Kim took his white sneakers off the riser and squared them firmly on the hardwood floor. He held his book face front toward Aesop. “I went up to that bookstore up Hastings, past Boundary,” Kim said. “He specializes in mysteries. I asked him if he had anything that wasn’t, you know, just everything is all about forensic details and brutal violence and it’s not that I’m against that, but I don’t know if I ever need to read any of that again. I’m sorry if you like that stuff, but it’s…it’s not for me. I’m looking for something… different. So I ask him if he’s got anything that’s not like that. But that’s, of course, that’s his bread and butter. So I ask him if he’s got any mash-ups.”
“What do you mean, mash-up? Like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters?” Aesop looked over at Richard, who was still serving paying customers. He wondered if he and Kim were breaching etiquette, discussing another bookstore while they were in Richard’s shop.
Richard caught his eye and nodded, “Don’t worry, I see you. Americano to go, as soon as I get these folks their coffee.”
Aesop smiled and waved, and looked down at his own shoes, ashamed, as soon as Richard broke eye contact.
“Nothing as overt as that,” Kim continued. “But like, something different. Like maybe a Chinese detective, not Charlie Chan, but an actual detective from actual China, solving crimes in, I don’t know, New Orleans. Something fresh, something that’s not just going to go through the motions of every noir trope ever.”
“Like a fish out of water, kind of thing? Is that what you’ve got there?”
“This? Close. This guy, the detective, Sonchai, is a Buddhist cop in Bangkok. I’m early stages, not very far into it, but so far, so good.”
“Have you read Fesperman?”
“Fesperman? No, who’s that?” Kim set his book down, splayed open, covers up, on the riser next to his coffee.
“He was, or is, I don’t know, a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun,” Aesop said.
“Who’s that, David Simon?” Richard called out from behind the counter. “You guys talking about The Wire? I’ve got some Pelecanos on the pocketbooks shelf.”
“No, Dan Fesperman. I guess he’s more of a thriller writer than a crime novelist. If you care about those semantics. He’s written books set in Afghanistan, Jordan, Guantanamo Bay. My favourite though, is Lie In The Dark, which is a crime novel. It’s about a homicide cop in Sarajevo, during the war. It’s great. All of them are, but Lie In The Dark, that’s my favourite.”
Richard clucked his tongue and shook his head back and forth. “You guys are talking about books you didn’t even buy here, aren’t you? And look at this guy,” Richard lifted his chin toward Kim, “sits in here reading a book he bought from the competition. And you guys probably think you’re my best customers. Coffee’s up, Aesop.”
Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom