THINKIN’ OUTSIDE THE SWIMMIN’ HOLE

11 Sep

Most of my favorite books–ones I’ve carried around for years, ones that have survived every purging, ones I plan on re-reading every few years into my old age–aren’t bestsellers, aren’t published by big houses, and weren’t found in big box bookstores.

They have titles like Champ: In Search of a Legend, A Geologic Survey of Herkimer County, Ghosts of Fort Ticonderoga, or The Howe Caverns Story. They’re published by tiny companies (well before what we think of small publishing companies now–I’m going all the way back to the ’80s, here, so it was a LOT harder to be a small place)–and I found them in attraction gift shops, small bookstores, diners, and even ice cream stands.

Since this was all before the days of ordering online and huge bookstores that can afford to carry niche-specific titles, these books had–and still have, at least for me–a special quality about them. And it’s not just that they are connected to a special vacation memory.

When I found a book on a topic I was really into at a place like that, I came away feeling like it had been written just for me, because I couldn’t possibly find that book anywhere else.

I spent a lot of time in Lake Placid, New York, as a kid. I’d heard a story about a woman who’d gone missing, and they found her perfectly-preserved body in the lake thirty years later. No one could really tell me much more about it–it was pretty much clear-cut, right? I mean, what else would some vacationer’s kid need to know? But then one day I went with my Dad to With Pipe & Book, on the town’s main drag. While he selected tobaccos, I perused the books. And that’s when I saw it: A Lady in the Lake. It was a slim volume that told the whole story, and featured what I was really after–gruesome descriptions of her wax-like face disintegrating as they brought her up from the deep. And other yummy stuff a burgeoning writer who didn’t know she was a writer yet eats for breakfast.

Dad was an English teacher, so of course he bought me the book. Two copies, in fact, because I convinced him that I needed one to trash and one to keep nice (I still have both copies). I read it in two hours. I wished it were longer. I felt incredibly lucky to have found it. And I have treasured it ever since.

I have never seen another copy of this book in my life. Anywhere (and no, I’m not going to search for it online and ruin the magic).

One of my goals with Skeletons is to make it feel like that kind of book–that unusual book you always wished existed, and then you spot it in some unexpected place.

Like, for example, a Spirit Shop.

So I’m pleased to announce that Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole has found its first random home: Brookfield Country Wine & Spirits in Brookfield, Connecticut.

Store owner Louis Venezia (who really knows his wine, by the way, and is also a fan of Disney Parks) will be selling copies of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole. We’ve talked about, for the week before Halloween, possibly putting copies on display with some Halloween-themed liquors, like Crystal Head vodka (which comes in a glass skull). It’s an exciting, fresh idea, and always what I’d dreamed for a project like Skeletons.

Because I believe Skeletons might be, for at least one person, that kind of book that A Lady in the Lake was for me.

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