Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A great loss

by Kathryn Casey

You know how some people just touch your life? You meet them and they have a way about them, an enthusiasm, a warmth that draws you in. David Thompson was one of those people. David loved books, good books, especially mysteries. He lived and breathed his passion, working at a wonderful independent Houston store called Murder by the Book (MBTB), a quirky place, shelves packed floor to ceiling, overstuffed chairs and an incredible staff. The store is so popular that the big names make sure they put it on their tour lists. I met Mary Higgins Clark there last year.

Sadly, the store posted this announcement yesterday:

It is with deep sadness that we must share the news that David Thompson passed away suddenly on September 13, 2010. David worked at Murder by the Book for 21 years, and he made an indelible impression on the store and everyone who met him.

That's David, above, with McKenna Jordan, the store owner and his wife. Cute couple, huh? Wonderful people. David was just 37 years old, and every time I saw him, he was running. He had so many projects going, he always amazed me. In truth, David Thompson made an indelible impression on the entire mystery publishing world.

In addition to working at the bookstore, David ran his own publishing company, Busted Flush Press. Typical of David, he named the company as an homage to one of his favorite authors, John D. MacDonald, whose sleuth Travis McGee lives on the Busted Flush, a houseboat he won in a poker game. David started the company in 2005, and his first effort was the resurrection of A Fifth of Bruen, a collection of the early fiction by Ireland's Ken Bruen, who'd been nominated for an Edgar for The Guards in 2004. Like many great books, Fifth had gone out of print and was in need of rescuing. When the Houston Chronicle asked David why he chose that particular work as the first in his catalog, he said simply, "I think it's one of the best crime novels ever written."

In so many ways, David's world revolved around books, the store, and, of course, McKenna. They met at MBTB when she began working there in 2003. In graduate school at the time, she signed on for part-time work on Saturdays. A Chronicle article on their romance that ran this past March is titled "A Storybook Marriage." (That's where the opening photo, taken in the store, is from.) Six-and-a-half years after meeting, David and McKenna married at Dryburgh Abbey in Scotland. That's a beautiful photo from the happy day, below right.

Individually and as a couple, David and McKenna are admired throughout the mystery publishing world. As if they didn't have enough going on with Busted Flush and the store, next year they were scheduled to co-chair
Bouchercon, the mystery world's annual convention, in St. Louis, with Crimespree Magazine's Jon Jordan. Actually, my last contact with David was an email about the event I sent about a month ago. I had the mistaken impression they were already lining up panels and asked about being on one. David didn't snap at me for bothering him with something that was many months away. Instead, he patiently explained that it was a bit early.

But then, David had always been generous with his time. I first met him when I happened to be in the neighborhood and dropped in at the store. From that first day, David, McKenna, everyone on the staff made me feel welcome. Before I wrote my first novel, they hosted Diane Fanning and me for a joint true crime book signing. They invited us back when our first novels came out, and every year since.

I'll always remember how when I was there signing Singularity, my firs
t Sarah Armstrong mystery, I talked with David afterward. I was working on the second book in the series, and I wanted advice on how much of the first book's plot to give away in the second. "Be careful," David stressed, appearing genuinely concerned. "You don't want to ruin the first book for readers by revealing too much in the second!"

At the time, David was busy closing up the store, but he patiently answered my questions, even taking the time to pull books from the shelves, particularly good examples with recurring characters, for me to read. Later, David and McKenna invited me back when Blood Lines debuted.

On this sad occasion, I join a legion of authors who lament David's passing. He was truly one of the good guys, and we are all poorer for his absence. Prayers and condolences are undoubtedly arriving from around the world for McKenna, their friends and family, for everyone at Murder by the Book and all who knew and loved David. He will sincerely be missed.


K. Harrington said...

This is truly a great loss to the book world. Thanks for sharing this story.

Leah said...

So sad for the world to lose a wonderful human being.

Anonymous said...

RIP David. You were always so interested. Always found just the right book for me. Wherever you are, I hope there's an endless supply of wonderful books.

Andrea Campbell said...

I am heartsick, David was the consummate lover of books and all things mystery. A very kind individual who held authors in high esteem and knew just what to say.