Saturday, August 24, 2013

Farewell Elmore Leonard…Welcome Hooperman!

First off, let me say that like many writers and readers of mystery fiction, I bid an affectionate and respectful farewell to Elmore Leonard, the genius who died this week. Leonard’s crime novels never fail to entertain, because he was such a master of his craft. On the bright side, we can be glad that he left behind such a rich reading list of books to enjoy, books that will never become dated or old. 

On a personal note, I want to shout the news that yesterday I received my advance reading copies (ARCs) of my forthcoming novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery. My publisher, Oak Tree Press, has done a beautiful job of book design, and the cover image is a knockout. My assignment now is to read the book carefully one more time to ferret out any remaining sneaky typos. I will also be sending my review copies off to print and online media that have reviewed my earlier mysteries kindly.

Hooperman Johnson is a tall, bushy-bearded man of few words. He works as a bookstore cop, catching shoplifters in the act. It’s a difficult job for a man with a severe stammer, but somebody’s got to do it, because Maxwell’s Books is getting ripped off big-time. And, more and more, it looks like the thief works for the store.
Who’s stealing the books? Martin West, the foul-mouthed nutcase in charge of shipping and receiving? Millie Larkin, who hates the boss because he’s a man? Could it be Lucinda Baylor, the dark and sassy clerk that Hoop’s in love with? Jack Davis, the socialist, or Frank Blanchard, the anarchist? Or maybe even Elmer Maxwell himself, the world-famous pacifist bookseller?
Set in the summer of 1972, the summer of the Watergate break-in, Hooperman is a bookstore mystery without a murder, but full of plot, full of oddball characters, full of laughs, full of danger, and full of love, some of it poignant, some of it steamy.

So that’s what Hooperman: A Bookstore Novel is about, briefly. In future posts I’ll go into greater detail about the plot and the pleasures of this book I’m so fond of, this mystery I hope you’ll like when it’s published this fall. I’ll also include quotes from the novel, hoping to tease you into wanting to read more.
 Meanwhile, I wonder how Elmore Leonard would respond if ever he were to read Hooperman. I realize that’s a pretentious thing to wonder, but it so happens that Dutch Leonard left us ten fine rules for writing, which you can find at I can’t help giving my novel a physical exam, using Dr. Leonard’s criteria.
 Hooperman does not start with a weather report, and there’s no prologue. I don’t use substitutes for “said” to carry dialogue, although I occasionally use “asked” and now and then “answered,” and I never use adverbs to modify “said.” My exclamation marks are under control, but this story has its share of miscommunication and anger, so there are a occasional bangs. No “suddenly.” No “All hell broke loose.” (I confess that when the bookstore is firebombed, “The world blew apart.”) I don’t use regional dialect, but I do have characters speak in quirky ways, germane to the plot. I don’t spend a lot of words describing people, places, or things, other than to point out details that drive the story. I hope nobody will want to skip any parts of the book, but that’s ultimately up to the reader.
So how did I do? I’d like to believe Mr. Leonard might give me a B+. I’ll never know. But the reader I most need to entertain is you. So stay tuned.…


  1. Looking forward to reading Hooperman, John. Sounds like a winner to me.

    1. I appreciate that, John. I hope you'll like it.

  2. Congrats on your new book, and love the cover! Madeline

  3. Thanks for writing about Elmore Leonard, John. I love his work and will probably now re-read some of it. We discuss his 10 Tips in my classes. I'm delighted for you and the new book. The characters and the setting sound great. Maybe I'd better check my memoir for any no-no's, according to Leonard! (yes, I know, an exclamation point.) Enjoy the process of getting Hooperman out into the world.

    1. I'd be interested to know what your students think of Leonard's ten rules. I don't think they're for everybody, and may not work so well for memoir.