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, on Twitter and on Facebook

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