Sunday, February 10, 2008

Busted Flush Press

One of my favorite Houston bookstores specializes in mysteries and thrillers and is aptly called "Murder by the Book." Over the last couple of decades I've become a regular customer at the store and it has turned me on to some of my favorite mystery writers, writers I now follow on a regular basis. It was there that, many years ago, I discovered writers like Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine and Joyce Porter for instance.

Now, according to this Houston Chronicle feature article, one of the folks at Murder by the Book has branched out into publishing, specializing in out-of-print mysteries deemed worthy for introduction to a whole new generation of readers.
"It bothers me, because all of these great books came out in the '80s and '90s, but publishers decide they're not making enough money, so they stop printing them," Thompson said. "Then, when they pick up a book that's No. 3 in a series, they forget that people still want to read the first and second books."

Though his one-man operation has yet to turn a profit, something he'd like to see change, it's gaining some pretty respectable attention.

Last month, the Mystery Writers of America nominated Busted Flush's Uncle, a short story in an anthology called A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir by Daniel Woodrell, for an Edgar, the Oscar for mystery writers.
After working at Murder by the Book for almost 16 years — Thompson joined the store in 1989 as a stocker — he launched Busted Flush Press with $50,000 he inherited from an uncle. He felt he knew what the reading public wanted after spending so much time with book buyers.

"I still made every mistake possible," Thompson said. "People tried to help me, but I had to figure it out for myself."

Thompson gets material for his books by inviting writers to create stories for the anthologies. With the reprints, he searches for some of his favorite authors who have done series, and if the earliest books are out of print, he goes after the reprint rights.
Beyond reprinting classic mystery and crime novels, Busted Flush publishes story anthologies, such as the one recently recognized by the Mystery Writers of America.

In the end, Thompson said, it's all about believing in stories that larger presses won't publish.

"I'm lucky because I get to see the readers' reactions when they pick up one of our books," Thompson said. "It's called 'hand-selling,' and that's the best part of this business."
This is exactly the kind of small publisher thing that gets me excited about the world of books: one man who loves a certain type of book, and hates to see quality stories go out-of-print so quickly, decides to do something about it when he suddenly finds himself with enough cash to give it a stab (pun intended).

I've mentioned Murder by the Book before but I want to include this link to their website as a starting point for those interested in supporting a small publisher with a big heart, someone with the courage to risk a bunch of money to live out a dream that so many of us probably also have. Please take a look...


  1. What a wonderful endeavor! Honestly, that tendency for early books in a series to go out of print before later books is part of why I often avoid series altogether.

  2. I agree, Heather...that kind of thing does seem to happen and it can really be irritating.

    I'm reading book three of a series right now without having read the first two and all of the allusions back to books one and two really have me wondering if I'm getting the full impact of the novel by skipping the first two.