Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lend me your ears

Nancy Grayson - Maine Historical archives

Those of you who are used book enthusiasts and longtime Portlanders might well remember Cunningham Books, which shared The Green Hand’s view of Longfellow Square from the other side of the intersection at 188 State Street, in the location where LFK and Miyake are now.

Nancy Grayson, the owner of Cunningham Books, closed the store when she retired at the end of 2010, a year after I opened The Green Hand Bookshop. She told me, “It’s okay – now that you’ve been safely open for a year, I don’t have to worry about leaving this corner without a bookshop on it.”

When the shop was hosting its rousing closing sale, upon which booklovers descended in hordes, The Forecaster’s Randy Billings stopped by to do a story. When he asked her for an interview, Nancy said she wasn’t interested. “I don’t like touchy-feely stories about businesses closing,” she said. [“Closing the books: Longtime Portland bookstore shutting its doors,” October 12, 2010]

This was Nancy to a T. She knew her own mind, and had no problems letting you know what she thought if you couldn’t help asking.

In true Nancy style, Cunningham Books launched two new book ventures with her own closing (that I know of! Maybe there are more…?), my shop across the way and the delicious mystery-lovers’ haven, Mainely Murders (, run by our mutual friends Paula and Ann down in Kennebunk.

Nancy Grayson has always been a woman of few words but of great influence. She was my mentor.

I have known Nancy since I was a teenager, when my life-long used book buying addiction began in earnest. For the usual inexplicable reasons, we hit it off early on, and that friendship only became deeper as the years went on.

In case you don’t know it, dear reader, the book trade is a business one must be mad to partake of. When it became clear that I was a lost cause, unable to stay away from bookbuying, she added to my self-taught experience by adding her own. She advised me on how to pick out better books, showed me how to clean up books that needed help, and encouraged me in thinking and researching for myself.

She ran a tight ship, upholding tremendously high standards for herself and everyone else.
As another friend recently said, it doesn’t matter how much time your have with someone you care about. It is always going to seem like the time was too short when that person is suddenly gone.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Nancy passed from this mortal plane in the early minutes of the Ides of March, opera echoing in the shadows of the room.

There will be no memorial service, no burial service, no obituary in the local paper, because that’s how Nancy wanted it. But in the spirit of our friendship, it seems only right that I mark her journey’s departure with words. Just enough words.

I’m sure she knew I was going to do this little write-up. She knew me well.

So fare thee well, Nancy, until we meet again. It’s been one hell of a good wild ride, but as you replied on a cold rainy March evening, the last time I saw you, “It’s only the beginning.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Hours 2016!

Hey everyone! For the holiday season we will be open some extra days the week before Christmas!!! We will be open Tues-Fri 11:00-6:00 from Dec 20th on through the holiday. Yay!!! :D

Saturday, Christmas Eve, we will be open 11:00 until 7:00 as usual.

We will be closed Christmas Day, December 25th. We wish you all a merry holiday season!
(image from Tolkien's wonderful "Father Christmas Letters")

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Digging up Portland's gravestone history with Ron Romano


For those of you who don't yet have this book in your gravestone-loving hands, let me tell you -- you do NOT want to miss it. Ron Romano has outdone himself. After following Bartlett's career, and giving tour after tour in Portland's Eastern Cemetery highlighting his stonework, Romano was encouraged to write his account of Bartlett's life and craft. Luckily for us, he really did it!

It is a fascinating story from start to finish, and interwoven as it is with Romano's account of his search for the tale, it had me wanting to go out and search out Bartlett's signature in Maine's graveyards myself ASAP.

This is the gauge of quality of Romano's work -- he explains the finer points of gravestone studies in a way that makes you want to join in the gathering, and at the same time paints a picture of Bartlett's own life and times that brings them to life in your mind's eye.

This is a rare thing in a history book. I recommend you buy it and experience this for yourself.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

New Maine coast book map!

I've always said Portland, Maine, is a great town for books!!!
We are very pleased to be part of Margaret Pearce's "Journey into Books" map for the Maine coast!(Please do note it has my old hours on it before everything went higgledy-piggledy!) We are very happy to now have copies of it available here in the shop for sale.

This map is probably the best way to start planning your Maine booklover's roadtrip!

Happy to see many of my bookfolk friends listed alongside me here. Shoutouts to David Wolfe at Wolfe Editions, Scott Vile at Ascensius Press, the deadly duo (Paula & Ann) at Mainely Murders, Cathy at Carlson Turner Books, Russ at Yes Books, and so on and so forth!

For more details about the map you can visit Margaret's website here:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dark Discoveries magazine - A Cut Above

Last year I finally got fed up with the "sexy lady" covers on a small press horror magazine I had been subscribed to. Fed up enough to write them an email when they tried to get me to resubscribe.

Since that time, even though I never even got the tiniest of emails from them in response, I have been watching changes take shape. This is a recent snapshot of their website, which shows you the difference. Now Dark Discoveries' cover art gives recognition to excellent horror fiction authors, which was the whole reason I had subscribed to their magazine in the first place.

When I sent my complaint, I attached this sample of their recent cover images from their website to them as Exhibit A -- look at the contrast! 2 years worth of issues with nothing but centerfold models on the cover.
Before I sent the email, I spent a few months being annoyed about my decision to stop subscribing -- I really liked the magazine otherwise. But then it occurred to me that it might be useful for from a marketing viewpoint for the publisher to know why I cancelled even though I enjoyed the writing in the magazine, and the quality of the format.

And so I sent my rant: "I don't understand why you guys feel the need to limit yourself to putting a pretty lady on your cover every month when it has nothing to do with the content of the magazine. Seriously! There are amazing horror artists out there capable of creating original art that would suit the content much better.

"Maybe you gain subscriptions from guys who like to have these out on their coffee tables? I don't know. But as a serious horror fan, this is a real stumbling block to me, and it seems like a holdout from the days when newsstand sales were the bread and butter of the magazine business, when getting someone to grab a magazine at the counter and buy it on impulse was the main goal.

"You guys have an interesting and skilled stable of authors writing for you. Why not highlight their work in your unique publication instead of throwing some centerfold on the cover? I feel like I'm not taken seriously as a horror reader when confronted with that design choice -- why do you have this unrelated visual content dominating your packaging?

"I'm sure you guys don't intend your readers to take this stuff personally, but when it came time to renew, that was the sticking point for me. As a business owner, I thought perhaps you might find it useful to know why a whole segment of your niche demographic is refusing to pick up on your otherwise excellent product."

I also pledged to them that if they changed their format, I would let people know. Since that time, they have put out 3 issues. Every single one of them had an excellent horror author on the cover. No more titty ladies (if you will pardon the expression). I renewed my subscription after the first one appeared, true to another pledge I made them in that email.

To this day I have never heard back from any of the editors or from the publisher. But would like to I think that my email, added to other sources of feedback that they were hearing from, encouraged them to finally make the change to a format that reflected the truly excellent content of the magazine instead of the softcore trash pulp as which it seemed to be masquerading. On their Facebook page late 2015, this message appeared:
Dark Discoveries is making some changes:

I have heard several opinions over the last couple of years about our recent cover style. While opinions might vary, I have decided to make a change, and more importantly a commitment. My commitment to customers is this, for the complete years of 2016 and 2017 we will be placing authors on our covers. The pop-tart, bubble gum, pinup, etc. etc. covers will be shelved, for two years, which equates to 8 issues. So everyone out there that stood up and voiced there desire, it will be so.

Now, in return, we need a commitment from you. Sign up, subscribe, renew. We have received a great new fan base with our previous covers, and we need to keep that stream flowing in - and hopefully even expand it. For the record Dark Discoveries has never made a profit, in total or on any one issue. It is a passion of mine more than anything. It was started by James Beach and carried on by Aaron J. French, our current managing editor, and everyone who works on the magazine does it more out of love for the genre than a big payday. We pay 6 cents a word for short stories and all of our issues are full color and 100 pages at a minimum - ranging up to 140 plus pages.

Additionally we will be bringing on Laird Barron and Mike Davis (Lovecraft Ezine) as new columnists. Laird Barron will actually be on the cover of our upcoming issue - #33. Unless we can talk Laird into putting on a bikini I think the cover will pass everyone's standards.

One additional commitment on our part. We will be sure to include at least one HWA member in every upcoming issue during the 2016 and 2017 years. We will not be accepting open submissions, but if you have a story contact Aaron directly - he didn't know I was going to say that - and he will give it a shot. Sorry Aaron. :)

So, we will continue to bring you the great content that we have in the past, now packaged with a cover you can leave on the coffee table without having to explain 'it really is a horror magazine' but we NEED your support. Subscribe, renew, sign up, give us your support.

There are going to be some more announcements upcoming, so keep an eye out. We have some great ideas planned for the next couple of years.

Thanks again.
Clearly our voices came through loud and clear, and the change is positive and permanent. So please -- if you are a horror fan who really enjoys reading new and excellent horror fiction, pick up an issue of Dark Discoveries. You will not be disappointed -- I know I NEVER am.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mysteries for winter reading...

One of the many genres that we stock and select carefully for our shelves is that of the mystery novel. Especially during the cold part of the year, I find myself turning to mysteries to entertain myself and pass the time.

Some of you may recall the article I wrote about some of my favorites a few years ago. If you missed that, you can read it here:

I recently sat down to put together a little video with my friend Barry from Doddcom Productions, in which I ponder the genre and what makes us devour a good mystery book so happily. Enjoy! Maybe you'll get a few good reading list ideas to get you through hibernation season!