Tucson’s bookstore bonanza

The skinny on the town’s literary landscape

Collect those stickers and bookmarks.

Arizona’s biggest close-to-the-border city, Tucson, is a literary oasis.

Driving down the streets one might see cowboy hats, MAGA hats, and camouflage hats, but you might also see bookstores dotting the landscape behind them, a lot of bookstores. And some damn good ones. Book lovers visiting Tucson, or those new to town, will find oodles of retail to fit their reading needs.

(Click the header to visit each bookstore’s website)

Barnes and Noble

There are two in Tucson, with one right smack in the middle of town and another to the north. Coffee shops inside a bookstore always make the trip more fun, as do aisles and aisles of books. Those who have gone to B&N know they also have print magazines, collectibles, stationary, and way more. It’s great to see them humming with activity after dark.

Bookmans

Bookmans Midtown location.

Bookmans is something of an Arizona tradition. There are stores in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and in Tucson, the birthplace of the chain, there are three locations. Here one can find used books in every genre, graphic novels and comics, merchandise from jewelry to toys, musical instruments, video games, and all in between. They even sell new books. Not just that, but bring in your old books (and other stuff) and you might just get store credit to spend there. Visits are like a trip to a literary Disneyland. You never know where to look first.

Antigone Books

Be kind at Antigone Books

Smack dab downtown, this local hotspot is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the area. Full of helpful staff, the bookstore offers new books, mugs, bookmarks, stuffed animals, and more. The vibe is alive with bookish charm. Here you can find any number of book groups to join, author events to attend, and even learn about how they power the store with solar energy. The place is simply a must-go Tucson experience.

Mostly Books

Mostly Books is a place readers can get lost in. The store is long with reading nooks and rooms filled floor to ceiling with stories of all genres. Here it’s easy to find books written by local talent, attend book signings, and join in with monthly book groups. Nicely located on Speedway, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes stopping here a definite addition to your bibliophile checklist.

Clues Unlimited

You don’t need a magnifying glass to find it.

You like your library with some sleuthing, some killing, and some crime? That would be Clues Unlimited. They’ve got paperback cozies, local crime and mystery authors, hardback noir, and more – all packed into a cute little spot. Be sure to take the time and browse around and say hi to that cute dog that hangs out there.

Book Stop

Is that the smell of old books in the Book Stop, cigars, or what? Either way you’ll get that book jones satisfied at this place, which carries a ton of used, ultra-rare, and out of print titles for your reading pleasure, not to mention a chunk of scholarly tomes to peruse. Grab a chair and pony up to this reading mecca.

Tucson in action (in a readerly way)

These are just a taste of what the community offers those who carry books or e-readers around with them, or anyone who likes to shop. There’s also the bookstore for the University of Arizona and other sellers around town. Not just confined to stores, many of the bookstores represent at local events and festivals with their own tables.

To top it all off, Tucson is home to one of the biggest literary festivals in the nation. The Tucson Festival of Books is held each March and is one hell of an affair. Check their website to get a taste of what you’ll see – between trips to bookstores naturally.

Read an excerpt from Call Down the Thunder: A crime novel by Dietrich Kalteis

Call Down the Thunder
By Dietrich Kalteis
ECW Press (October 15, 2019)

Dietrich Kalteis has produced another gem with his latest historical crime novel, “Call Down the Thunder,” out this month from ECW Press. Read the description below followed by an excerpt of the novel courtesy of ECW. Find your copy here!

Amazon.com description:

Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm.
In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.

Author photo by Andrea Kalteis.

Call Down the Thunder book excerpt:

Not getting out of Kansas tonight. The dusk was coming on.

Clara sat on the bumper. The steam had stopped rising from under the hood. Had only been the one truck drive by since she broke down. Likely end up sleeping in the truck.

Then she heard it, coming from a long way off, raising dust behind it. An old Packard with the square cab, the headlights high and on either side of the windshield, the kind of truck they used for delivering the post when she was a kid. This one painted brown, gold lettering down the wood-
paneled sides. The driver slowed to a stop and leaned across the seat, calling out the window.

“Got trouble?”

Some kind of scorn would likely have the man driving off. Clara smiled and said, “Darn thing started clunking and blowing steam, then quit. Sure be grateful in case you got some water to spare, mister.” Clara sizing the man up, medium height with a hawk nose, bug eyes and bushes for eyebrows and sideburns, looked harmless enough.

“Your lucky day. Water’s my game,” he said, pointing at the lettering down the side.

Eugene Cobb, Rainmaker.

Getting out, he stuck a bowler on his head, came around the front bumper and said his name, looking over the old Hudson, never seen something on the road with this little paint left on it.

“Rainmaker, huh?” She smiled and said her name.

“Spoken with the note of the skeptic, Clara.” Pulling open his passenger door, Eugene took a canteen from behind the seat, giving it a shake and offering it to her.

“You make it?” Taking it, she smiled and had a drink. Couldn’t believe how good it felt going down.

“Pumped it fresh this morning.”

“Let me ask, how you go about making it rain, Eugene?” She drank some more.

Crooking a finger, he wanted her to follow to the rear of his truck, flapping back the musty canvas. Behind some packs and tubs of supplies stood a kind of mortar on a tripod, strapped to the truck’s floor. A simple affair of a tripod base, a long barrel and a bipod mount. The thing painted black with his name painted gold along its barrel.

“That like a cannon?”

“Cannon’s more an artillery gun, fires a flat trajectory. Roundshot mostly.” He climbed up in back. “What I fire’s more of a canister shot, what I call my Cobb-busters.”

“Shoot them where?”

“The sky, of course.”

“Can I ask why?” She drank some more.

“Causes it to concuss, see? Makes it rain.”

Clara looked up at the cloudless evening, the moon and stars starting to show.

“Can see you’re a doubting Debbie.”

“Never seen a fella do it, blast the sky, is all.” She looked at the tubs of sulfur and black powder, bottles of colored liquid, some labeled ether.

“Pack them special, my Cobb-busters.” Reaching a hollow tube with welded propellent fins, his name down the side. Cradling it in his arms, he explained about removing the explosive, how he repacked it, then dropped it in the cast-iron tube, how it hit the firing pin and shot into the heavens, the special blast bringing about the rain. Saying, “I calculate the trajectory, windspeed and velocity, you see?” Smiling, Eugene set the missile back down, pushed a pack aside and came up with a jug, sloshing it around, holding it out.

“What’s this?”

“Water . . . for your radiator.”

“You make it?” She smiled again, handing the canteen back.

Tossing the empty canteen to the corner, he hopped down, took the jug over to her truck, looking under the folded hood. He scraped remnants of seeds and nuts from the radiator, pointing to where some rodent had chewed through the tubes.

Clara leaned in and saw what he was pointing at.

“Little buggers built nests, see there?”

“How far you figure I’ll get?”

“Was wondering how you got this far.” Shaking his head, he set the hood down. “Need a new hose, at least that.”

“Saying I’m damn out of luck.”

“Well, I can offer you a lift.”

Clara looked up the road, then back the way she’d come, then at him. “Where to?”

Excerpted from Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis. © 2019 by Dietrich Kalteis. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd. www.ecwpress.com

BOOK REVIEW: Resurrections in the Dark by Janice Blaze Rocke dives into a world of sex, drugs, and the human condition

Monterey-based author Janice Blaze Rocke weaves a dark, character-driven tale in her memoir of life along the San Francisco corridor, firmly rooting herself as a literary force to be reckoned with and a welcome addition to the Central Coast’s pool of talented writers.

Resurrections in the Dark follows young Janice through a tumultuous time in her life – as a stripper and budding drug addict in the 1980s, but also as a woman hopelessly in love with the wrong person.

The memoir reads like a continuous breath, keeping us hooked through every chapter, and rarely comes up for air. Like Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Jack Kerouac, and others, her words work soulful charms and deliver a stark lesson in both humanity and fate, mixed with a few sultry passages.

Resurrections in the Dark has earned a place among the literary bookshelves of Monterey and San Francisco, as it tells the story of these cities just as much as it tells her own riveting story.

Pick up a copy on Lulu here, or on Amazon here, or in bookstores throughout Monterey County.

Faceless Nun legends

It’s a common trope in today’s horror genre to feature the more frightening aspects of religion, particularly when it comes to nuns and exorcisms, as a means to explore our fears.

Across the world, there are hordes of legends of religious spirits, including that of the “Faceless Nun.” While largely an urban legend, sightings of a mysterious Faceless Nun (nothing but flesh or darkness where your eyes, nose, and mouth should be) have in fact been reported across the globe. Anything without a face is creepy enough, but add a splash of religious attire and it’s enough to melt every spine on the block.

In Italy, three faceless nuns of the Torba Monastery are said to wander the countryside due to an unfinished mural. The three faces, perfect ovals, were never completed.

Art plays a factor in other areas as well. It’s commonly believed the original Faceless Nun was an artist in the midst of a self-portrait (a selfie made with paint and patience) who was called to service without the time to paint her facial features. She died an unfortunate death before she could ever complete the painting and, to this day, her spirit is cursed to walk the earth with no face. A 1940 account placed this tale overseas in France, while another focuses on St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana at around the same time.

The Terra Haute, IN, legend states the nun perished of an illness before she could complete her self-portrait. Numerous accounts of a ghostly nun have persisted in Catholic women’s college, including one from a nun who encountered a woman sobbing in the college’s church. When she approached the pew where the woman sat, she realized she too was a nun, but not just any ordinary nun. This one had no face.

While the account of the college’s faceless nun has been disputed by someone who was there at the time, stories of a faceless nun have only grown over the years. My new city, Tucson, is even thought to be the home of a faceless nun – perhaps the same faceless nun but likely another wandering soul with no smile.

Cathedral of St. Augustine in 1897

The Cathedral of Saint Augustine, at 192 South Stone Avenue, is the seat for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Built in 1858, the church has changed a great deal since its meager two-room beginnings. Like most old buildings, it has its share of ghost stories, including its very own tale of the Faceless Nun. There the apparition has been seen levitating above the ground in the courtyard, at least according to a local ghost guide. From there the tale has only grown.

Is there a Faceless Nun or other famous apparition where you live?

BOOK REVIEW: Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien a tasty recipe for clever mysteries

I dove into Dim Sum of All Fears (the second in the Noodle Shop Mystery series) and found a gem in the contemporary cozy mystery scene. The first in the series, Death by Dumpling, will now be my second to get me back on track with these remarkable stories. That makes sense, right?

This delicious series by Vivien Chien features amateur sleuth Lana Lee, who works at her parents’ restaurant in Cleveland, but wants a little more for herself. What she doesn’t want, but always gets, is to wind up in a mess of drama. Bummer for her, but lucky for us.

In Dim Sum we find Lana running Ho-Lee Noodle House while her folks take a vacation to Taiwan. Add to this the discovery of two corpses in the shop next door, a budding romance with a police detective, and suddenly Lana has more on her plate than she can handle. Who would have thought Cleveland could be this smashing?

For me, a fan of horror and crime fiction, Lana’s adventure was a shift in the type of books I typically enjoy. It’s a good idea to try something new and I wasn’t disappointed with Dim Sum. The mystery is a “cozy,” similar in a way to Agatha Christie or Elizabeth Peters, dare I say Holmes, but with a contemporary style and an appealing sense of creativity. I can see the down-to-Earth, donut-loving Lana among the ranks of Sherlock and Marple in the coming years.

The clever book titles are rich, which is likely what drew me to try the mystery in the first place. This includes the fourth entry, Wonton Terror, which comes out later this month. Now that I’m hooked, I’m looking forward to reading what’s next for the cast of characters at Ho-Lee Noodle House.

Keep serving up the Lana Lee stories!

I never really ended up craving Dim Sum though. Weird.

Haunted Monterey County – in stores September 30th, 2019

Coming September 30th, Haunted Monterey County by Patrick Whitehurst will delve into the paranormal activity of the California Central Coast just in time for Halloween 2019.

From Los Coches Adobe to the haunted inns of Carmel, Whitehurst will take you on a tour of the scariest locales in the county.

Haunted Monterey County features historic photos and illustrations by California artist Paul Van de Carr.

Available for preorder on Amazon.com.

Michael Newton – a chat with an amazing author

Michael Newton is one of the hardest working writers in the industry. He’s published more than 335 books, some under a different name, including The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, a number of fiction series such as the M.I.A. Hunter, The Gun westerns, and plenty more. His work in non-fiction is as prolific as his work in fiction. He’s written books on the subject of writing, as a matter of fact, which anyone interested in writing should read.


He’s also well known for his contributions to The Executioner series originally created by Don Pendleton and he’s even written for The Destroyer series. Newton got his start as a “ghost author” for the Mack Bolan Executioner titles and has written 131 “episodes” of the popular man-of-action series to date, with more on the way.

Beginning in 2018 and ending this year in 2019, he penned a series of 10 novels for Wolfpack Publishing based on the history of the Federal Bureau of investigations. In Honor Bound is the first of the series. Set in 1917, it follows three law school graduates as they set out to join the fray for World War I. Before they get a chance to register for service, J. Edgar Hoover extends to them an invitation to join the U.S. Department of Justice.


The series charts the Bureau’s history through the lives of five families: the Gantts, the O’Haras, the Giordanos, the Sawyers, and the Babins. Book 10, When Honor Dies, features a world of terrorism threats from the home front and from the Middle East. The fates of the series’ families are revealed amidst the tragedy of 9/11.

I recently had the honor of talking to Michael about his writing. He said he first got the idea for The Bureau series in 1986.


“I’ve long enjoyed similar (much better!) series by Max Alan Collins, John Jakes, Stephen Hunter and W.E.B. Griffin, but I fell far short of their great achievements this time around. Toward the end it felt a bit like Vietnam or Afghanistan: no exit,” Newton said.


When it comes to his writing, Newton said he’s wanted to be a writer ever since he learned how to put words on paper in grade school. He’s currently hard at work on a new Executioner title, the first ever biography of Albert Anastasia, and much more.


“The money [was] also an attraction, freeing me from a dead-end Nevada teaching job in 1986 and allowing me to write full-time ever since,” Newton said. “For years the Bolan work represented roughly half my yearly income, but 2014 took a toll, my Berkley Western editor fired and an ongoing series canceled, then Harlequin bought out by HarperCollins and the end of the Bolan series announced in December. They’ve reconsidered that, as you know, but at a rate of four books yearly rather than 24, so with luck I get one rather than the former three or four.”


He’s recently fallen back into the realm of “writer-for-hire” as well.


“[This includes] three books for an action series forthcoming from Wolfpack Publishing, rumbles of a Western series (also from Wolfpack), and a two-book contract for Berkley under the late Ralph Compton’s name (also Westerns),” Newton said. “All of those pay by the word, and I’m back to the kind of thing that was my staple during 1978-81, before Gold Eagle came along. I don’t know if that’s coming full-circle or just circling the drain.”

Learn everything there is to know about this amazing guy over on his website.

REVIEW AND INTERVIEW: That’ll Be The Day with S.W. Lauden

Cover for That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist
by S.W. Lauden

There’s always that one sibling. It seems there’s one in every nuclear pod. In That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist by S.W. Lauden, we’re introduced to Jackson Sharp the moment he breathes free air for the first time in a long while. Only he may not be breathing it for much longer thanks to his brother, Jamie, who has a heist in mind that’s sure to make any fan of the Beatles froth at the mouth. Should things go wrong, Jack will end up right back in the bowels of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where neither of his siblings ever care enough to visit.

With a setting near Tulsa, Lauden’s toe-tapping, gritty novelette is like the Outsiders on a punked-up, rockabilly high. It’s a smooth crime story with a playlist sure to get a song or two stuck in your head while you read.

That’ll Be The Day drops June 18th. Boogie on over here for your copy. My interview with the man himself, S.W. Lauden, is below.

S.W. Lauden

WHITEHURST: Besides short stories featured in anthologies, you’re the author of three books in the Greg Salem series and two Tommy and Shayna novellas. Why write a novelette?

LAUDEN: I didn’t exactly set out to write a 17,000-word story, but I always knew it would end up somewhere between a short story (5,000 words) and a novella (30,000 words). My other books have all been published by indie presses, but I’ve been interested in the idea of self-publishing for a while. With a story like That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist—an odd length and a super niche-y subject—I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

WHITEHURST: What was your inspiration for That’ll Be The Day?

LAUDEN: Late last year I got offered the chance to co-edit an essay collection about power pop with Paul Myers (it’s called Go All The Way and Rare Bird Books will publish it this October). Re/discovering bands like Raspberries, The Knack, The Records, Shoes, The Shivvers, Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, New Pornographers, etc. quickly became an obsession. I didn’t plan for my power pop research to also become a crime novelette, but I’m really glad it did. It was a blast writing about the Sharp brothers, their failed music career, and the life of crime that followed.

WHITEHURST: Your knowledge of music, bands, and instruments is solid. What’s the story there?

LAUDEN: Most of my life has been organized around music. I had older brothers that got me into classic rock and heavy metal as a kid, before I discovered punk in junior high. From there I was off to the races, listening to a lot of glam rock, post punk, new wave, power pop, alternative rock, Brit pop—you name it. I started playing drums in bands in high school and didn’t stop for any real length of time until my early 40s. I got to make a few records and tour, etc. Given all that, I suppose it’s no surprise that a lot of my crime fiction revolves around music and musicians.

WHITEHURST: What’s next for you?

LAUDEN: I recently played drums on a record for an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. We’re self-releasing a limited run of vinyl in late July, but songs will start popping up in various places between now and then. We definitely won’t be touring (too many adult responsibilities for anything crazy like that), but we might play a couple of shows here and there.

Info at https://www.thebrotherssteve.com.

WHITEHURST: Thanks for stopping by for a chat!

LAUDEN: Thanks for reading the book and inviting me to your blog!

BIO: S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, will be released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at http://swlauden.com.

BOOK REVIEW: Crack Open the Spine of the Dragon

Spine Cover.jpg
Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson -Tor Books (June 4, 2019)

It is possible to read every book written by Kevin J. Anderson; difficult, yes, but not unheard of. Crazier things have happened. Other writers Hulk-out with envy at his prolific nature, and not only that, his books are engaging. That’s always a bonus.

In his latest offering, Spine of the Dragon, Anderson tours readers through the popular genre of intellectual fantasy fiction, which leans more literary than, say, those old Conan pulps, but it’s just as adventurous. For me, someone who’s read The Saga of the Seven Suns series and many of Anderson’s other science fiction (Dune for life!) titles, delving into an all new fantasy realm was a welcome change. With that pesky Game of Thrones now decided, and no new George R.R. Martin book on the horizon (same for my other favorite, Patrick Rothfuss), there’s no better time to meet the ancient wreths, explore the Commonwealth and Ishara, and wake the dragon!

The book begins with introductions, jumping as Anderson does, from character to character, then back again, until we the readers feel the rhythm of the work. We meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, and others, though not in a relaxed way. There’s a nasty sand storm, an attack from the sea at Mirrabay, insane monsters, and the return of a frightening long-gone army all within the first fifty pages. And did I mention the maps? It’s not worth raising your sword if there isn’t a map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Raise your sword high, because there’s more than one in Spine of the Dragon.

While some readers may see a few similarities, such as the frostwreths, who felt a bit like White Walkers to me; and the book’s toggle switch between characters may remind them of other fantasy novels, which Anderson has done forever by the way, there’s a lot to nerd over in Spine. The backstory of the wreths fascinated me, as did the godling’s relationship with the Isharans, and there’s so much to explore. As with Anderson’s other books, you’re never ready for them to end when they do.

And if there’s one thing Anderson is good at, it’s world building. Spine presents a well-molded civilization with a crisp plot and intriguing characters, told in that winning Anderson style, which for me is like hanging out with an old friend. As with most tales of magic, strange creatures, and stalwart warriors; you just can’t get it all in one book. So be on the lookout for book two already in the sandy Commonwealth pipeline!

Buy Spine of the Dragon here!