Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2004 Issue

Bookseller, Book Writer: <br>An Interview with John Dunning


Author John Dunning. Photo by Katie Dunning

By Karen Wright

John Dunning is a very successful mystery writer, former bookseller, former investigative reporter, writing instructor, and old-time radio aficionado, among his other vast talents. He very kindly granted me an interview just before his latest book promotion tour. Since I have been a bookseller for about fifteen years, and a struggling writer for more than that, my focus for the interview was his dual role as bookseller and writer. We chatted on the phone from my home in Virginia City, Nevada, and his home in Denver, Colorado.

John, tell me just a bit about yourself, where do you come from and how did you get in the bookselling business?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Charleston, South Carolina. I moved to Denver in 1964, and I’ve been there pretty much ever since.

You’ve had quite an interesting and varied career, as I understand it? Yes, I’ve worked at a race track, been an investigative reporter…

That must have been fascinating. It was, very. We turned up all sorts of stories, but if they offended the publisher’s good old pals, they never got published.

I got into the book trade 20 years ago, in 1984. My store, The Algonquin Bookstore, was in the part of Denver that my protagonist, Cliff Janeway (Booked to Die and Bookman’s Wake) had his store. It’s a rough neighborhood; hookers, drunks and druggies - my kind of neighborhood. I loved it. We closed it in 1994 when Bookman’s Wake came out and I decided to be a real live writer.

In fact, I’ve actually had two writing careers – I wrote five books before the Janeway series; they’ve sort of been forgotten. I’d have a book published, then would come a dry period when the publisher wouldn’t take my next book, then I’d have to go hat in hand like little Oliver Twist asking for gruel to find another publisher. My 1981 dry streak was the worst, so we decided to open the bookstore and it seemed absolutely right for me.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. $8,000 to $12,000.

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