One of my favourite readers – in fact, the reader to whom my short in Damn Near Dead 2 is dedicated – once wrote to David Thompson - asst manager at Murder by the Book, and head of Busted Flush Press - to ask if he could send her Ken Bruen bookmarks to commemorate the publication of Busted Flush’s publication of A Fifth of Bruen. David wrote back and, in part, asked her “if you’re in Dundee have you read Russel McLean?? Wonderful Dundee Crime Writer…” Renate – that’s her name, my favourite reader – sought me out to bring me a hard copy of the email. I was touched. David didn’t have to do that.
And yet he did.
He also didn’t have to send Renate some reading copies of books or other assorted paraphernalia. Ostensibly he was scared after reading her persona in the story. But I think I have an idea of the truth:
he was a generous man. One of the real good guys.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him in ’06 at Madison, where he gave me a Fifth of Bruen T-Shirt as thanks for a review I’d written. Again, it was a gesture he did not need to make. I still have the shirt. I tend to wear it when writing.
I’m not sure whether I can claim as close a friendship with David as many in the crime community who had known him for years, who had shared so many grand experiences with him, but I considered him a friend, someone I wanted to spend time getting to know a little better. He always surprised me with his generosity and the fact he gave so much time to people. I still felt honoured when he replied to my emails or tweets. This was a guy so well respected in the community and yet he still took the time out to answer daft questions from the likes of myself.
We only met once in person, and we were planning to meet again at this year’s Bouchercon… and then even earlier, when he helped me organise part of my tour by getting me out to Houston. I would have gone anyway, I think, but David was so enthusiastic I wouldn’t have got away with skipping the place (And I’d never have forgiven myself either; David was pretty much the first US bookseller to get right behind THE GOOD SON when it was released in its UK edition). What I can tell you is that I admired David professionally – Busted Flush was among my favourite small presses, an imprint that kept on challenging itself to improve both its product and its approach, and from what I gathered about him as a bookseller, he was pretty much what I aspire to in my day job – and I was looking forward to seeing him again on a purely personal level; he was, simply, a likeable guy.
And he will be missed.
I don’t know the details – don’t know that many do – of what happened other than he passed away sometime on either the 13 or 14 September 2010. Aged 38. Far too young. Took me reading several online tributes before it sunk in that I really was reading about the same David Thompson. Even now there’s a strange air of unreality about the idea.
Our last email conversation, he was helping me sort out travel arrangements in the US and laughing at my failure to use Google Maps (“want me to walk you through our website and the location?”). My memories are not only of a talented bookseller and publisher, but of a guy who went out of his way for others and who seemed to enjoy his life. I was looking forward to thanking him in person for all his help and support over the last few years. It is strange and upsetting to think that I – and, I’m sure many others – will now not have that opportunity.
My thoughts go to his wife McKenna and to all of David’s family and friends. David Thompson – and I speak through my own experiences of the man – was more than just a talented bookseller, a champion of readers and writers, a consummately professional publisher… he was a good man. And I am honoured to have known him even if only for a relatively short time.