Ed ThomasIn Michael Connelly's 2004 book The Narrows, Harry Bosch talks about a clue involving a character named Ed Thomas who owns a bookstore called Book Carnival:
I was sadden to read in The Rap Sheet that the real Ed Thomas who owned the real Book Carnival died recently.
When my first novel, The Immortal Game, came out from a tiny press, I called around to independent mystery bookstores to encourage them to stock it. In the beginning, only a very few were willing to take it on and Ed was one of them. He ordered and hand sold a dozen first editions in the space of a couple weeks. That was big news to me as a debut author in 1999.
He stocked all of my subsequent books, and although I never met him in person until I came down to the Book Carnival to sign Runoff, I spoke to him on the phone a number of times.
After the signing, we spent what must have been an extra hour or so chatting. I was curious about Michael Connelly's early days, and the experience of being a character in one of his books. Ed was happy to oblige. He first told me about Connelly's meeting with President Clinton (Clinton is a big fan of Connelly's)--and then he produced photos Connelly had sent him of the two shaking hands!
He also told me how Connelly had called him one day out of the blue to ask if he was going to be at the store for a couple of hours. Ed said sure, and Connelly showed up with two boxes of unread first editions of Connelly's debut novel, The Black Echo. Connelly told Ed that there was no point in his hording them and Ed should have them. This was well after Connelly had hit it big and the books were worth quite a bit--and of course still are.
As for being a character in The Narrows, Connelly asked him early on if it would be okay if he used his name, but he had no clue until the book was published how extensive a role he and his store had in the plot.
Connelly's generosity is only one manifestation of the debt many writers felt to Ed. As the Orange County Register obit linked above describes, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury and T. Jefferson Parker all appreciated the support he gave them. Count me in their number.