A Likely Story

Earlier tonight my lovely pregnant wife made me go to a couple of thrift stores with her. The ostensible excuse was that she needed to walk. We’re late in the pregnancy, and apparently daily walks help the baby drop. The real reason, of course, is that the woman likes to shop. And that turned out in my favor for once.

What I didn’t expect was to find a book by one of my favorite authors. Misty is actually the one who first spied it — a hardback copy (complete with dustcover) of Donald E. Westlake’s A Likely Story. It’s a first edition by Penzler Books.

When I saw that, my eyes literally bugged out a little. Everyone who reads my blog knows that I love Donald Westlake. For me, he’s simply the gold standard. But Otto Penzler? Holy crap. Otto Penzler is the owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan (the holy grail of crime/mystery/suspense bookstores). He has also, at times, been an editor and publisher of crime fiction. But always he was a supporter, cheerleader and friend of Westlake. For many years, Penzler has had his fingers on the pulse of what makes crime fiction good.

To find a first edition like this — a book written by my idol, and published by a man who is probably the most respected man in crime fiction? Complete geek-out moment. The book originally sold for $14.95 (in hardback!!!) in either 1984 or 1987 (the publication date is unclear), and I nabbed it and a copy of Stick by Elmore Leonard for less than $4 at the thrift store.

Money well spent.

Last year at some point, I wrote about visiting the Mysterious Bookshop for the first time, and how impressed I was with it. Mr. Penzler and I subsequently got into a small e-mail correspondence, and I was struck by how gracious and kind he was. That’s the kind of person I’d like to have as a mentor, to be honest. But I’ll probably have to settle for dropping in to his bookshop again the next time I’m in New York.

Regardless, this book just became one of my most prized possessions — all because my pregnant wife wanted to do a little window-shopping a few days before her due date.

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