Books by John M. Daniel

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Pleasant and unusually good-natured, this novel from Daniel (The Poet's Funeral) harkens back to a time when printed books mattered and an independent bookstore could be a social club for passionately eccentric bibliophiles. Tall, bearded, and helplessly stuttering, Hooperman “Hoop” Johnson is happy to be hired at Maxwell‘s Books in Palo Alto, Calif., in the summer of 1972, even if his secret assignment is not to take care of the books but to find out how big chunks of the store’s inventory are disappearing. Hoop becomes acquainted with Maxwell‘s squabbling employess and begins a romance with Lucinda Baylor, one of the suspects in a case that turns out to be larger than amateur shoplifting. In fact, the effort to identify the thief soon takes a backseat to Daniel‘s exploration of the odd quirks of human nature, as flashbacks reveal how Hoop became the person he is and lead to a sweet, gently satisfying conclusion.

The Betz Review, Mysterious Reviews
It is 1972, when printed books mattered, and independent bookstores were in great demand. Francis ”Hoop” Johnson, about thirty years old, is a tall, bearded man of a few words and the newest employee of Maxwell Bookstore in Palo Alto, California. He suffers from a disparaging stuttering problem. He can read or recite poetry without a hint of an impediment, but it is difficult for him to carry on a normal conversation. Hoop has been hired by Elmer Maxwell, founder, owner and manager of the bookstore to be a book cop in Hooperman, a bibliophile mystery by John M. Daniel. Maxwell knows he‘s losing money on his bookstore, but not from day-to-day operations but from theft. For $5 a day Hoop walks up and down the aisles of the store pretending to be browsing but really on the lookout for anyone who may be hiding a book in a purse or under a piece of clothing. If he catches someone doing so, he‘s rewarded with a bonus. But he quickly learns that very few of the store‘s patrons actually steal from it. The quantity of books he recovers doesn‘t nearly cover the amount the store is losing. He begins to suspect that it might be one of his 14 co-workers that is the thief, some of whom have been friends of Maxwell for years. But everyone seems to get along with each other, even trust each other. Could one of them really be a thief? Hooperman is a delightful story filled with well-drawn characters. There are a lot of flashbacks to Hoop‘s childhood and how he was taunted by his peers for his speech impediment. Far more of a character study than a whodunit-style mystery, readers will nonetheless be drawn into his investigation of the thefts. The outcome doesn‘t matter so much as just getting to know this memorable character.

—Betty of The Betz Review, Mysterious Reviews

I‘ve read other mysteries by John Daniel but this may be my favorite. His Hooperman gives us mystery and romance, past and present, set in 1972 in that best of places, a bookstore. Settle back with a cup of tea, let the cat take your lap—because you won‘t want to stir until you‘ve finished this welcoming, quirky, generous book.

Some might think that a mystery without a murder won‘t rivet the same way a trail of bloody corpses do, but the essential drive remains the appreciation of human beings, the need to unravel their motives and actions and who done it. Our friend Hooperman Johnson looms distinctive, contrained by his stutter, yet shaped by his love of poetry. His past story illuminates and deepens his present. He engages with a cast of distinct characters and you can‘t help taking favorites, worrying about who‘s to blame, who‘s been set up. Surprises and reveals abound, but author John Daniel hides evidence in the open and you are as free as Hooperman himself to swirl in with your cape and illuminate the mystery.

Romance winds through the present and past threads with grace, never slipping towards cliché, and John Daniel knits a profoundly satisfying ending.

—Robin Winter, on GoodReads

Book Loons
I wasn‘t sure I was going to like a book with a main character being a stutterer. Too difficult to read. Boy, was I wrong. I fell in love with Hooperman. I also liked the other characters who were patient with him. One of my brothers had a mild stutter and my son had a heavy one at times. Some people aren't as caring as they should be.

Anyway, Hooperman Johnson dealt with his stutter as though it wasn‘t there, although he could read poetry out loud without a hint of a problem. Hooperman got his nickname because of his speech.

Hooperman lived across from the bookstore. When the store needed help, he applied and got the job. Too many books were disappearing from the bookstore and he was to be a bookstore cop. He was to catch shoplifters while he kept an eye on the store employees. He proved to be a valuable employee, though he didn't like spying on his co-workers. Hooperman had been married. His wife, who became a famous poet, didn't hang around him for long. However, he had a chance for romance once again

The book is set in 1972, the summer of Watergate. The plot of this clever story is a simple one but so well told. Be sure to take note of the extraordinary cover.

—Mary Ann Smyth, Book Loons

Hooperman is not his real name. It comes from a schoolyard taunt since Superman was too hard for a little boy to pronounce. Now he’s got a stammer that won’t quit—unless he’s quoting poetry.

Hooperman has always hung out on the fringes and he likes it there. After a stint as pizza baker, he decides to try for a job in the bookstore across the street; it seemed like a good idea at the time. Since he can’t really talk to customers or answer the phone, he’s hired to do what he does best—hang out in the store and roam the aisles, but this time not only for pleasure but to find shoplifters.

The store is suffering significant losses and the boss decides it could be an inside job. Employees consider it a perk to take new books home to read and return. There are an awful lot of books sent to the Return Center, some before they hardly hit the shelf. All in all, it’s a weird set up. A firebomb through the window is added cause for alarm.

Hooperman’s relationship—if that's what you can call it, he’s not sure himself—with fellow employee, Lucinda, is complicated by the appearance of a renowned poet, Jane Gillis, for a reading at the store. No one knows it, but Jane is Hooperman’s ex-wife.

Hooperman is interesting enough to carry the book, but adding in the side characters of Lucinda, Martin West who's in charge of the stockroom, Elmer the liberal bookstore owner and assorted employees, customers and a liberal police officer fills the book with quirks, character and fun. I hope there’s a Hooperman sequel planned.

Daniel’s other mysteries include: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet's Funeral, Vanity Fair, and Behind the Redwood Door. He’s also written cat books, short story collections, non-fiction and e-books.

—Sandra Murphy, King's River Life

John Daniel has published dozens of short stories in literary magazines and is the author of 14 published books. His Guy Mallon series of mysteries set in a mythical county, not unlike Humboldt, crackled and won great reviews. But his newest book, Hooperman, breaks all the rules of mystery fiction and it works.

It‘s a mystery without a murder.

The main character has a speech impediment. To be frank, he stutters. But only when he talks. He can read a speech from a written sheet perfectly. And when he recites classic poetry, which he does often in romantic situations, watch out Royal Shakespeare Company actors.

And it‘s a mystery set in a bookstore, not the gritty streets or dark alleys of crime.

Hooperman, otherwise known as Francis Johnson, is a tall, bearded, former graduate school student working as a pizza chef across the street from an iconic Palo Alto bookstore. It‘s 1972, when people hung out in bookstores, reading, fomenting rebellion against “The Man“ and just meeting up with friends to talk books and life. Seventy copies of that shocking new release "The Joy of Sex" are due any minute. Hooperman spends his free time in the poetry section.

But someone is stealing hundreds of books. Hooperman gets hired as an undercover book cop for $5 a day and half of the cover price of any book he confiscates from a thief.

The bookstore gets bombed and staff members get fired. The theft problem may be more than mere pilfering. Hooperman must find the answers to both the thefts and to his romantic quandries.

It‘s a books that is hard to put down. And it‘s not one that telegraphs the solution early. Readers probably won‘t guess the outcome, as so often happens in many mysteries.

Daniel can tell a story. The guy‘s got the touch.

—Janine Volkmar, Tri-City Weekly

Francis “Hooperman“ Johnson is a sensitive soul, a man of few words and those, belabored. The eponymous protagonist of John M. Daniel‘s Hooperman—A Bookstore Mystery (2013, Oak Tree Press, Hanford, CA) is an unlikely detective at the center of a gentle mystery that focuses not on a murder, but on the disappearance of books.

The year is 1972, the summer of the Watergate scandal, ongoing Vietnam War drafts and protests and, in the world of Hooperman, surprisingly frequent fire bombings of progressive bookstores. Amidst this turmoil, Hooperman is hired to investigate the disappearnace of books; someone is clearly taking to heart Abbie Hoffman‘s 1971 exhortation to Steal This Book, and swiping more than a few others while they‘re at it.

Writing what he knows, McKinleyville author John Daniel drew on his life experience working in bookstores in the Palo Alto area in the 1970s to set this mystery though, as he points out in his author‘s note, the bookstore and characters of Hooperman are fictional. Nevertheless, his experience clearly fleshes out the feel of the era, the place and the characters one was likely to meet then and there.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Hooperman is a writer who has put aside his writing following heartbreak, but retains his love of books. Hooperman has a speech disorder, a stutter that makes interacting with the public difficult, yet he finds his voice reading aloud and reciting poetry. Throughout the book, we struggle along with Hooperman as he works to get his words out, to confront various suspects, to overcome his lost love and start a new love affair.

The structure of Hooperman is interestingly cyclical. The novel is essentially two stories told in alternating chapters. The main story is set in the present, in which Hooperman investigates the missing books and rapidly works his way into various postions in the bookstore. The other tracks Hooperman‘s past: his childhood, love story and its failure, leading ultimately back to the beginning of the present novel. It‘s a structure that effectively fleshes out the main character without bogging down the novel.

—Lauraine Leblanc, Mad River Union

Hooperman—A Bookstore Mystery is the story of Hooperman “Hoop“ Johnson, a tall skinny bearded man with a terrible stutter. Hoop, a young Stanford dropout, works as a pizza chef in 1972 Palo Alto, California, across the street from Maxwell‘s Books. Hoop took the pizza job because of the proximity to the independent bookstore, where he loves to browse the poetry section. Lucinda Baylor, a large African-American bookstore clerk, is kind to him, and patient with his broken speech. When Hoop spies a Help Wanted sign in the window, he jumps at the chance to work in the bookstore alongside the woman he has secretly come to love, even after owner Elmer Maxwell reveals that the job is to clandestinely watch for shoplifters for a mere $5.00 a day, plus half the value of any rescued books. After Hoop prevents a few books from walking out the door, Maxwell divulges that he suspects one of the bookstore employees is somehow sneaking out entire boxes of books. Hoop can‘t believe that one of his new friends is a theif, but begins to watch them closely, discovering that it is common practice for employees to “borrow“ books to take home and read. And the bookstore staff is an eccentric group: one woman refuses to talk to the customers, the shipping clerk suffers from Tourette‘s-like swearing, and the shop is frequently vandalized because of Maxwell‘s flagrant anti-war stand. While solving the mystery of the book thief, Hoop saves the bookstore itself, a sanctuary for book lovers like himself who gather to connect with others through the mutual love of the written word.

Stop You're Killing Me

A Bookstore Mystery

Oak Tree Press
ISBN 978-1-61009-061-2
Trade paperback, $14.95

Buy or order
Hooperman from your local bookstore, from an online booksellers, or direct from the publisher:
Oak Tree Press
1820 W. Lacey Blvd. #220
Hanford, CA 93230
(217) 825-4489

To order an autographed copy from the author, call (800) 662-8351.

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