My new book, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, scheduled for release next month,
is set in and near Maxwell’s Books, a fictitious store in Palo Alto, California during the summer of 1972. Palo Alto, back then, was not the epicenter of technology and business that it is today. It was still an upper-middle-class college town, although it was becoming more and more stirred up with important and divisive issues of the times.
Return with me now to those daring days of yesteryear.…
A lot is going on during the summer of 1972: Jane Fonda is touring North Vietnam, George Carlin gets arrested for obscenity, and Bobby Fisher battles with Boris Spassky over the chessboard in Iceland. Nixon is still president, although this is the summer of the Watergate break-in, which will spell the end of Nixon’s presidency.
This is a time of big social and political causes. The war in Vietnam is still raging, as is the anti-war protest, along with other movements, such as black power, gay pride, women’s liberation, and the human potential movement, not to mention the sexual revolution. Maxwell’s Books, the locale of most of Hooperman, feels like the meeting place for all these movements. It is a bookstore owned by a celebrity pacifist and staffed by artists, musicians, dopers, dreamers, and poets.
Some of that summer’s best-sellers are: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Joy of Sex, Be Here Now, The Pentagon Papers, Open Marriage, and Another Roadside Attraction. Customers who frequent Maxwell’s Books include Joan Baez, Ken Kesey, Stephen Stills, Jerry Garcia, and Wallace Stegner.
I invite you to climb aboard the time machine known as a historical novel, in this case Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, and travel back in time to the summer of 1972. I guarantee you a good ride!
Stay tuned to this station, and I’ll let you know when the book is published. Meanwhile, you might enjoy meeting a couple of the older members of the Maxwell’s staff:
Hooperman worked at the store almost a week before he caught another shoplifter, a teenager who had stuffed a Zap Comix under his Steely Dan concert tee shirt. The comic book was priced at half a dollar, so Hoop earned an extra twenty-five cents that day. Elmer was good about paying him his five dollars a day, and Hoop was still having a good time, so he decided to continue working at Maxwell’s Books as long as he could afford it.
It was easy work, although it was boring as dust except when he played like a customer and actually got interested in the books he was guarding. Hoop made friends with more of the staff, including a couple of Elmer’s old conscientious objector cronies from WWII, Pete Blanchard and Jack Davis, who squabbled over the right to take care of the Political Science section. Pete was a socialist, Jack was an anarchist, and their arguments stopped traffic all over the store. Neither one of them wanted anything to do with the section that Charley David had named The Times They Are A-Changin’. Kids’ stuff, they called it. Kids don’t know beans, they said. Charley was a painter whose jeans looked like a used palette.
“Kids these days,” Pete muttered one day when he and Jack were elbowing each other in the Politics aisle. Hooperman stood by, supposedly doing his job, mainly eavesdropping. Pete wore a jacket and tie to work and looked like a rumpled professor.
“Aaaah, give it a rest,” Jack countered. “You political dinosaur.” He hitched up his overalls and lit a Lucky Strike.
“No smoking in the store.”
“Can’t you see this place is a tinderbox, Jack? You want to burn the store down?”
Jack turned to Hoop, raised his eyebrows, wiggled his cigarette, and said, “Now there’s an idea.”