Black Orchid Bookshop co-owner Bonnie Claeson has a following - just like the authors whose books she sells. "She's a den mother for mystery writers and readers," said one fan, Martha Burke-Hennessy, president of MBH Research.
Ms. Claeson and co-proprietor Joe Guglielmelli, a lawyer by training, recently hosted a party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their store. Customers and friends pored over books and poured onto the sidewalk to enjoy wine and cheese and conversation about detectives, mysteries, and fictional unsolved crimes.
Downstairs a chocolate cake sat on a table, while authors signed books upstairs. Overheard: The store will participate in the New York Is Book Country in early October.
How do Ms. Claeson and Mr. Guglielmelli divide the chores of running a specialty bookstore? The latter tends to handle the e-mail correspondence and computer records. "He is the shipping department," Ms. Claeson said. She handles most of the snail mail.
The name of their store derives from a title of a book by Indiana-born author Rex Stout (1886-1975), who is best known for stories featuring the gourmet and sleuth Nero Wolfe.
Many of those at the anniversary party for the bookshop had forthcoming novels. Lee Harris, author of "Murder in Hell's Kitchen" (Fawcett), said her book "Murder in Alphabet City: A Manhattan Mystery" is scheduled for February publication. It features New York Police department detective Jane Bauer, whom the author described as "40, tough, and single." Also seen was Michael Simon, whose book "Dirty Sally: A Novel" (Viking) features a New York Jewish detective in Austin, Texas, on the trail of murderers.
Author Sheila York signed copies of her book "Star Struck Dead" (Pocket) next to a plate of cookies. Her detective novel, set in Hollywood in 1946, is told from the female point of view. In the book, gossip maven Louella Parsons makes a cameo appearance. The author hails from came from Clarksville, Tenn., which is called "the gateway to the New South."
Nancy Tesler, author of "Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things" (Perseverance Press),which is the fifth book in her "Other Deadly Things" series.
"I began writing mysteries after my own divorce when I was dealing with an overwhelming urge to knock a couple of people off," she said. "The pen being mightier than the sword, I took my revenge that way." The writers bring their backgrounds to bear on their fiction: Like her protagonist, Ms. Tesler is a biofeedback therapist. "I never wanted to be a detective myself: I'm too squeamish," Ms. Tesler said, "At age 5, I ran screaming out of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' when the witch poisoned the apple." Ms. Tesler was speaking with Annette Meyers, author of the Smith and Wetzon mystery series, and Jessica Speart, whose stories involve endangered species.
Also in attendance was S.J. Rozan, whose forthcoming book "Absent Friends"(Delacorte) is a thriller set during the aftermath of September 11.
Other attendees included noir novelist Jason Starr; Alan Gordon, author of "An Antic Disposition: A Medieval Mystery" (St. Martin's Minotaur); Carol O'Connell, whose forthcoming book "Winter House" (Putnam) is a thriller; Carol Lea Benjamin, whose latest novel "Fall Guy"(Morrow) was on display at the store, and artist and author Jonathan Santlofer, whose mysteries are set in the art world. Mr. Santlofer is scheduled to appear October 10 at the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, which is taking place in Toronto and dubbed "murder among the maples."
Also in attendance were Rebecca Pawel, author of "Death of a Naturalist" (Soho Crime); and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines staff photographer and media artist Paul Petrucelli, who used to publish his own color newsletter called "Dastardly Deeds."
Asked for a favorite memory from the store's past decade, Mr. Guglielmelli recalled author Ed McBain, also known as Evan Hunter, performing a particularly good impersonation of Henry Kissinger. A card from Mr. Hunter, adorned the wall and congratulated the store on its anniversary. "What a great bookstore Black Orchid is," he wrote.
The Knickerbocker asked Ms. Claeson if she had any advice for prospective bookstore owners. You can make a small fortune, she said, if you begin with a large fortune.