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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

Mystery One’s Richard Katz

East Side bookstore rounds up the usual suspects

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It was a dark and stormy night as I headed over to Milwaukee’s most beloved spot for mystery genre fans—the now 20-year-old Mystery One Bookstore, 2109 N. Prospect Ave. Inside I found the narrow aisles of books crowded with people waiting for an appearance by bestselling author Robert Crais, promoting his new novel, Suspect. Crais had high praise for Mystery One’s owner, Richard Katz, and he sang it like a canary. “Richard is one of those guys who believed in me and my work from the beginning and sold it. The loyalty goes both ways. I come here and sign every time,” Crais said, as Katz stood next to him, ringing in a flurry of sales on the cash register. Later on, I cornered Katz to ask him a few questions and he talked. They always talk.

What authors drew you to the mystery genre in the first place?


The masters—Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Alistair MacLean, John D. MacDonald and Ross Macdonald. I read them all. I also loved The Horatio Hornblower Series by C. S. Forester. Those are the books that made me love reading.

What do you think draws people to read mystery?

I think, in the end, the books are very entertaining and they tell a good story. Most people read for pleasure, and mysteries give that. Mysteries cover everyone, all of society, and they’re about good and evil so the books are about life, about us. I’ve been amazed at how good the genre is. The talent now is better than it ever has been. People who say the old mysteries are better don’t know what they’re talking about. Not that the old mysteries weren’t great, but there is more now—all of these authors that grew up reading mystery.

What’s new in stock right now that you’re excited about?

Crais’ book that you walked into is getting tremendous buzz. Also, the new Bernard Cornwell, 1356. It’s his fourth book set during the 100 Years’ War and he is my all-time favorite author; he writes historical adventure. I love this Dennis Lehane book, Live by Night, as well; that came out a few months ago.

What has the mystery business been like?

Stores have no way to make money off e-books and that is hurting us a lot. We’ve lost a lot of our paperback customers. I find it ridiculous because it’s not a book—it’s a download. My big concern is that we get little business from anyone under 30 years old. I think this generation just doesn’t read. They can do devices, but they can’t read—and that I can’t understand because, to me, reading is the best entertainment.

Authors Jenny Milchman, Wendy Corsi Staub and Alison Gaylin will appear at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at Mystery One, 2109 N. Prospect Ave.
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