Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway Series #1)by John Dunning
Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he's an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local bookscout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect's spine. But the suspect, sleazeball Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding murder convictions. Unfortunately for Janeway, his… See more details below
Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he's an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local bookscout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect's spine. But the suspect, sleazeball Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding murder convictions. Unfortunately for Janeway, his swift form of off-duty justice costs him his badge.
Turning to his lifelong passion, Janeway opens a 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 change in profound and shocking ways as he attempts to find out who's dealing death along with vintage Chandlers and Twains.
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 am...an 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.
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 www.oldalgonquin.com.
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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 escapeanother 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 saidthe 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 handcall 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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