Photo courtesy Murder by the Book
David Thompson, 1971-2010

R.I.P, David Thompson Of Murder By The Book

For avid fans of the murder mystery genre, you'd think death was commonplace. But not when it snatches away one of our own.

So we loyal patrons of Murder by the Book, Houston's go-to place for all things murder and mystery, are devastated to learn of David Thompson's sudden passing yesterday. David, a Murder by the Book fixture for 21 years, seemed to know the guts of every book, and had an infallible sense of connecting customers to their Holy Mystery Grail.

David met his wife, McKenna Jordan, while both were employees. Along the way, she bought the bookstore, and he founded a mystery publishing company, Busted Flush Press, which features both aspiring writers and established notables such as Reed Farrell Coleman.

Last month, David's publishing company merged with another independent Tyrus Books Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin.

But even though David certainly had a dog in the hunt when it came to books to tout, he was just as familiar with books he did not publish -- many of them gems I might not have ever uncovered.

David was like the best of coaches; he steered you in the direction of your dream novel, matching you up with the author sure to please you. Sure, you can find your Lescroarts and your Graftons and your Christies, but to learn about Ian Sansom or -- long before the major motion picture is released, Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell?

I once confessed to enjoying former news reporter Kathy Hogan Trocheck, so he steered me to her second series under another nom de plume, Mary Kay Andrews. When I found her a bit too silly, he turned me on to the decadently delicious Kick Keswick, the heroine of a series by Marne Davis Kellogg.  

People play, "Defend what's on your iPod," but with David at the helm, I could always defend the reading in my beach bag. And his finest referral occurred only a few weeks ago, when he urged me to try an unknown-to-me author from Belfast, Colin Bateman, stressing that I would find it hilarious. (Comedy's got to be mixed in with almost everything for me.) Did David know his stuff? Absolutement - I hustled back in to the bookstore to get the next one, minutes after finishing Bateman's Mystery Man, a series about a bookstore owner who gets suckered into solving local mysteries when the next-door neighbor, a private detective, meets an untimely end.

The next book in the series was a definite winner, as well.  As I read the series set in Belfast, I found myself drawing parallels to David himself, although the series' hero never met anyone or anything he couldn't turn into an antagonist. He attributes his successes to what he's learned from a multitude of mysteries -- and names the classics for those who grew up on, say, Michael Crichton.

Bateman, the author, is like his main character a proponent for good mystery writing and the independent bookstore owner, and rails against the megachains in a most sarcastically delicious way. No McMystery advocacy here! With every rant, I found myself silently tipping my deerstalker (i.e., a hat like Sherlock Holmes wore) to David and his wife.

A bookstore employee said a "celebration of life" memorial is planned within the next week or two.

Thank you for your years of thoughtful service, David. You leave a void in the industry, and in the community. Rest easy, my friend, and may you finally unravel all the mysteries of life -- and beyond.

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