Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, takes place in the summer of 1972, in Palo Alto, California. Most of the plot happens in or near Maxwell's Books, a bookstore that serves as a gathering spot for the anti-war counter-culture of those turbulent times. The hero, Hooperman, is hired to catch book thieves in the act, which is difficult for him because he has a severe stammer. He also suffers from a broken heart. But rest assured, by the end of the story his heart has mended thanks to an outrageous new girlfriend, and Hoop also succeeds in catching the thief. It's a funny book, full of crazy but fascinating characters. Lots of politics, lots to think about, but it's mostly a romantic, entertaining adventure

You have worked in eight different bookstores, so who have emerged as your favourite writers after years of being surrounded by books?


I have dozens of favourite writers, but for now let me name three women in their eighties that everyone should read. They all write in English, but they write from different countries: Ursula K. LeGuin (USA), Alice Munro (Canada), and Jane Gardam (UK). These three write beautifully, and they know and show a great deal about the human heart.

How much has your experience as an editor helped you to sculpt your work?


Immeasurably. Every now and then, when I find myself writing sloppily or self-indulgently, I ask myself, "Would I let one of my clients get away with that?" I know better, and it's back to the keyboard for a rewrite.

How much have you learned from your students when you were a creative writing teacher?


From my students I have learned and relearned that everyone has a story to tell, and every writer has a unique voice. I've also learned that for fiction there really are what I call rules and tools that make writing work--and play--better.

You have worked in a small press publishers; to what extent did this help you in publishing your own work?


I have self-published two of my books, but most of my books were published by other publishers. Being in the publishing business has helped me, though, because I've made so many contacts in the game. Knowing the editors and publishers socially and as professional colleagues has given me an advantage.

You also write lots of short stories, so do you have a preference between this and novel writing?


I used to favour writing short stories, and for a few years I specialized in writing very, very short stories of 55 and 99 words each. But for the past ten years or so I've come to enjoy the extended adventure of writing novels. 

What is it about the genre of mystery that hooks you?


It's the danger, the intellectual challenge, the chase, and the satisfaction of setting things right. Mysteries are fun to read and fun to write

Please tell us a bit about the character of Hooperman.


Hooperman Johnson's real name is Francis, but most of his friends call him Hoop. He's tall, he has a bushy beard and wears old clothes, and he's passionate about books and especially about poetry. Some people don't take him seriously because he talks funny, but he is intelligent, witty, and decent, and in spite of his disability he's not afraid to stand up to authority. Hoop's a romantic man, too, and in the course of the novel he loves two wonderful women: his childhood sweetheart who married him and then left him; and a sassy, outspoken bookstore clerk, who may or may not be a thief, but is most certainly a source of love and laughter in Hoop's life.


What is next for you?


I'm writing a fantasy adventure story about a king's stolen crystal eye, two boys who slay a giant, a witch's broom that becomes a boat, an affair between a goatherd's son and a red-haired princess, and a quest that takes our heroes to all thirteen of the Farther Isles, guided by the Stars. Who knows where this book will take me?

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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