Fellow author John Billheimer and I swung through the western states in our Stonewall Jackson's Elbow
/ Candy from Strangers
tour. Our first stop was Murder by the Book
in Denver Colorado:
Owner Lauri Ver Schure always has a cake made for visiting authors with a likeness of the cover of their books. John and I were both very impressed with how well the marzipan version matched the paper one--check out the shading on the woman's back on my cover in particular. Turns out the bakery that makes the cakes actually specializes in "naughty" pastries in the shape of various body parts ...
Next stop was High Crimes Mystery Bookshop
in Boulder, Colorado. We had a great time with owner Cynthia Nye and some of the fans at the signing even made John go out to the car to retrieve editions of his earlier books that he was carrying for a later signing in West Virginia.
After Colorado we flew to Nevada for a signing at If Books Could Kill
(aka Albion Book Company) in Las Vegas. Here we are with owner Mike Hoover and his partner Jim Gattis. The store has a great selection of mystery firsts--many of them signed. Mike is putting in a bid to host the 2010 Left Coast Crime in Vegas. Very cool.
Our final stop was the Well Red Coyote
in Sedona, Arizona. The name is a pun on the famous red rocks in Sedona. Here's John looking authorial in front of the store.
And here we are posing with one of the event attendees. The event at Well Red included more than just a signing. John and I lectured on the topic of dialogue. Kris
and Joe Neri are the owners of the store--Kris being a very accomplished mystery writer in her own right--and they've found that with the high concentration of writers and artists in Sedona, they get a better attendance at signings if the event includes a discussion of craft. Hopefully John and I didn't set anyone's fiction writing efforts back too far!
This is how Raymond Chandler described his home in La Jolla in two letters excerpted here from Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler
, edited by Frank MacShane:
We have a much better home than an out-of-work pulp writer has any right to expect.
We live in a rather too large one-story house on a corner across the street from the ocean ... Our living room has a picture window which looks south across the bay to Point Loma, the most westerly part of San Diego, and at night there is a long lighted coast line almost in our laps. A radio writer came down here to see me once and he sat in front of this window and cried because it was so beautiful. But we live here, and the hell with it.
And this is how the house looked just a few years ago (Eduardo Contreas / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Since John Billheimer and I were visiting the San Diego area to sign at Mysterious Galaxy Books
, we thought we'd take the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the site. Turns out the house is undergoing a controversial
remodel, adding a second floor and additional rooms to the ground floor. Here's how it looks now:
And here's John posed against the view that made the radio writer cry. Note the street name (Camino de la Costa) etched in the concrete on the steps that lead down to the water.
Chandler is buried in San Diego's Mt. Hope cemetery, which we decided to visit as well. There was no one available at the cemetery office to direct us to his grave, but we managed to flag down a security guard and asked him if he knew the location. He didn't immediately recognize Chandler's name, but thought about it some and asked if he was "that writer guy." We eagerly nodded yes, and he directed us to this row of headstones:
In which we ultimately located this marker:
As you can see, it's not particularly well kept, nor were there any flowers. John and I decided that if we'd been thinking straight we would have at least picked up a bottle of Chandler's favorite whiskey and left it for him.
Mt. Hope was a rather sad end for Chandler. He had asked in his will to be buried next to his wife, but since he died alone without any close friends present, his body was consigned there by default.