Horace Bick, The Grizzly Bear, and The Joy of Old Hardware Stores
By Julia Buckley
Readers who enjoyed my first Writer’s Apprentice mystery, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, don’t have to wait any longer for the sequel. DEATH IN DARK BLUE was available in early May. Since I don’t want to delve too deeply into the storyline and risk spoilers, I thought I’d talk a little more about Blue Lake, the fictional town where all the mystery happens.
Blue Lake is an amalgam of any number of Midwestern small towns I’ve visited, and even Bick’s Hardware has shades of other hardware stores I’ve seen over fifty years. One in particular stands out. It was a wonderful old store in Valparaiso, Indiana—my college town!—and I happened to wander into this place when I was twenty and searching, just before Christmas break, for family Christmas gifts. I had chosen my brother Christopher’s name in the family grab bag, and I wanted to buy him a saw and a flannel shirt (both on his list). So I walked the mile from campus to Valpo’s downtown strip, and I stumbled across an amazing place called Wark’s Hardware. The interior was dim, dusty, wonderfully fragrant of cut wood and mixed paint and varnish. Like Bick’s Hardware, Wark’s had shelves that went all the way to the ceiling, and in fact it had a dizzying effect, giving me a sense of vertigo until I adapted to the sheer volume of stuff on the walls.
It didn’t take me long to realize I loved the place, especially after asking Mr. Wark for some help and finding that although he hadn’t smiled much, he was quite friendly and attentive, and spoke in a scratchy voice that grew on me, too.
I bought a saw from him, and when my family came to pick me up a day later, I insisted that they visit Wark’s Hardware with me just to revel in its wonderful eccentricity.
Wark’s is no longer there, and it’s likely that Mr. Wark is no longer with us, either, but the store lives in my imagination. The great thing about writing is that we can borrow bits and pieces from every memory that we have. We then embellish those memories with our own little decorations. For example, there was no giant grizzly bear at Wark’s Hardware, but I did see a lot of things like that when I visited South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. I decided to borrow this bit of whimsy and place a giant stuffed Grizzly in the porch lobby of Bick’s Hardware, and that Mr. Horace Bick, showing a bit of humor, placed a sign in his clawed hands that said “Bick’s is Best.”
In addition to my love of hardware stores, I am mad for antique shops. My husband and sons do not share this love, and so I am often a lonely wanderer on family vacations, trying to suss out likely-looking places that might hold dusty treasures when all the boys are ever looking for is a good hamburger joint and perhaps a place that sells guitars. Some of my cool antique shop finds have also made it into Bick’s Hardware, but I’m thinking that in a future book I might just let Lena wander into an antique shop and get lost in the wonderful objects that take her to other times and places.
Thanks for reading! Book two is available for pre-order now. Here’s the Amazon link. https://tinyurl.com/ksl6oxc
Oh, and assuming I write about one, what’s a good name for an antique shop? 😊
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Mass Market Paperback | $7.99
Published by Berkley
May 02, 2017 | 304 Pages | 4-3/16 x 6-3/4 | ISBN 9780451488442