often than to all the others put together.

In one seventy-two-hour period, the story goes, Bobby turned up the following startling inventory: Mr. President, the story of the Truman administration, normally a $6 book unless it's signed by Truman, which this was, under an interesting page-long inscription, also in Truman's hand—call it $800 easy; The Recognitions, the great cornerstone of modern fiction (or the great unreadable novel, take your pick) by William Gaddis, also inscribed, $400 retail; The Magus, John Fowles's strange and irresistible book of wonder, first British edition in a flawless jacket, $300; and Terry's Texas Rangers, a thin little book of ninety-odd pages that happens to be a mighty big piece of Texas history, $750. Total retail for the weekend, $2,000 to $2,500; Bobby's wholesale cut, $900, a once-in-a lifetime series of strikes that people in the Denver book trade still talk about.

If it was that easy, everybody'd be doing it. Usually Bobby Westfall led a bleak, lonely life. He took in cats, never could stand to pass up a homeless kitty. Sometimes he slept in unwashed clothes, and on days when pickings weren't so good, he didn't eat. He spent his $900 quickly and was soon back to basics. He had a ragged appearance and a chronic cough. There were days when he hurt inside: his eyes would go wide and he'd clutch himself, a sudden pain streaking across his insides like a comet tearing up the summer sky. He was thirty four years old, already an old man at an age when life should just begin.

He didn't drive. He packed his books from place to place on his back, looking for a score and a dealer who'd treat him right. Some of the stores were miles apart, and often you'd see Bobby trudging up East Colfax Avenue, his knees buckling under the weight. His turf was the Goodwill store on Colfax and Havana, the DAV thrift shop on Montview Boulevard, and the dim-lit antique stores along South Broadway, where people think they know books. Heaven to Bobby the Book scout was finding a sucker who thought he knew more than he knew, a furniture peddler or a dealer in glass who also thought he knew books. On South Broadway, in that particular mind-set, the equation goes like this: old + bulk = value. An antique dealer would slap $50 on a worthless etiquette book from the 1880s and let a true $150 collectible like Anne Tyler's Celestial Navigation go for a quarter. When that happened, Bobby Westfall would be there with his quarter in hand, with a poker face and a high heart. He'd eat very well tonight. Like all bookscouts, Bobby could be a pain in the ass. He was a born-again Christian: he'd tell you about Christ all day long if you'd stand still and listen. There was gossip that he'd been into dope years ago, that he'd done some hard time. People said that's where he found the Lord, doing five-to-ten at Canon City. None of that mattered now. He was a piece of the Denver book world, part of the landscape, and the trade was a little poorer for his death.

He had been bludgeoned, battered into the bookscout's hereafter by a heavy metal object. According to the coroner, Bobby had felt no pain: he never knew what hit him. The body was found facedown in the alley, about three blocks from the old Denver Post. A cat was curled up at his feet, as if waiting for Bobby to wake up and take her home.

This is the story of a dead man, how he got that way, and what happened to some other people because of his death.

He was a gentle man, quiet, a human mystery.

He had no relatives, no next of kin to notify. He had no close friends, but no enemies either.

His cats would miss him.

No one could think of a reason why anyone would kill Bobby. Who would murder a harmless man like that?

I'll tell you why. Then I'll tell you who.

Copyright ) 1992 by John Dunning

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One

The phone rang. It was 2:30 A.M.

Normally I am a light sleeper, but that night I was down among the dead. I had just finished a thirteen-hour shift, my fourth day running of heavy overtime, and I hadn't been sleeping well until tonight. A guy named Jackie Newton was haunting my dreams. He was my enemy and I thought that someday I would probably have to kill him. When the bell went off, I was dreaming about Jackie Newton and our final showdown. For some reason — logic is never the strong point of a dream like that — Jackie and I were in the hallway at East High School. The bell brought the kids out for the change of classes; Jackie started shooting and the kids began to drop, and that bell kept ringing as if it couldn't stop.

In the bed beside me, Carol stirred.

"Oh, Cliff," she groaned. "Would somebody please get that goddamn telephone?"

I groped for the night table, felt the phone, and knocked the damn thing to the floor. From some distant galaxy I could hear the midget voice of Neal Hennessey, saying, "Cliff?...Cliff?...Hey, Clifford!" I reached along the black floor and found the phone, but it was still many seconds later before Hennessey took on his bearlike image in my mind.

"Looks like we got another one," Hennessey said without preamble.

I struggled to sit up, trying to get used to the idea that Jackie Newton hadn't shot me after all.

"Hey, alive yet?"

"Yeah, Neal, sure. First time I been sound asleep in a week."

He didn't apologize; he just waited.

"Where you at?" I said.

"Alley off Fifteenth, just up from the Denver Post. This one looks an awful lot like the others."

"Give me about half an hour."

"We'll be here."

I sat for another minute, then I got up and went into the bathroom. I turned on the light and looked in the mirror and got the first terrifying look at myself in the cold hard light of the new day. You're getting old, Janeway, I thought. Old Andrew Wyeth could make a masterpiece out of a face like that. Call it Clifford Liberty Janeway at thirty-six, with no blemish eliminated and no character line unexplored.

I splashed cold water on my face: it had a great deal less character after that. To finally answer Hennessey, yes, I was almost alive again. The vision of Jackie Newton rose up before me and my hand went automatically to the white splash of scar tissue just under my right shoulder. A bank robber had shot me there five years ago. I knew Jackie Newton would give a lot to put in another one, about three inches to the left and an inch or so down.

Man with an old bullet wound, by Wyeth: an atypical work, definitely not your garden-variety Helga picture.

When I came out of the bathroom Carol was up. She had boiled water and had a cup of instant coffee steaming on my nightstand.

"What now?" she said.

As I struggled into my clothes, I told her it looked like another derelict murder. She sighed loudly and sat on the bed.

She was lovely even in a semistupor. She had long auburn hair and could probably double for Helga in a pinch. No one but Wyeth would know.

"Would you like me to come with you?"

I gave a little laugh, blowing the steam from my coffee.

"Call it moral support," she said. "Just for the ride down and back. Nobody needs to see me. I could stay in the car."

"Somebody would see you, all right, and then the tongues would start. It'd be all over the department by tomorrow."

"You know something? I don't even care."

"I care. What we do in our own time is nobody's business."

I went to the closet and opened it. Our clothes hung there side by side — the blue uniform Carol had worn on yesterday's shift; my dark sport coat; our guns, which had become as much a part of the wardrobe as pants, shirts, ties, badges. I never went anywhere without mine, not even to the corner store. I had had a long career for a guy thirty-six: I'd made my share of enemies, and Jackie Newton was only the latest.

I put the gun on under my coat. I didn't wear a tie, wasn't about to at that time of night. I was off duty and I'd just been roused from a sound sleep; I wasn't running for city council, and I hated neckties.

"I know you've been saying that for a long time now, that stuff about privacy," Carol said dreamily. "But I think the real reason is, if people know about me, I make you vulnerable."

I didn't want to get into it. It was just too early for a philosophical discourse. There was something in what Carol said, but something in what I said too. I've never liked office gossip, and I didn't want people talking about her and me.

But Carol had been looking at it from another angle lately. We had been seeing each other, in the polite vernacular, for a year now, and she was starting to want something more permanent. Maybe bringing our arrangement into the public eye would show me how little there was to worry about. People did it all the time. For most of them the world didn't come to an end. Occasionally something good came out of it.

So she thought.

"I'm going back to bed," she said. "Wake me when you come in. Maybe I'll have a nice surprise for you."

She lay back and closed her eyes. Her hair made a spectacular sunburst on the pillow. I sat for a while longer, sipping my coffee. There wasn't any hurry: a crime lab can take three hours at the scene. I'd leave in five minutes and still be well within the half hour I'd promised Hennessey. The trouble is, when I have dead time — even five minutes unfilled in the middle of the night — I begin to think. I think about Carol and me and all the days to come. I think about the job and all the burned-out gone-forever days behind us. I think about quitting and I wonder what I'd do. I think about being tied to someone and anchoring those ties with children.

Carol would not be a bad one to do that with. She's pretty and bright, and maybe this is what love is. She's good company: her interests broaden almost every day. She reads three books to my one, and I read a lot. We talk far into the night. She still doesn't understand the first edition game: Hemingway, she says, reads just as well in a two-bit paperback as he does in a $500 first printing. I can still hear myself lecturing her the first time she said that. Only a fool would read a first edition. Simply having such a book makes life in general and Hemingway in particular go better when you do break out the reading copies. I listened to myself and thought, This woman must think I'm a government-inspected horse's ass. Then I showed her my Faulkners, one with a signature, and I saw her shiver with an almost sexual pleasure as she touched the paper where he'd signed it. Faulkner was her most recent god, and I had managed to put together a small but respectable collection of his first editions. You've got to read this stuff, she said to me when she was a month deep in his work. How can you collect the man without ever reading what he's written? In fact, I had read him, years ago: I never could get the viewpoints straight in The Sound and the Fury, but I had sense enough at sixteen to know that the problem wasn't with Faulkner but with me. I was trying to work up the courage to tackle him again: if I began to collect him, I reasoned, I'd have to read him sooner or later. Carol shook her head. Look at it this way, I said, the Faulkners have appreciated about twenty percent in the three years I've owned them. That she understood.

My apartment looked like an adjunct of the Denver Public Library. There were wall-to-wall books in every room. Carol had never asked the Big Dumb Question that people always ask when they come into a place like this: Jeez, d'ya read all these? She browsed, fascinated. The books have a loose logic to their shelving: mysteries in the bedroom; novels out here; art books, notably by the Wyeths, on the far wall. There's no discrimination — they are all first editions — and when people try to go highbrow on me, I love reminding them that my as-new copy of Raymond Chandler's Lady in the Lake is worth a cool $1,000 today, more than a bale of books by most of the critically acclaimed and already forgotten so-called masters of the art-and-beauty school. There's nothing wrong with writing detective stories if you do it well enough.

I've been collecting books for a long time. Once I killed two men in the same day, and this room had an almost immediate healing effect.

I've missed my calling, I thought. But now was probably years too late to be thinking about it.

Time to go.


Her eyes were still closed, but she was not quite asleep.

"I'm leaving now," I said.

"You going out to see Jackie Newton?"

"If this is what it looks like, you better believe it."

"Have Neal watch your flank. And both of you be careful."

I went over and kissed her on the temple. Two minutes later I was in my car, gliding through the cool Denver night.

Copyright © 1992 by John Dunning

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Booked to Die

    First of all, it is important to point out that the actual mystery part of this book is not terribly original or thrilling. You don't read it for that though. You read this book for its shameless indulgence of bibliomania and book collecting. I actually learned quite a bit from this book about book collecting. If you fancy yourself a bit of a bibliophile, then I can certainly suggest Booked to Die.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    Page turner is an understatement

    Spellbinding look into the oft insane world of book collecting with a great ending. Dunning packs a punch like O. Henry!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    A great series

    I had read this series in trade paperback a year or so ago. I felt at that time that John Dunning was so jaded a/o cynical that he'd never allow them to become e-books. Wasn't I surprized.

    In Cliff Janeway, Dunning gets a voice that I believe is how he might feel about life in general. When I read them before, I kept feeling that he was kind of channeling Raymond Chandler or Dashell Hammit, and that in another life, Cliff Janeway would sound like Humphry Bogart as Sam Spade.

    A burnt-out cop takes the law into his own hands to save someone. Why not, he's ready to change careers. The fallout sends him into the workd of used books. The characters he meets are as crazy as the ones he's met as a cop, with more nooks and crannies than they had ever had.

    All for the love of books, or maybe the mysteries that surround them.

    Duning has a wonderful character in Cliff Janeway. In no way is this book claasified as a "cosy mystery" but books/series like this were the bellewether for that genre. I just wish they were so cynical

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2013

    Highly recommend and waiting for the next #2

    I recommend this book to all who love books and a good mystery!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2001

    What a twist ending!

    I am pretty good at figuring out mystery novels. However, this one really caught me.Right up until the last page, I was stumped. What a good book! Constantly twisting and turning. I hope Dunning writes many, many more of Cliff Janeway novels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    would recommend to select readers

    slow beginning, gets much better,give it a 3 star rating out of 5.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2013


    Some parts are good reading, but others are superfluous, totally unnecessary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    Max is so awesome!

    Max is so awesome!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    Disagreeble people incidents violence and not what i want in my library

    Or my bookstore new or used. We buy a book to read and all else could be a commandment e g. Not covet. While i recycle all s c and h c books would hesitate just where to drop this off county jail senior center boys and girls club church community room books share with my friend used book shop for credit fortunately the nearest just had a tent sale of 30 000 books buska

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 15, 2010

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    Posted July 22, 2013

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    Posted December 3, 2013

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    Posted December 13, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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