Interrogation—Scott Montgomery

Who: Scott Montgomery

What: Crime fiction coordinator of MysteryPeople, the mystery bookstore within Austin’s BookPeople, and founder, co-editor, and contributor of the MysteryPeople blog. He is the author of several short stories  published in webzines such as The Big Adios and Shotgun Honey, and the anthology MURDER ON WHEELS.

Where: Austin

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

What does the role of Crime Fiction Coordinator for BookPeople entail? What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

It’s sort of jack of all trades when dealing with crime fiction. I assist the buyer in finding what I think are the best books to stock in our mystery bookstore within a bookstore, MysteryPeople. I also help our marketing department get authors for events, oversee our MysteryPeople blog and contribute content, deal with direct sales from independent presses, work with self-published authors, and simply sell books out of the section. The biggest misconception is that I wield any kind of power in publishing.

Did the Crime Fiction Coordinator position exist before you arrived, or was it tailored to you?

After sales in the mystery section when up in my first three years here, and because I was doing more work with the authors than the average floor person, I asked for a more specialized job. Our CEO, Steve Bercu, was kind enough to give it a try to came up with the concept of MysteryPeople.

The crime and mystery section at BookPeople is known to include several authors published by Indie presses. How do you choose the books you stock?

It’s very important to me that we have independent publishers. It makes us stand out since we’re often the only store in town to find the cool, funky crime fiction, and personally I think it’s a great way to serve the genre. We simply choose what to showcase by what we like or discover. While we have the bestsellers, we primarily go by our own tastes, since hand selling is important to us. I’ll admit, I may lean to my fellow Texans.

Your store also does a lot of crime and mystery events. What makes BookPeople a good place for crime and mystery authors to do events? What’s your advice for Indie authors trying to book events there?

I can 99% guarantee if you’re a crime fiction author doing an event with us, one of our MysteryPeople have read your book. Molly and I often interview the author if they don’t want to be out there by their lonesome and we’re really good at pairing authors.

The best I can tell you about booking an event is to write a book that gets our attention, and be patient—we’re a one man and two women operation that get a lot of books thrown at us.

You also run the MysteryPeople blog, featuring articles, interviews and guest posts about crime and mystery fiction. What is the mission of the blog? How do you choose which authors to focus on?

Making sure we have at least three posts a week up has been the main mission. We mainly use it to promote authors we will have coming to the store or new books we want to promote. When our Director Of Suspense, Molly Odintz, and I get some time we like to go in-depth on a topic like the recent posts we did about crime writers with poetry backgrounds.

You’re also a published short story writer. How does your experience as a writer influence your role at BookPeople?

While it may not seem like it all the time, I think it has made me lean more toward serving the writers than anyone else. I’ve often thought that BookPeople cuts me the check every two weeks, but I work for the authors. Molly has said my interviews with the authors at events or on the blog tend to be process oriented. When it comes to it influencing the writing, I’m sure having conversations with my favorite authors for close to fifteen years has probably had an affect.

The million dollar question: What are your Top 10 favorite crime/mystery books of all time?

  1. THE CONTINENTAL OP by Dashielle Hammett—Hard, sharp, concise, with attitude. These stories are the punk rock of crime fiction and the source from which all great writing in the genre came for my money.
  2. THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley—What Pekinpah did with film and Hunter S. Thompson did with journalism, Crumley did with the detective novel.
  3. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy—This proved you could do noir on an epic scale. Both visceral and lyrical.
  4. THE LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler—A wonderful meditative novel that challenged the reader on how much they new their hero Phillip Marlowe.
  5. WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE by Reed Farrel Coleman—Nobody delivers emotional gravitas to the PI novel as well as Reed. This book sets the bar for my writing.
  6. THE BARBAROUS COAST by Ross Macdonald—A good example of how Macdonald took the prose poetry of Chandler and went deeper into examinations of family, society, and sin.
  7. THE OUTFIT by Richard Stark—I love a good heist story and this one’s done by the master and gives a plot with at least a half a dozen capers in it.
  8. THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson—Well written with humor and humanity, western crime fiction at its finest. I also have soft spot for it because it kickstarted whatever reputation I have as a bookseller and the friendship I have with Craig and his wife Judy.
  9. FREAKY DEAKY by Elmore Leonard—I had to have one of Mr. Leonard’s books in here and this is my favorite. Funny, wild, with a great first chapter and a subtle social commentary with what was once the youth generation of the Sixties dealing with the Eighties.
  10. WINTER’S BONE by Daniel Woodrell—I’m a huge fan of rural crime and Dan is the poet laureate of the genre.

Please know this list would change anytime you’d ask me and I would have loved to have put Megan Abbott’s QUEENPIN, Newton Thornburg’s CUTTER AND BONE, and Benjamin Whitmer’s CRY FATHER.

You and I first met at Bouchercon in Raleigh. Do you go to a lot of conferences?

I don’t go to as many as I’d like, finances and store events restrict me. I’m dying to attend Noir Con. I am going to Longmire Days in Buffalo Wyoming and will be moderating a panel with Craig Johnson. And, if my bosses cover it again, I’ll be in Toronto for Bouchercon.

Find Scott Montgomery: MysteryPeople

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

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