Browsing for books. It was like old times.

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I KNOW THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION  has taken publishing with the fury of a summer storm. I realize that bookstores are fading away like old phonograph records and eight-track tapes, going out of business at an alarming rate. But, Lord, how I do miss the bookstores.

My idea of a great Sunday afternoon was to grab a coffee at the corner Starbuck’s counter and wander through Barnes & Noble, browsing through shelves filled with wonderful novels, seeing what was new, discovering authors I had never read before, looking for just the right book to take home and read far into the night.

I could do that. I’m a Presbyterian. We don’t have church on Sunday night.

It’s the worst thing that has happened to authors, especially in the eBook world. Readers can no longer find or stumble across them in bookstores. It’s hard enough just to find a bookstore.

So I thought I’d spend Sunday afternoon browsing the biggest bookstore in the country: Amazon. I had never done that before. I’m not sure many people ever bother to browse through the Amazon bookshelves.

I poured myself a cup of Hazelnut coffee, I sat down at my trusty little MacBook, and I began doing what I used to do at bookstores: looking for a title that interested me, reading the dust jacket copy, although now it’s called the product description, and checking out the first line of the novel.

If the title and dust jacket copy were good enough to lead me to that opening line, and if I liked the opening line, then I always bought the book.

I went to Amazon and plugged in thrillers.

I write them. I read them.

But here, online, came a litany of one-word titles: Heckle, Identity, Consequence, Syndrome, Princess, Silent, and Jet.

They may be great books.

One-word titles may be the trend.

One-word titles do not pique my curiosity.

The Profiler’s Daughter tempted me. The cover didn’t.

So I kept on browsing.

It was like old times.

Bloody Mary was called a Jack Daniels Mystery.

Too cute.

Bourbon and vodka have never mixed.

I was intrigued by the title: Seven Days From Sunday. I loved the cover. And I read the “dust jacket copy:” In this fast paced thriller, Iraq’s top terrorist makes two promises – a kidnapped American contractor will be executed on a given date, his body dumped in Baghdad’s Green Zone and a major attack will occur in seven days. 

It showed a lot of promise, and I immediately went to the opening line: “The man was actually shaking so hard that Adrian Hanjour could have sworn he heard the man’s teeth chatter.”

Not bad.

Not memorable either.

For me, it was not a $2.99 beginning, so I kept on browsing.

And here came the mundane titles again: Sugar Daddy, The Dummy Line, Fuzzy Navel, The Gate, and No Show.

Again, the novels may be thrillers in every sense of the word. They may be well written and well calculated to keep me on the edge of my seat.

I’ll never know.

The Apostle Murders got my attention.

The cover was outstanding.

The description sounded appealing: Reverend Samuel (Preach) Preston is a full-time Christian evangelist traveling the country preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Preach is on a mission — a mission to re-create the martyrdom of the original apostles of Jesus Christ. To his family he is father and grandfather. To the Christian world, he is a dedicated man of God. But to FBI agents Duncan Morris, Lynn Keller, and George Benjamin, he is a serial killer they must stop before he can kill again.

I checked the opening line: “Reverend Samuel “Preach” Preston was making good time.”

It left me cold.

I moved on.

Maybe I might buy The Berlin Deception. I did like the title. The cover grabbed me. But the description warned me: The Gestapo is closing in. On foot, by train, even on water, Becker is running and gunning for his life.

I did not want to read 50,000 words filled with clichés. But I gave it a chance. I did go to the opening line. It read: “Congratulations on your eightieth birthday! The whole world celebrates with you.”

The novel already had one exclamation point too many.

I kept browsing.

And that’s how I found The Stranger Beside You by William Casey Moreton. The title was haunting. The cover struck a chord of terror.

And the description? When Tom is killed under mysterious circumstances within hours of his arrest, Brynn finds herself following a trail of cryptic clues planted by Tom himself. Soon it’s clear that her husband was leading a secret life, and now those same secrets threaten to kill her next.

I wanted to know what happened next.

The opening line told me: “The doorbell rang at midnight when the house was filled with a dead-of-night stillness where every sound was amplified.”

Moreton can write, I told myself. I don’t know him. I’ve never seen his name before. I had never bought one of his novels. I can’t say that anymore. I clicked. Thank you for your purchase, said Amazon.

Now I can read far into the night, which is what life is all about anyway. So I keep browsing through Amazon. It’s quick and easy and painless. I save enough on coffee to pay for the book.

One of my novels is Night Side of Dark. Maybe you’ll find it browsing Amazon sometime.

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