Tag Archives: Ali Brandon

A Day in the Life with Hamlet by Ali Brandon

twice-told-tailMeow! This is Hamlet the Cat. Yes, that Hamlet. . .feline mascot extraordinaire of Pettistone’s Fine Books in Brooklyn. I am in charge of making sure that the bookstore operates properly, and that our customers behave themselves. Of course, my caretaker, Darla Pettistone, thinks she is the boss. But that’s just because she inherited the store a couple of years ago from my previous caretaker, who happened to be her Great-Aunt Dee. Everyone else besides Darla knows who really runs things around here.

I’ve been asked to talk about my usual day. I have to admit that my routine has changed somewhat since Darla took over the bookstore. Once, I spent most of my time catching up on my naps. It was hard work, but I still managed eighteen hours of sleep out of every twenty-four, even with all my management duties. Why so little sleep? Well, when you have customers who read the magazines without paying, and who hide their empty drink cups on the back shelves, it is imperative that the feline in charge keep one eye open at all times.

But things changed after Darla arrived. It was quite strange, but suddenly humans all around us began to meet untimely ends…and with no nine lives to allow for what humans call a “do over”. And since I am the star of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, that meant that in addition to my bookstore duties, I now had to solve murders. Growl!

I let Darla and her friend Jake do all the paw work, but it takes a feline brain to achieve superior mental sleuthing. It was always obvious to me from the start who the true murderer was in each story. Unfortunately, Darla and her friends are not as clever as felines. No matter how hard I tried to share my clues—usually, titles of books that I pulled from the shelf—they didn’t always understand what I was trying to say. Sometimes, I had to lead them right to the bad human before they figured out whodunit. That is especially true in my new book, Twice Told Tail. Hisssss!

hamlet-headshotBut I have to tell you that my daily routine will be changing yet again. You see, Ali Brandon has informed me that Twice Told Tail will be the final book in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series. She said something about the vagaries of publishing. I am not sure what that means, except that it made her—and me—very sad. But then she reminded me that just because I’m not having adventures in books anymore doesn’t mean that I’m going away.

Ali Brandon says that Darla and Jake and Robert and James and Reese and Mary Ann and I will still be at Pettistone’s Fine Books solving mysteries in a place that humans call The Imagination. She said that all book characters go to live in that place when their series end. But that is not bad, because readers can always find them—and us!—there anytime.

And, in real life, I am still hanging out with Ali Brandon on my Facebook page talking to my human friends and their felines. I plan to be there for some time to come, though perhaps I will be introducing you to some new fictional felines in what Ali Brandon calls the near future. We shall see. In the meantime, I hope you will read my new book, Twice Told Tail, which has a few sad endings but which also hints at some happy new beginnings. Finally, Ali Brandon and I wish to thank all of you who have read and enjoyed our books over the years. We greatly appreciate you and think that you are all very clever humans, indeed. Purrrrrrrrrrrrr. . .

Twice Told Tail is the sixth book in the Black Cat Bookshop mystery series, published by Penguin Random House, November 2016.

The New York Times bestselling author of Plot Boiler takes us back to Pettistone’s Fine Books, where Hamlet the cat isn’t the only shadowy figure lurking around the Brooklyn brownstone.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Darla Pettistone is preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year. They’ve recently launched their online store, where one anonymous bidder is offering a suspiciously high price for an antique book—and Darla doesn’t need Hamlet’s special senses to know that something isn’t quite right.

However, there’s no time to think about that after Darla’s roped into helping bridezilla Connie Capello get ready for her big day. After looking at wedding dresses, Darla and Connie head to an antique store to find her “something old”—but they find someone dead instead. When Darla learns that the shop carried a copy of the book that her mysterious bidder is after, she suspects she’ll need Hamlet’s help to discover who penned the poor soul’s final chapter, before someone else is read their last rites.

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About the author
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. This popular cozy series features Hamlet the cat and his transplanted-Texan caretaker, Darla Pettistone. ali-brandonTogether, the pair work and sleuth out of Darla’s Brooklyn-based independent bookstore. Whenever a murderer is on the prowl, Hamlet and Darla are ready to pounce—and they always manage to collar the killer! The sixth and final book in the series, Twice Told Tail, hits the shelves November 1. But Ali promises that more cat fiction of some sort is on the horizon.

A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Ali now lives in South Florida with her hubby, four dogs, and four very spoiled cats. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, a former board member of the MWA Florida Chapter, and a member of the Cat Writers’ Association. You can find her and Hamlet at alibrandon.com, dianestuckart.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Twice Told Tail. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 5, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Darla Pettistone by Ali Brandon

Plot BoilerHello, Fellow Crawford Avenue Retailers! Hope your summer is off to a profitable start. This issue’s Spotlight feature falls on one of our newer neighborhood retailers, Ms. Darla Pettistone, owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books. Now, many of you old-timers will remember that Pettistone’s used to be run by Darla’s great-aunt, Ms. Darla “Dee” Pettistone. Dee founded her bookstore more than a decade ago, locating it in the first two floors of her remodeled brownstone. She ran the shop until her death almost two years ago at the ripe old age of 85. Her niece, Darla, moved to Brooklyn from Texas to take over the reins there almost a year and a half ago. Darla has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about herself and the bookstore for the Crawford Avenue Crier.

CAC: Hi, Darla. Thank you for sitting down with me. Can you tell your fellow Crawford Avenue Retailers about your bookstore?

Darla: Hi, and thank you. Those of your readers who have never been to our shop before are in for a treat. We’re an independent bookstore selling new books of all kinds, along with magazines and graphic novels. We have a wonderful children’s section, and this year we installed a coffee bar in our upstairs lounge for all our customers. We also handle rare and collectible books. Our store manager, Professor James T. James, is a former university instructor specializing in 19th century literature. If you want to buy or sell a vintage book, he can help you out.

CAC: So what is an average day for you and your employees?

Darla: We are open every day except Monday, and our coffee bar is open every morning. Robert, our barista, comes in the first thing to roast and grind the coffee while I’m getting the store ready for the day. In addition to dealing with our customers, I handle all the fun managerial stuff like paying bills and ordering stock. James handles our online sales and auctions on top of assisting customers. We stay busy, but we enjoy our jobs. And, we even get to read a book every so often!

CAC: We’ve heard rumors that you have a very special cat as a store mascot. Can you tell us about him?

Darla: That would be Hamlet. Lots of our customers say he looks like a miniature black panther. He arrived at the bookstore as an abandoned kitten almost ten years ago and was adopted by my great-aunt. Hamlet is in charge of customer service. He keeps an eye on things around the store and in the neighborhood, too. He walks on a leash and harness, so in nice weather he and I stroll for a few blocks each day.

CAC: And, of course, I’m sure Hamlet will be helping out at the big Fourth of July block party that will be held in our neighborhood in a few weeks. You are the chairperson of this festival and actually the one who first proposed it. Can you give our fellow retailers an update on what’s planned so far?

Darla: I’m thrilled to say that all our retailers are participating in this first ever event here, which is meant to bring new business to all the Crawford Avenue merchants. In addition to all the food and drink folks selling their specialties, we’re planning on old-fashioned games for adults and kids, and a live band playing popular tunes. We’ll also have free antiques appraisals courtesy of Bygone Days Antiques and Collectible, martial arts demonstrations by the students of Tomlinson’s Academy of Martial Arts, and some surprise dance moves from the Brooklyn Modern Dance Institute. Jake Martelli, our local private investigator, will give free consultations for people who think they might need her services. Oh, and Hamlet will be making personal appearances throughout the block party.

CAC: That sounds wonderful. I know everyone is looking forward to this event. Now, how about one last question? Some people are saying that your mascot, Hamlet, is smarter than the average cat. In fact, I heard that he had a very big role in solving a mystery down in Florida earlier this year while you and he were on vacation. And he even saved you when you were being held hostage by an accused murderer at the big martial arts tournament last year. Is Hamlet actually a crime-fighter in cat’s clothing?

Darla: Oh, no, those stories are exaggerated. Hamlet likes to stick his nose into other people’s business, but he’s just your everyday ordinary black cat. No super powers for him!

CAC: Well, the rumor mill says differently, but you’re the one who would know. Anyhow, thank you for sitting down with me. We all hope the big Fourth of July block party will be a great success.

Darla: I can guarantee you, it’s going to be a blast!

You can read more about Darla in Plot Boiler, the fifth book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Double Booked For Death.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on December 4 for your chance to win a signed copy of PLOT BOILER. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from ali brandonBerkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She shares her rural home with her husband and a pack of critters that includes two black cats, Brandon Bobtail and Ophelia.

Visit Diane at www.dianestuckart.com, on Twitter and on Facebook

A Day in the Life of Jake Martelli by Ali Brandon

Literally MurderNice to meet you, too, Lance. The name’s Jake Martelli. Don’t even think about calling me Jacqueline, or even Jackie. Only my mother is allowed to do that. Luckily, Ma lives in Fort Lauderdale, and since it’s a good three-hour flight from where I live in Brooklyn, I don’t have to put up with hearing that too often.

Right, scotch and soda…and some of those little pretzels, if you have them.

Yeah, I actually have a pretty nice place there. I’ve got the garden apartment in a three-story brownstone, with dirt-cheap rent and pretty much a lifetime lease. There’s a bookstore on the first two floors, which is pretty nice. My best friend, Darla Pettistone, owns the shop…the whole building, as a matter of fact. Or maybe I should say, her and her crazy black cat named Hamlet. But that’s another story.

So, what’s a good-lookin’ broad like me doing alone in an Atlantic City dive bar on a Tuesday night? Not very original, are you, kid? Oh, and don’t even think about trying to put the moves on me. You’re, what, thirty? Well, I’m old enough to be your mother. But pour me another scotch and soda, and I’ll tell you why I’m here.

You remember that couple at the end of the bar awhile back? The fat bald guy in the pink shirt two sizes too small for him, and the skinny blonde with too much makeup? Well, Baldy’s married, but not to Blondie. She’s his “administrative assistant” down at the machine shop where he’s a manager. Turns out Blondie’s been administering to him, all right…and Baldy’s missus got suspicious, so she hired me to get the lowdown.

Yeah, you got it in one. I’m a private detective, just like the character in that paperback novel I see you’ve got stashed behind the cash register. Don’t worry, kid, I’ve got your number. Keep the scotch and sodas coming, and I promise I won’t tell anyone you’re a mystery fan.

Nah, tracking down these two geniuses was kid’s play. Blondie has a big mouth. All it took was going out to lunch the same place she and her pals go, and I found out all about her out-of-town “date” tonight and the “sick day” she plans to take tomorrow. So I show up here and, voila. I watched the two of them get all cozy here in the bar for awhile, and then I followed them back to their room at the motel next door.

Word to the wise, Lance…always close your curtains all the way. Oh, and skip doing a Chippendales striptease act if your belly hangs over your belt. I could go for a quart of brain bleach right about now, if you know what I mean. Anyhow, see this innocent looking smartphone? All the incriminating evidence that will help wifey get a nice little alimony settlement when she divorces the rat is right in here.

So, you think my life is more exciting than tending bar? Eh, sometimes it is. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about my little trip down to Florida last month with my friend, Darla, and her cat. Glamorous? Huh, not much. You try sitting in a parked car for hours at a time waiting for some cheating wife to show up at her boyfriend’s place, and telling yourself you don’t have to pee, and see how glamorous you feel.

Well, Lance, it’s been nice chatting with you, but time to go. I’m going to catch a few winks in that fleabag motel next door and then head out bright and early in the morning for home. But, don’t worry, there are plenty of cheated-on spouses out there just itching to hire a private investigator. I’m sure I’ll be back here again sometime soon tracking down another Baldy and Blondie.

Oh, and maybe next time we have a drink together, we’ll forget that whole “old enough to be your mother” thing and see what happens.

You can read more about Jake in Literally Murder, the 4th book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Double Booked for Death.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 2 for the chance to win a copy of LITERALLY MURDER. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

About the author
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime AliBCrime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically-reviewed historical romances which will soon be re-released as ebooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association.

Visit her at www.dianestuckart.com or on Facebook

Words with Fiends by Ali Brandon

Words with FiendsWords with Fiends by Ali Brandon is the third book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, November 2013

Brooklyn bookstore owner Darla Pettistone and her oversized black cat, Hamlet, have solved a few complicated capers. But after a recent brush with danger, Darla needs to get Hamlet out of a feline funk.

Lately, Hamlet hasn’t been chasing customers or being his obnoxious self—something Darla surprisingly misses. Concerned, she hires a cat whisperer to probe Hamlet’s feline psyche and then decides to get out of her own funk by taking up karate to learn how to defend herself in case the need arises again.

But when Darla finds her sensei dead at the dojo, it seems that even a master can be felled by foul play. Darla decides to investigate the matter herself, and the promise of a mystery snaps Hamlet out of his bad mood. After all, Darla may be the sleuth, but Hamlet’s got a black belt in detection.

This is a good read. The author did a good job in delivering a finely turned whodunit that quickly became a page-turner. This mystery was non-stop action from the first page leading to the apprehension of the killer. I love the interaction between Darla and her friends as they become like a family, helping each other especially when it comes to murder. A great cast, good conversations with the bookstore as a perfect setting, this is one of the best book yet in this delightfully engaging series.

A Day In The Life With Robert by Ali Brandon

Words with FiendsHi, this is Robert. I’m that totally handsome dude that works at Pettistone’s Fine Books here in Brooklyn. Ha, ha, just kidding about the handsome. I look pretty regular, I guess…except when I shave off my eyebrows and draw on eyeliner and put in my nose ring and earrings. Then I look kinda bad-ass, since I wear all black, too. Some people get, you know, freaked out when they see someone Goth like me, but I think it’s a good look. Of course, Ms. Pettistone doesn’t let me dress like that for work. And since she’s the owner of the bookstore, I gotta do what she says, though I do get to wear black.

Ms. Pettistone is really nice. She hired me even though I once kind of accused her of killing someone. I mean, she didn’t really, but me and my friends thought it was all her fault. It wasn’t, though. She’s not bad for a boss…I’ve worked for some pretty creepy dudes before, like the guy that runs the porn shop, so it’s nice to have a, you know, regular boss person in charge. Plus she even gives me a discount on books. She has this weird accent because she’s from Texas, but I try not to laugh at it. She probably thinks we talk funny, too.

Oh, speaking about funny, I’ve got this new thing I do. The Big Hoss—that’s Professor James, our store manager—wears these really lame sweater vests all the time since he used to teach at the college before he retired. So I went down to the thrift store with my girlfriend and got some totally retro vests that I wear to work, too. It’s pretty funny. We look like twins…well, except I’m a young white dude, and he’s this old black dude. Anyhow, I think he got the joke. He’s, like, really smart and stuff. I kind of wish he was my grandpa.

Okay, so I’m supposed to tell you about my day. I’ve worked here at the bookstore for almost six months now. It’s a really good job, especially ‘cause I’m eighteen and I don’t have, you know, a college degree or anything. It’s not that hard of work. Mostly I get to stock the shelves and move all the boxes while Professor James recommends books to little old ladies and sells books online for the store. But I get to run the cash register sometimes when it’s busy, and I make sure the security system is running okay, and stuff like that.

On the days I help Ms. Pettistone open up the store, I have to get up really early, like at nine in the a.m.! (Seriously, who gets up then?) While Ms. P. starts the register and goes through the paperwork, I go up and down the aisles and sweep the floors and make sure the books are where they’re supposed to be. You wouldn’t believe how some people are so freakin’ dumb. They think it’s this big joke to put books on the wrong shelf, so I’ve always got to put stuff back in the right place. But one morning I found twenty bucks on the floor when I was sweeping. No one came back to claim it, so Ms. Pettistone let me keep it. Sweet!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the coolest thing here. We have this really sick mascot (that means “cool” for all you old people reading this). He’s this huge black cat named Hamlet, and he’s, like, almost a person. I call him my little Goth bro. Ms. Pettistone tells everyone that Hamlet actually is the one who hired me. He chased everyone else out of the store who filled out a job application. But we’re, like, on this same mental wavelength. I taught him how to fist bump and everything. He’s supposed to be Ms. Pettistone’s cat, but I kinda think he likes me best. Well, maybe after Professor James.

Okay, I could tell you more stuff, like about the lady PI who lives in Ms. Pettistone’s building. Her name’s Jake and she’s really sick even though she used to be a cop. (No offense if you’re a cop, or something.) I don’t know if she has a gun, but she could totally beat someone up. And next door at Bygone Days Antiques there’s Miss Plinski and her brother, Mr. Plinski. They’re, like, really really really old. I mean, they’ve got to be seventy, at least. I get to live in the apartment in their basement for really cheap since I help them out sometimes at their store. Sweet times two!

Anyhow, that’s it. I have to get back to work. Chillax!

You can read more about Robert in Words With Fiends, the third book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Double Booked For Death. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Thanks to Penguin, I have one (1) copy of “Words With Fiends” to give away. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends November 13; US entries only per publisher’s request.

Meet the author
Ali Brandon is the national bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series—also from Berkley—which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically-reviewed historical romances which will soon be re-released as ebooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association. Visit her at www.dianestuckart.com or www.alibrandon.com.

A Novel Way to Die by Ali Brandon

Novel Way DieA Novel Way to Die by Ali Brandon is the second book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, November 2012

Darla Pettistone may have inherited her great aunt Dee’s Brooklyn bookstore, but it’s the store’s mascot—an oversized black cat named Hamlet—who acts like he owns the place. And when someone turns up dead, Hamlet smells something rotten in Brooklyn.

As the owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books, Darla is settling nicely into her new life, even reaching an uneasy truce with Hamlet. Unfortunately, when she needs to hire a new clerk, the finicky feline decides to lend a paw to the hiring process. He chases away applicants who don’t meet his approval, finally settling on an unlikely candidate: Robert, a book-loving Goth kid who has a secret only Hamlet knows.

And Hamlet can’t seem to stay out of trouble. One of the bookstore’s regular customers, a man who is renovating a local brownstone, claims he’s seen Hamlet prowling the neighborhood. When the man’s business partner is found dead, Darla discovers that Hamlet may have been the only witness to what could be murder. With the crafty cat’s help, she wonders if they just might be able to pounce on a killer.

This was a good read that kept me turning the pages. The author did a great job in keeping me suspense as to the identity of the killer and I loved how the story flowed towards that conclusion. Hamlet plays a pivotal role in this book and I enjoyed the results of his action. It was fun following along with Darla as she read the clues that Hamlet left and what she gleamed from other sources. I love the friendship she has with Jake, James and her newest employee, Robert who is such a sweetheart and an added bonus. The backdrop of a bookstore makes a great setting for this group and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book in this terrific series.

A Lecture By Professor James T. James by Ali Brandon

Let me begin today’s lecture with a brief introduction. I am Professor James T. James, retired from my post as a university lecturer on 19th century English literature, and currently the manager of Pettistone’s Fine Books here in Brooklyn. I will not bore you with my curriculum vitae. Suffice it to say that I hold multiple degrees from more than one prestigious institution, and I have earned a not-inconsiderable reputation in my particular literary specialty among my peers. If you check past issues of 19th Century Literature Quarterly—no, it is not available on the internet, only in proper journal format—you will discover several monographs with my byline.

As for my association with Pettistone’s, I chanced upon the bookstore almost a decade ago. I had learned from a small ad in an obscure publication that its owner was offering a particularly rare printing of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for an astonishingly reasonable price. I hurried over to the store and introduced myself to the owner, one Darla “Dee” Pettistone, expressing my interest in that book.

Dee was a blunt-spoken woman in her seventies who, despite her handicap of being from that singularly backward state of Texas, displayed an admirable business sense. A year previously, she had single-handedly converted her brownstone’s lower levels into retail space, which she had divided between new merchandise and collectible volumes. At the time, however, her merchandizing skill did not interest me. My sole interest lay in acquiring the Twain.

I made a counteroffer that she accepted, and I swiftly purchased the book in question for cash. Once our transaction was completed, however, my conscience got the better of me, and so I explained to her that she had undervalued the edition by several hundred dollars. Being the shrewd businesswoman that she was, Dee did not linger over her loss. Instead, she candidly admitted that her knowledge of antiquarian books was limited, and she offered me a part-time position with her store buying and selling first editions and other rarities.

Since I had been contemplating retirement from my professorial post–one can take only so many years of force-feeding knowledge to clueless college freshmen without succumbing to madness–I agreed to take the job. Later, Dee offered me a permanent position as store manager (having by then reached her 80th year, she was finally ready to take on a more limited day-to-day role). As I had grown to enjoy the retail environment, I accepted.

I can say with pride that my rare book expertise kept Pettistone’s from following the sad lead of numerous other independent bookstores over the years that fell victim to the economy and shuttered their doors. As Dee and I agreed, one cannot put all one’s fiscal eggs in one basket and hope to succeed. Indeed, life at Pettistone’s proceeded at an agreeable pace until a few months ago, when Dee succumbed to a sudden illness and passed on.

While I did not expect Dee to make me her heir, I confess to no little surprise when I learned she had left the entire brownstone, including the bookstore, to a grandniece from Texas. And that is how I came to work for Dee’s namesake, Darla Pettistone. Our start was somewhat rocky, but to Darla’s credit she quickly realized the asset she had in me. We have since made a fine team; I taught her the ropes, as they say in the parlance, and she has done a capable job of running the store. My sole criticism is that she has an unfortunate tendency to embroil herself in all manner of unsavory crimes…purely by accident, she assures me.

I see a hand raised in the back. Ah, yes, of course. You wish to know a little something about our store’s mascot. Hamlet the cat has been a fixture at Pettistone’s for a bit longer than I. (In fact, some customers have begun referring to our store as the Black Cat Bookshop, but I refuse to indulge in such fancy, myself.) As I understand it, Hamlet was a feral kitten who made his way to the store one chilly day. Foolishly, Dee let him inside, where he promptly pulled down a paperback copy of one of the Bard’s famous tragedies and fell asleep upon it, thus earning his sobriquet.

Hamlet grew into a handsome if somewhat imperious beast (some people have claimed he and I have similar personalities, but I cannot see that). He doted upon Dee, and merely tolerated the rest of us, although he has formed something of a bond with Darla. Perhaps it is because Hamlet, too, has a propensity for involving himself in—dare I say it?—murder. In fact, he has brought more than one clue to the attention of the police following some heinous killing and thereby helped solve the case.

I would tell you more about Hamlet and his doings, but it seems that our time is up for today. Please be certain to collect all your belongings as you leave the lecture hall…and do stop by to visit Pettistone’s Fine Books when you are next in Brooklyn. Thank you.

** Ali is giving away one (1) autographed copy of A NOVEL WAY TO DIE. Contest open to US residents only and ends November 11. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Meet the author
Ali Brandon is the national bestselling author of Double Booked For Death, the first in her new Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. The second in that series, A Novel Way To Die, will be on the shelves November 2012, with at least four more books to follow. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she’s also the author of the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award Silver medal. Additionally, she is the author of several published works of short fiction and five full-length historical romances.

A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Visit her at www.dianestuckart.com or www.alibrandon.com.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon

Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon is the first book in the new “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2011

Darla Pettistone left Texas for New York after unexpectedly inheriting her great-aunt Dee’s Brooklyn bookstore. She didn’t know that the store’s mascot—Hamlet, an oversize black cat with a personality to match—was also part of the deal. And he may be more valuable than Darla bargained for.

As the new owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books, Darla Pettistone is determined to prove herself a worthy successor to her late great-aunt Dee…and equally determined to outwit Hamlet, the smarter-than-thou cat she inherited with the shop.

Darla’s first store event is a real coup—the hottest bestselling author of the moment is holding a signing there, which brings hordes of fans and some protestors. But when the author meets an untimely end during the event, it’s hardly good for business, even though it’s ruled an accident—until Hamlet digs up a clue that seems to indicate otherwise. Now, Darla fears a killer might be lurking about…Can the interfering Hamlet point the paws at the culprit without losing one of his own nine lives?

What a good start! Imagine getting the hottest author to come to your bookstore and an accident causes her demise or did it? That’s what faces Darla in this fun-filled and engaging who-dun-it when she uncovers a clue that can change the outcome of the police’s investigation. The writing was crisp and the alluring storylines kept me engrossed in this story as I tried to figure out the mysteries contained in this nicely done tale. The characters are likable and the setting made me feel at home. This was a lovely beginning to what I hope are many adventures with Darla and her friends in this charmingly entertaining new series.

Ali Brandon is the pseudonym of Diane A.S. Stuckart

A Day In The Life Of Darla Pettistone by Ali Brandon

My protagonist, Darla Pettistone, is a savvy businesswoman, even though Pettistone’s Fine Books (the bookshop she inherited from her late Great-Aunt Dee) is her first attempt at entrepreneurship. And so she communicates and stays organized like many of us do these days, electronically.

Reminder message on Outlook…Start time: 8:00 a.m.. Subject: Shopping list.
Kitty Kibble for Hamlet!!!

Darla inherited Hamlet, her great-aunt’s black cat, as a package deal with the bookstore. Since Darla is not a cat person, Hamlet tolerates her simply because she’s the one who pours his kitty kibble twice a day. Thus, it’s vital that she doesn’t run out of this particular food group! Luckily, her Brooklyn neighborhood has a small grocery not far from her store so that she can run this errand before she opens the place at 10 a.m.

From: james@pettistonebooks.com
To: darla@pettistonebooks.com
Subject: Dickens First Edition

Good morning, Darla. I am pleased to advise that the negotiations with our London client regarding the Dickens first edition are almost concluded. I anticipate a four-figure purchase price, which should give us an acceptable profit margin on our investment. I hope to know more soon. James.

Postscript. You may be aware of the somewhat significant time difference between the United States and Great Britain. Since our client’s schedule forced me to arise well before my usual time, I will require a nap of approximately one hour’s duration before I arrive for my shift. Thus, you may expect me at 3 p.m. rather than 2 p.m. today. JJ

Darla checks her email first thing once she arrives at work. Professor James T. James is Darla’s store manager. A retired English instructor at the university level, he has never used a contraction in Darla’s presence. Much as with Hamlet, she inherited James along with the bookstore. James ran the place for her great-aunt for ten years and was doubtful that Darla was up to the task of filling his retail shoes. She convinced him otherwise, however, and they are now a formidable bookselling team.

James’ specialty is rare books. Darla knows that in these days of uncertainty for brick-and-mortar bookstores, the revenue stream he generates truly helps keep the place going. And so she indulges his occasional overbearing manner. James and Hamlet pretend publicly to dislike each other; however, they are similar personality types, and Darla has secretly witnessed the pair hanging out together.

Pettistonebooks (Pettistone’s Fine Books): Hey @ghost-high fans, 2 days until the @valeriebaylor autographing! Only 1st 500 in line will be admitted!

Darla has scored a coup, because YA author Valerie Baylor, who writes the hugely popular “Ghost High” series, will be autographing her latest release at Pettistone’s Fine Books. Each morning, Darla has her part-time employee, Lizzie, send out Tweets to keep the hype going. She’s also considering letting Hamlet tweet, except she’s afraid he’ll simply post snarky cat comments about her.

Lunch 2day @ deli? Need 2 finalize details for VB.

Darla often uses text messaging to keep in touch with her pal Jake, even thought the 50-ish retired ex-cop lives downstairs in Darla’s garden-level apartment (Darla has the upstairs unit). The women do lunch at the local deli, where their favorite meal is the mile-high turkey Reuben. The past few lunches have been strategy sessions for the upcoming Valerie Baylor event. Jake is handling security. With an anticipated 500 screaming teens and Hamlet in the mix, they don’t want anything to go wrong!

From: darla@pettistonebooks.com
To: mrspett1950@mailmail.com
Subject: Care Package

Hi Mom—got the frozen tamales and salsa. THANKS! You don’t know how much I miss decent Tex-Mex up here. I promise, I’ll write you a real letter soon. Give Dad a hug from me. Love, Darla. PS. And yes, Hamlet is still a pain.

Darla often ends the day doing email, too, but usually it’s her personal correspondence. And she definitely misses her family back in Texas, where she’s from. But she’s a firm believer in shaking up one’s life every so often, and so she doesn’t regret the move from Dallas to Brooklyn to take on Hamlet and life in a bookstore. Because living with an ornery feline is anything but boring!

Ali Brandon is the pseudonym for Diane A.S. Stuckart, who is the critically acclaimed author of historical romance and short fiction, as well as the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. The first in Ali’s new Black Cat Bookshop mystery series, DOUBLE BOOKED FOR DEATH, will be on the shelves December 2011. A Texas girl like her protagonist, Darla, Ali now lives in South Florida with her husband and a menagerie which includes two orange tabby boys, Butch and Sundance. For news about Diane a.k.a. Ali, visit www.alibrandon.com.

** Ali has generously offered to give away one signed copy of DOUBLE BOOKED FOR DEATH. To enter, you must leave a valid e-mail address in the comment box with your comment. One entry per person and this is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address. Contest ends on December 18th at 6pm EST. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator and will be notified by e-mail and has 2 days to respond. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.