Friday, August 21, 2009

Sad goodbyes

HALLIE: August has been a cruel month for New England mystery writers and their fans.

We are all reeling from the death of an extraordinarily talented writer and generous teacher, William G. Tapply. Bill wrote over dozens of New England-based mystery novels featuring attorney Brady Coyne, several more featuring outdoorsman Stoney Calhoun (a hunk who bore much more than a passing resemblance to Bill), and several more in partnership with his buddy Phillip R. Craig (they brought together their protagonists). He also wrote one of the smartest books on mystery writing around, “The Elements of Mystery Fiction..”

Bill was tall, handsome, kind, and anyone who hasn’t read his work is in for a treat. The third Stony Calhoun novel, “Dark Tiger,” comes out next month, and in October a book of outdoor essays “Upland Autumn: Birds, Dogs, and Shotgun Shells.”

Our thoughts are with his wife, mystery author Vicki Stiefel, and his five children.

Then, Kate’s Mystery Books closed its doors after more than 20 years as New England’s premier mystery bookstore. Scores of authors (see just a few in this photo with me: Sarah Smith (with her son Justus Perry, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Paula Munier, and Sheila Connolly) and readers showed up to help Kate pack up, as in true Kate’s style she threw a packing party. It was as hard to get to an empty packing box as it was to get to the wine at one of her famous Xmas parties. I scored a cat at the yard sale.

Every New England mystery author I know launches his or her books at Kate’s, and looking at the table of signed books (which we were specifically told NOT to pack), it was clear how Kate’s has been a stopping point for the crème de la crème of crime fiction writers. Just a few of the megastar I’ve met at Kate’s: Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Katherine Hall Page, Jane Langton....

Kate intends to keep a virtual bookstore open on the Internet and continue to host events in the Boston area, as she has been doing with Dick Haley of Haley Booksellers. Look for news updates at

In the meantime, we’ll continue to cherish and support independent mystery bookstores that keep our community flourishing. And every time I look at my cat in its new home, I'll be reminded of Kate's Mystery Books.


  1. I came to this party late. As a newbie, I didn't have the honor of a signing at Kate's but I have met her at a few of the offsite events she held at Murder Underbones and Ryles Jazz Club and she's a peach. I look forward to many more events as she is truly one of the mystery writers' best friends. And I think I can reveal this now...Kate will be honored in November with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's New England Crimebake. For more info check out

  2. Everyone whoever met Bill Tapply loved him. What a great and generous guy.

    Kates Mystery Books will be sorely missed -- where we will all meet for the holiday party??

    But hopefully we'll be seeing a lot of Kate at her mystery events -- they have been terrific.

  3. Kate was one of the very first "outside" people to read PRIME TIME--and her enthusiasm and encouragement were so pivotal!

    And I signed at her store the week PT came out. What a rite of passage...and I am ever grateful.

    She's quite amazing, and though the store is closed (which is so very sad), she's powering into another incarnation. YOu should have seen her at the computer in the back--putting together plans for what comes next.

    As for Bill Tapply...darling Vicki knows how much we all love him and miss him. Interesting, huh? When you write books, you're still alive every time someone opens the cover.

  4. yes, boyo do I hate changes like those! Will look forward to seeing more of Kate and reading more of Bill. I always especially enjoyed his comments about writing on the DorothyL listserv--he was not one to mince words. And there's a wonderful article about what he learned about writing from his father on Bill's website.

    And Hallie, I think maybe you should pass that cat on to me:) I'm deeply envious...

  5. It's like an arrow piercing my heart every time another mystery bookstore closes.
    When I first started writing mysteries there were mystery bookstores all over the country and they all made a newcomer like me welcome. They handsold my books. I had a chance to meet fans.
    Now they are vanishing, one by one, victims of the economy but also of the advancing age of the store owners. And it seems that nobody is foolhardy enough to take their place. So what will happen when there are only the chains and Amazon? How will new writers ever come to the attention of readers?
    Goodbye Kate, and thank you.