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Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #120 December, 2017 February, 2018

37th Anniversary Sale

        December 1 marks Uncle Edgar’s 37th anniversary. Come into Uncle Edgar’s or Uncle Hugo’s and save 10% off everything except discount cards, gift certificates, or merchandise already marked 40% off. A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get 10% off from the discount card and 10% off from the sale. (Sale prices apply only to in-store purchases, not to mail orders.) The sale runs Friday, November 24 through Sunday, December 3, giving you two weekends to save.
        Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, also happens to be during the anniversary sale. On Small Business Saturday we will be selling our store T-shirts, sweatshirts, and book bags at half price.
        We will also be having our annual inventory reduction sale December 26-31, but that will feature deep discounts on things we really want to get rid of. It will not be a store-wide sale like the 37th Anniversary Sale.

Award News

        The World Fantasy Awards included Best Novel to The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North ($15.99) and Best Long Fiction to The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson ($14.99).
        The Dragon Awards included Best Science Fiction Novel to Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey ($16.99) and Best Fantasy Novel to Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo ($7.99).
        The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature went to Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip ($27.00, $16.00 trade pb due late February).

        Many mystery awards were announced at Boucherson:
        The Anthony Awards included Best Novel to A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny ($9.99) and Best First Novel to IQ by Joe Ide ($15.99).
        The Barry Awards included Best Novel to A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny ($9.99), Best First Novel to The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie ($8.99), Best Paperback Original to Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty ($15.95) and Best Thriller to Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder ($9.99).
        The Shamus Awards included Best Private Eye Novel to Where It Hurts by Reed Farrell Coleman ($16.00), Best First Private Eye Novel to IQ by Joe Ide ($15.99) and Best Original. Private Eye Paperback to The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan ($15.99).
        The Macavity Awards included Best Novel to A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny ($9.99) and Best First Novel to IQ by Joe Ide ($15.99).

        The UK Crime Writers Association has announced the Dagger Awards for 2017.
        The Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement went to Ann Cleeves.
        The Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel Written in English went to The Dry by Jane Harper ($25.99, $15.99 trade pb due early January). The other finalists were The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer ($16.00), Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin ($25.95), Spook Street by Mick Herron ($26.95, $15.95 trade pb mid December), A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee ($25.95), and The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller ($26.00, $14.99 mid January).
        The International Dagger for Best Crime Novel Translated into English went to The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson ($27.95). The other finalists were A Fine Line by Gianrico Carofiglio ($14.95), Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre ($16.95), A Cold Death byAntonio Manzini, The Legacy of the Bones by Delores Redondo, and A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas ($16.00).
        The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller went to Spook Street by Mich Herron ($26.95, $15.95 trade pb due mid-December). The other finalists were You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott ($15.99), The Killing Game by J. S. Carol, We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire by Jules Grant, Redemption Road by John Hart ($16.99), and The Constant Soldier by William Ryan.
        The John Creasey New Blood Dagger for Best First Crime Novel went to Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (no U.S. edition yet). The other finalists were The Pictures by Guy Bolton ($24.99), Ragdoll by Daniel Cole ($15.99), Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard, Sirens byJoseph Knox, and Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land ($25.95).
        The Historical Dagger for Best Historical Crime Novel went to A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee ($25.95). The other finalists were The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter ($26.00), The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin, The Long Drop by Denise Mina ($15.99), By Gaslight by Steven Price ($18.00), and The City in Darkness by Michael Russell ($13.99).

Holiday Gift Ideas

        Our most popular gift option continues to be our gift certificate. We can issue one for any amount. It can be used at either or both Uncles. It can even be used for mail orders, and it can be purchased over the phone (with a credit card), and we can mail it to the purchaser or to the recipient, or we can just enter the balance on a credit file here in the store to avoid the risk of the gift certificate being lost.
        Calendars used to be a very popular gift item, but so many people are now using assorted electrical devices in place of a wall calendar that the calendar market has shrunk quite a bit. Last year we didn’t carry any calendars. This year we brought in small numbers of a few calendars from England, and have already sold out of a couple of designs. We still have copies of Arthur Rackham ($15.99), Cthulhu ($15.99), The Sci-Fi Art of Virgil Finlay ($15.99, black and white illustrations from the pulps), and Unicorns ($15.99). We’ve also special ordered calendars for some customers.
        We also have hundreds of signed books, lots of art books, and humor books, including many that can be given to people who don’t read sf or mysteries.

How’s Business?
by Don Blyly

        The U.S. Census Bureau reported that bookstore sales tumbled 10.9% in August and are down 2.5% for the first 8 months of the year. Our sales are also down a bit for the year, but more of our sales are for used books, which have a higher profit margin than new books, so we’re still hanging in there, unlike some other bookstores.

        The Seattle Mystery Bookstore announced on September 18 that they were going out of business as of September 30. There is a very good, long blog posting about the problems over the last couple of decades, other than Amazon, that lead to their closing. If you are interested, go to:
and scroll down to the September 18 entry.

        Book World, a 45 store chain based in Wisconsin, just announced that they are closing down the entire chain over the next 10 weeks. They have some downtown stores in various small towns around the upper Midwest, and they have some shopping mall stores. As people have shifted their purchasing away from department stores to e-commerce sites, the shopping malls have lost their anchor tenants, and once that happened the foot traffic in the malls spiraled down, and the book sales in the malls plummeted over the last 12 months, while the rent remains high. The downtown stores have continued to do well, but for some reason the chain decided to close all their stores. Book World had been the fourth largest surviving bookstore chain in the U.S.

        Last year 786,935 ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) were issued for self-published books (and some of the self-published authors are so clueless that they put out their books without ISBNs, so that wholesalers and most retailers won’t touch them because the computers don’t know how to handle a book without an ISBN).

        At Uncle Edgar’s, the stock of used books has actually gone down a little, but at Uncle Hugo’s we are buried in used books. It’s getting hard to find books on the bottom shelves because there are such tall piles of used books in front of the shelves, and we have many more collectable used mass market books than we’ve ever seen before. Blame it on baby boomers downsizing their libraries. If your budget is strained by the price of new books, remember that we have thousands of very good books, with many of them only costing $4.00 each.

        We are going through what has become one of my least liked parts of the year–health insurance renewal. We received the annual letters telling us that the policy we were part of this year would not be renewed for next year, but the insurance company would try to put us into the new policy that came the closest to our old policy. At the end of October, the agent called to ask if we wanted to renew our policy. I told her that we would love to renew the policy we had this year, but we had been notified that the same policy was not available for the new year.
        “Oh, you know about that already?” she said. “Well I have a new policy for you that’s even better than the old policy. Do you want to sign up for the new policy?”
        “Not without finding out what it covers and what it costs.”
        “Okay, I’ll e-mail the policy summaries and the quotes to you.”
        The new “better” policy she wanted me to agree to without looking at it would have increased the co-pay for a doctor’s visit by $30 per visit, and would have increased the cost of the policy by almost $200 per person per month. Elizabeth and I did a lot of research on-line and came up with two other policies that we could have lived with, with one being much more to our liking, and then I requested that the agent give us quotes for both of the other policies. She gave us a quote on one of the policies (the one we thought would be best for our needs) and it was slightly better and significantly less expensive than the “better” policy she wanted us to agree to. We are now going through all the paperwork to switch coverage to the new plan. (And this year was less of a hassle than last year, which was a real nightmare.)
        I’ve been going through this annual headache for decades and just assumed that this was the way things had to be done. Then I turned 65 and was able to sign up for Medicare, and life has been so much easier for me. But I still have to go through the annual headache for the policy for the employees. I remember back when Obamacare was in the planning stages, there were a few people in Congress that wanted to allow people the option to pay a fee and join the Medicare program as a form of competition to the insurance companies, but Congress-critters of both parties quickly killed that idea, demonstrating the campaign contributions from insurance companies work

        After my comments last issue about the research I had done on the book distribution network while I was working on a Ph. D., some customers asked if I had completd the Ph. D. No, I didn’t, but some people might be interested in the circumstances that led to my dropping out of the program. The Dean of the University of Minnesota Business School at the time felt that one of his most important tasks was to raise the national ranking of the school.
        The only people who get to vote on the ranking of the business schools are college professors at business schools. While the professors might be honest about their opinions about a lot of schools, they have a tendency to highly rate two schools in particular to advance their own careers: the school where they currently teach and the school where they received their Ph. D. The Dean decided that this meant that every spot in the Ph. D. program that was taken by a student likely to go into the business world instead of going into academia constituted a wasted opportunity to turn out a future vote for the U of M business school, so he sent out an order to purge the Ph. D. program of anybody likely to go into the business world.
        I was one of the people to be purged. They waited until my advisor was out of the country on sabbatical, so that he couldn’t interfere. They took a look at the student ratings of my teaching for my first semester of teaching undergraduates, and told me that it was unsatisfactory, and that I would not be offered employment next year, either for teaching or for doing the research that I had been doing prior to my first semester of teaching. They had just given another Ph. D. student an award for being the best instructor in the entire program, and I managed to get a look at that student’s ratings from his first semester of teaching, and it was almost identical to mine. Back when I was at the University of Illinois I had received the highest ranking of any instructor at the Champaign-Urbana campus for my last year there. So, it would have been easy to figure out what was going on even if I hadn’t already heard about the purge going on.
        I managed to keep myself busy without being in the program. A lot of space had just opened up in the building where Uncle Hugo’s was then located. The first month after dropping out of school, I knocked out a wall and doubled the size on Uncle Hugo’s. The next month, the American Booksellers Association held a workshop in Chicago on organizing regional bookseller organizations. I was the only one from Minnesota to attend, and as soon as I got back to town I started working on creating the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association to represent all independent bookstores in Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and western Wisconsin (mainly with help from the sales representatives from the major publishers, because many of the other booksellers felt more comfortable about working with them instead of working with competitors). After a couple on months of that, I took over another space in the building where Uncle Hugo’s was then located and started building bookshelves for Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore.
        About 2 or 3 years later, something interesting happened with the business school. An alumni (who only got a bachelor’s degree, not a Ph. D.) gave the school a huge amount of money (I think $50 million to $100 million, but I don’t remember the exact amount) and got the school named after himself. Suddenly, the school decided that having alumni going into business instead of academia was not such a bad thing. The Dean was replaced. Most of the faculty that had given me a hard time were soon gone. My advisor received an endowed chair in entrepreneurship. I probably could have gotten back into the program, but by then I was too busy and about to get married, so I didn’t try.

        Looking over the forthcoming book listings, it’s amazing to me how many publishers decided to dramatically cut back on the number of titles released during the month of December. Since December is the month with the most foot traffic in bookstores, you’d think they’d want to have a lot of new titles for the customers to look over, but instead a lot of titles got pushed back to February, which probably has the least amount of foot traffic in the year. Decades ago, the publishers had large numbers of sales representatives that actually visited the bookstores and sent comments back to New York about what the bookstores had to say about things. There are now very few sales reps that visit stores, and the communication between bookstores and publishers has suffered as a result. I remember in the 1980s and 1990s telling many sales reps that the publishers should try to get as many of the January titles into the stores before the first week of January because we saw so many customers with gift certificates for the first couple of weeks after Christmas, looking for something new to spend their loot on. And for several years most publishers that had been shipping their January titles to arrive around the middle of January (because nobody goes out to shop in January, so it doesn’t matter when we ship stuff) did in fact try to get the January titles into the stores between Christmas and the first week of January. This benefited the customers with gift certificates, the bookstores, the publishers, and the authors with books released in January. But over the years, the timing of book releases has drifted back to patterns that don’t make sense to me.

        I’ve heard that the art departments of the major publishers have become very concerned about making their book covers look like they are NOT self-published books. The theory is that enough people have now been burned by picking up bad self-published books that if the cover looks professional, the customer will assume that the book has been professionally edited and proof-read, and the customer will then be more willing to spend their money on the book. I have seen a few self-published books that have good covers, but most of them do look rather bad. I have also read at least a bit of some very bad self-published books, as well as a few good ones. But I’ve also read some books from the major publishers that were obviously “proof-read by spell checker,” and a few that didn’t even receive a spell checker proof-reading. I have no objection to the publishers spending a little more on their covers, but I wish they would also pay more attention to proof-reading. But the customers don’t find out about the bad proof-reading until after they have spent their money.

        Traffic on Chicago Avenue continues to be a problem, especially during rush hours, because of the bridges being rebuilt on Portland Avenue and Cedar Avenue over the Greenway, the closing of the Franklin Street bridge over I-35W, the periodic closing of Portland Avenue over I-94, and sometimes road construction issues on I-35W. The Franklin Street bridge will be out for at least another year, and the I-35W construction will move from phase to phase over the next four years, but the rest of the problems should be resolved within the next few weeks. We are really looking forward to the traffic returning to normal levels, so that people can get to and from the Uncles easily.

        The Superbowl hype continues. During the same news program on the same station, I’ll hear one report claiming that over 100,000 people will be in town for the Superbowl, followed by another report that claims over 1,000,000 people will be coming to town for the Superbowl, followed by another report that “hundreds of thousands of out-of-staters” will be coming to town for the Superbowl (so they should all be aware of all the street closings in downtown Minneapolis for 10 days for the Superbowl). It sure is a good thing those “hundreds of thousands of out-of-staters” are watching the Minneapolis local news reports months in advance to find out about street closings. And now the transit drivers are threatening to strike during the Superbowl.
        When I moved to Minneapolis, I used to spend a lot of time downtown, but over the decades all the businesses that appealed to me went out of business, and I rarely go downtown any more. And every time I drive through it, I’m amazed by how much new construction has taken place since the last time I drove through. But I really hope that I don’t have to go through downtown during the 10 days of Superbowl madness.
        We don’t expect to see a huge amount of action at the Uncles from the Superbowl, whether it brings 100,000 people or 1,000,000 people to town. A few of the fans might be interested in science fiction or mystery books, but most of them won’t be interested. The Midtown Sheraton across the street from the Uncles will probably be packed with football fans (making it difficult for families of people in the hospital to find a place to stay), and some of them will probably wander across the street and look around. The Global Marketplace in the former Sears building is planning to try to draw in some of the Superbowl crowd, and if they are successful I expect that some of the football fans will wander across the street to the Uncles. Many of the ethnic food places in the Global Marketplace have high hopes of getting catering contracts for Superbowl parties. As a result, the Global Marketplace people are much more excited about the Superbowl than are the other businesses near the Uncles.

        Ecko has been the store dog for almost 2 years now, but she hasn’t been coming to the store quite so often lately. She has some kind of allergy that makes her very itchy. When it first developed around August, 2016, the vet said it was probably ragweed allergy, because a lot of dogs have that and it was the right time of the year for it. Ecko took some medicine for a while and the rash went away. Last winter, the allergy came back, and since there was no ragweed around, the vet decided that she had probably developed an allergy to chicken, because most dog food has chicken as a component. Ecko took more medicine and started eating salmon kibble (at about 4 times the cost of kibble containing chicken) and the rash went away. In August, the rash came back, the vet said ragweed allergy again and Ecko started taking medicine again. The rash went away for a while, but after the frost had killed the ragweed, the rash came back. A different vet said that it was not a food allergy, because a food allergy would produce runny nose and runny ears as well as the rash. She wasn’t sure what was causing the problem, but Ecko is on meds again, and the rash is slowly going away. When Ecko is at home, she mainly sleeps and thus is not aware of the rash. When Ecko is at the store, she is busy greeting customers, almost never sleeps, and is quite aware of the rash, resulting in lots of scratching. Ecko loves being at the store and greeting customers, but I’ve been cutting back on her trips to the store to reduce her scratching.

Signed Books

        Lois McMaster Bujold will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Saturday, December 9, 1-2 pm, for Penric’s Mission ($25.00), the third of the Penric books to be published. Lois says she has recently finished writing the sixth book in the series. The books come out first as e-books and audiobooks, followed by the hardcovers from Subterranean Press (with the next book, Penric’s Fox, coming around March 1), and perhaps someday in a paperback omnibus form, but there isn’t yet a contract for a paperback edition. Lois has already signed some copies of Penric’s Mission for us, but if you want a personalized copy you’ll have to wait for the signing.

        Neogenesis by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller ($25.00) is the next book in the Liaden Universe series, and has an official release date of January 2. We have arranged to get signed copies from the authors, and if you order by December 10 you can get your copy personalized if you wish. After December 10, you’ll only be able to get signed copies, while they last.
        Speaking of “while they last”, we still have a bunch of signed copies of Provenance by Ann Leckie ($26.00), that she signed at Uncle Hugo’s on October 2. We are almost out of copies of The River Bank by Kij Johnson ($24.00), that she signed at Uncle Hugo’s on October 14. We are out of signed copies of Vallista by Steven Brust ($25.99), that he signed on October 28, and the publisher is also out of copies. We are trying to get more copies from one of the wholesalers before they run out of copies, and if we can get more copies we’ll try to get Steven to drop by and sign them.

        We’ve recently been receiving a lot of signed books from publishers. At Uncle Hugo’s, these have included River’s Edge by James P. Blaylock ($40.00 limited edition), Children of the Fleet by Orson Scott Card ($25.99), Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich ($28.99), It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor ($21.99, second Welcome to Night Vale novel, and we still have signed copies of Welcome to Night Vale ($19.99), the first of the series), Strange Weather by Joe Hill ($27.99), Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire ($26.99), and The Ship of the Dead: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard III by Rick Riordan ($19.99). We also received a couple of cases of signed copies of Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson ($34.99) with the cases beat to hell by UPS, so we ended up with two good copies (long gone), some slightly beat up copies (almost gone) and four really beat up copies. We’ll see if we can get more good copies, but we’re not optomistic.

        At Uncle Edgar’s we’ve recently received signed copies of The Midnight Line by Lee Child ($28.99, the new Jack Reacher title, with all bumped a bit and some really beat up), Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly ($29.00), Earthly Remains by Donn Leon ($25.00), Fallout by Sara Paretsky ($27.99), Deep Freeze by John Sandford ($29.00, Virgil Flowers novel), The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith ($25.95, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series) and In This Grave by Jacqueline Winspear ($27.99). David Housewright stopped by and signed What the Dead Leave Behind ($25.99) and William Kent Krueger stopped by and signed Sulfur Springs ($26.00).
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