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Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Beloved Mpls. mystery bookstore Once Upon a Crime is up for sale

Pat Frovarp, Gary Shulze, and their dog, Shamus, at Once Upon a Crime bookstore in 2011.

Pat Frovarp, Gary Shulze, and their dog, Shamus, at Once Upon a Crime bookstore in 2011.

It's the little bookstore that could, the mystery bookstore just six steps down from street level, the one with the, um, dead body on the sign outside. Once Upon a Crime Bookstore, owned by Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp, who met there, got married there, and bought the place, is going on the market.

"It's been a great 13 years, and we will miss it, but too many factors (age and health concerns primary) are telling us it's time to retire," said Shulze, who has been battling cancer for several years.


In 2011, the store was awarded the Raven Award by the Mystery Writers of America--the top honor for non-authors given at the annual Edgar Awards. The bookstore, at 604 W. 26th St., has long had a reputation as being a great supporter of local writers, both of mysteries and other fiction. Nationally known local mystery writers Laura Childs, William Kent Krueger, David Housewright, Brian Freeman and others hold their book-launch parties there. Big names in mystery fiction come through town and hold readings and signings there.

"They're a class act," Plymouth mystery writer Gerry Schmitt, better known by her pen name of Laura Childs, told the Star Tribune at the time. "They carry your books; they carry your back list; they do publicity; they host launch parties and events. They're phenomenal." 

The couple has owned the store since 2002, when they bought it from Steve Stilwell. They've kept it welcoming, well-stocked (Shulze estimates they have about 30,000 titles), low-key and low-tech. Shulze fell ill with leukemia in 2007, and was in the hospital for nearly three months, leaving Frovarp to run the store alone. It was, she said, beyond stressful. "I didn't know if I was on foot or on horseback. But I just kept going." And people, she said, started showing up -- authors, customers, publishers' reps -- to help.

"They restocked shelves, ran the till, shoveled snow," she said. "The mystery community is so incredible."

And the mystery bookstore community too.

What's this? A third Harper Lee book?

Copyright 2015 Mary Murphy & Company LLC "Harper Lee: American Masters" (airs July 10 at 9p on PBS, check local listings) documentary filmmaker/author Mary McDonagh Murphy showed author Harper Lee a copy of her new book, "Go Set a Watchman," in late June.

Copyright 2015 Mary Murphy & Company LLC "Harper Lee: American Masters" (airs July 10 at 9p on PBS, check local listings) documentary filmmaker/author Mary McDonagh Murphy showed author Harper Lee a copy of her new book, "Go Set a Watchman," in late June.

Don't hate me. I'm just the messenger. I know you're sick of Harper Lee, and you're sick of hype, and you're feeling kind of blue about the whole Atticus-as-racist thing, but I would not be doing my job if I didn't tell you that, holy moly, it might all happen AGAIN in another year or two.

In an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal (which you can only read, in full, if you have a subscription), Tonja Carter, Lee's attorney, defends herself, sets the record straight (or makes it even more meandering than it has been), and reveals the bombshell that there might be yet another manuscript out there, a third book that bridges the gap between "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Go Set a Watchman" (which pubs tomorrow).

In her essay, "How I Found the Harper Lee Manuscript," Carter writes that in 2011, Lee's then-agent, Sam Pinkus, asked to examine Lee's papers, looking for the original manuscript of "Mockingbird."  Pinkus and an appraiser from Sotheby's joined Tonja Carter at a bank in Monroeville, where they looked through Lee's safety deposit box.

"The ... box contained several hundred pages of typed original manuscript," Carter writes. "After we all read a couple of pages, someone mentioned that the first page was not the first page of 'Mockingbird,' but rather seemed to be a later chapter."

(Note: I find this confusing, since the first couple of pages of "Watchman" feature Jean Louise as an adult woman coming home on the train, not Scout as a little girl, and it would not take "a couple of pages" to figure this out. But I digress.)

Nothing more was done that day, Carter writes, and then last summer Carter was moved to examine the manuscript again. This time, she realized it was something entirely different than "Mockingbird." She seemed amazed and surprised (but if she had read Charles J. Shields' biography, "Mockingbird," she might have known that such a book existed).  

And then, Carter writes, she decided just last week to go look at the safety deposit box one more time, just in case. "What we found was extraordinary and surprised even me," she writes in the Journal.

"Was it an earlier draft of 'Watchman,' or of 'Mockingbird,' or even, as early correspondence indicates it might be, a third book bridging the two? I don't know. But this much I do know: In the coming months, experts, at Nelle's direction, will be invited to examine and authenticate all the documents in the safe-deposit box."

History, she concludes, demands no less.

(Though readers might.)

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