Saturday, February 15, 2014


Last week, on the evening of February 6th, I celebrated the publication of my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, at Books Inc., a fine independent bookstore in Palo Alto, California. I made a few remarks, read four short passages from the book, answered questions from the audience, and signed books.

 This was a thrilling rite of passage for me, as successful book signings always are. It was a sentimental occasion, too, for a number of reasons. It was a joy to read from, talk about, and sign copies of a book that celebrates the joy of bookselling and my fondness for the Midpeninsula area where I lived for twenty years. It so happens that my novel, Hooperman, takes place in a Palo Alto bookstore in the summer of 1972. It also happens that during the 1970s I worked for a fine independent bookstore, Kepler’s Books and Magazines, just up the road from Palo Alto. And although the bookstore in my book, Maxwell’s Books, is fictitious, I can’t deny that it closely resembles the Kepler’s Books I remember so fondly.

Another sentimental connection: I graduated from Stanford University in December 1964, nearly 50 years ago. My very first job out of college was to help out during Christmas rush at the Peninsula Bookshop, a bookstore I already knew and admired. That job lasted only two weeks, but it got me started working for bookstores on the Midpeninsula. By coincidence, the Peninsula Bookshop (which years later went the way of most independent bookstores and closed its doors) was located only a few doors from the current location of Books Inc. So appearing right there seemed to close a circle for me.

The most meaningful sentimental feeling I got from that evening was pleasure of seeing friends. The house was packed. There were a number of old friends and fellow Kepler’s alumni, people I had worked alongside in the 1970s. There were also a couple of classmates from my years as a Stanford undergraduate. My favorite teacher, Nancy Packer from the Stanford Creative Writing Program, was there. Several authors whom Susan and I have published in recent years were there. Not only that, but my son Ben, and his wife, Anne, and their three children showed up. I can’t overstate the thrill I felt to be in the company of new friends, old friends, and family for this milestone evening. There were also some unfamiliar faces in the audience, and their smiles warmed me too.

I’ll close by saying I believe Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery to be worthy of all the attention it got that gratifying evening. I’m fond of this book, probably because it’s all about the joy of bookselling, the nobility of independent bookstores, and the absolute wonder of that remarkable invention: the book. It also combines a couple of love stories and tosses in a crime to be solved.

To learn more about Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, check out this page:

Saturday, February 1, 2014


For this month’s invitational 99-word story collection, I asked writers to send me stories with the following title or first line: “I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone.”

Here are this month’s stories, and a fine bunch of family secrets they are.

by June Kosier

My father’s dog, Kap, got loose on Thanksgiving Day while Dad was out. Kap later came home with a fully cooked turkey and had the best meal he ever had.
Mom swore me to secrecy. Dad would be upset if he knew Kap had gotten away, and the neighbors would be furious that they would not have a Thanksgiving turkey.
Forty years later, when my father was dying, we spent an afternoon reminiscing. I confessed to him the secret I had about Kap. He laughed his head off and could not believe I could keep a secret for that long.


By Anne Schroeder

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone. But I lied. Not lied, exactly; I’m a sanguine, and the world is entitled to my business. In fact, I insist on it.
“Sheepherders came this morning,” Dad remarked at breakfast. “You girls leave those Basque boys be.”
Jareguy’s weathered gypsy wagon smelled of sweat and mutton. A jug of table red, one bowl, no cup. Banked embers in the cook stove illuminated the cot.
“Ya,” he blushed.
No English. We smiled a lot.
Afterwards, I stepped into the sunlight and my father’s frown.
Baa-baa, sheep.


By Jerry Giammatteo

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone. Until now. Uncle Alfie is an alcoholic.
When we were kids, he was always boisterous at family barbecues and functions. He made us kids laugh, but our parents seemed uncomfortable. He was hilarious. We loved him. Alfie would join our waffle ball games and hit the ball a mile, though he could hardly stand. He was a happy drinker.…
Recently, I was at the mall and heard my name called. It was Uncle Alfie. He told me proudly he hadn’t had a drink in years.
He looked great.

by Christine Viscuso

“I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone,” Zoe whispered to her best friend, Zu Zu.
Zu Zu jumped on Zoe’s bed. “Tell me. I’m all ears. I’ll keep your secret.”
“After my birth, my mom decided she was better off a man and my dad decided he should have been a woman. They went to Europe to have surgeries. Now I call Mom ‘Dad’’ and Dad ‘Mom.’“
Zu Zu, upon leaving Zoe’s, retrieved her iPhone and pressed her second best friend Amelia’s number.
Amelia barely said hello when Zu Zu blurted, “Don’t tell anyone, but…”

Note: Christine Viscuso has another story at the end of this post.


by Jill Evans

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone, but one year they had a fight. They were so angry that no amount of talking could bring them back together.
At the time, I was writing for Hallmark. Separately, each came to me asking if I would compose a poem expressing sorrow and asking forgiveness. I did, and the next day they were in love again.
Neither parent discovered the source of the letter, but to this day their affection for each other has endured. They’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on, of all days, Valentine’s Day.


by Phyllis Povell

It was the mid-1930s and Dad was driving a cab and Mom was taking care of two young children. On the Sabbath, they shared half of a chicken and soup made with old carrots and wilted celery. Other nights, they ate eggs or noodles with butter. They knew they couldn’t go on like this.
They applied for public assistance. No one was ever to know the shame they felt. Dad came home at three a.m., and while ashamed, he knew his family was being provided for.

When I was born, dad’s full-time job enabled them to be self-sufficient.


Attention all writers—
Next month’s prompt: Make up a story about a fight or argument that changed or threatened to end your relationship with your best friend. (Notice I said “Make up a story.” Use your imagination.)

Here are the rules:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot, characters, and conflict.
4. The deadline: the first of the month.
5. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:


Coda: The following story arrived too late to include last month, owing to a cyberglitch.

by Christine Viscuso

“They’re gone!”
“Wha’dya mean, Lettie?”
“Harry, all my books are gone. Stolen!”
“Officer Sherlock Lepage here; what seems to be the problem?”
“I’m Harry Booker and this is my wife, Lettie. We’ve been robbed.”
“What is missing?”
“All three thousand of my books are gone.”
“Calm down, Mrs. Booker.”
“Yeh, Lettie. They’re just books.”
“They also stole your entire Tommy Bahama shirt collection.”
“The cads. Officer, I demand you track down these terrible miscreants.”

“And they took all my stuffed dogs. The beasts left a book behind which isn’t mine, however. It’s a book on how to avoid clutter.”