Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, SC

Andra Watkins, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. Thurs., Sept. 18

Join us,Thurs., Sept. 18, 5-7 pm as local author Andra Watkins signs copies of her debut novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. (World Hermit Press, pb., 305 pp $15).

The novel follows explorer Meriwether Lewis who has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.

Andra Watkins lives in Charleston with her husband, but travels regularly for book events, speaking engagements and adventure. One year ago, she set aside her established management and strategic planning practice to follow her path to publication, and then she kept on walking.

Mary Ann Henry, Ladies in Low Places. Tues., Sept. 9

Join us Tuesday, Sept. 9 from 5 – 7 pm for the reading and book signing of Mary Ann Henry’s new collection of stories Ladies in Low Places. 


Refreshments will be provided.

mary ann profile

William B. Miller, The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God. Mon., Aug. 18

Beer Drinker's Cover

Join us Mon., Aug. 18, 5 – 7 pm, as writer Father William B. Miller signs copies of  his book of spiritual essays The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God. (Howard Books, pb., 352 pp $15).

In this humorous collection of essays, he weaves together stories from his life in ministry, his travels in search of the world’s best Scotch, his conversations with Trappist monks, and colorful evenings in his bar, Padre’s. He also reflects on the lessons he’s learned from baseball, Playboy bunnies, Las Vegas, and his attempts to become chaplain to the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, all while (somehow) crafting essays about the spiritual importance of generosity, sacrifice, openness, and spiritual transformation.

WilliamMiller (1)

Father William (Bill) Miller is an Episcopal priest and the rector at St. Michael and All Angel’s Episcopal Church in Kauai, Hawaii. He is also a co-owner of Padre’s Bar, a live music venue/watering hole in Marfa, Texas. God and strong drink are two of his favorite things. Father Bill currently resides in Kauai with his dog, Nawiliwili Nelson.


Book Release Party for Margaret Bradham Thornton, Thurs., July 31, 5 pm

Margaret Bradham Thornton will visit Blue Bicycle Books Thurs., July 31, 5 – 7  pm, as  we celebrate the release of her new novel Charleston (Ecco, hb., 320 pp., $26). 
Margaret Thornton -- author photo

Charleston tells the story of Eliza Poinsett, who returns to her childhood home after ten years away. Thornton, a Charleston native, weaves a poignant and lyrical tale of lost love, the ephemeral notion of home, and our relationship with the people and places that influence us the most.

Thornton is the editor of Tennessee Williams’ Notebooks, for which she received the Bronze ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award for Autobiography/Memoir. She lives in Charleston and Palm Beach, Fla., and this is her first novel. 

A reception will accompany the signing.

Can’t make it? Pre0rder a signed copy and have it shipped to you through our online store or by calling Blue Bicycle Books at 843.722.2666

Charleston a novel by Thornton -- jacket cover


Brad Taylor’s Days of Rage

days of rage

Join us Sat., July 19, 6:30 pm, at Fuel Charleston (211 Rutledge Ave) to celebrate the sixth installment of writer and retired Delta Force operator Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series, Days of Rage (Dutton, hb., 448 pp., $26.95).

The Taskforce is used to being the hunter, but this time they’re the hunted.

Intent on embroiling the US in a quagmire that will sap its economy and drain its legitimacy, Russia passes a potential weapon of mass destruction to Boko Haram, an extreme Islamic sect in Nigeria. A relic of the Cold War, the Russian FSB believes the weapon has deteriorated and is no longer effective, but they are wrong. Boko Haram has the means for mass destruction, which will be set loose upon a multitude of unsuspecting innocents on one of the world’s grandest stages.

Brad Taylor served in the U.S. Army for over 20 years, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. He has also served as the Asst. Professor of Military Science at The Citadel here in Charleston, SC, where Brad now resides.

For those new to the series, all of Brad’s other books will be on hand as well. Come meet Brad and get a signed copy! 

Brad Taylor

Lipstick Stamps on My Passport — Notes on Abroad by Katie Crouch

Abroad by Katie Crouch cover artAbroad by Katie Crouch  (Sarah Crichton Books / FSG, hb., 304 pp., $26)

By Jonathan Sanchez, Blue Bicycle Books

Katie Crouch’s Abroad might be the most widely-recommendable book I’ve seen in 18 years as a bookseller. Like a dance party at an ancient castle, it’s contemporary and exciting and NOW, while at the same time sending out tendrils into the past, as Crouch breaks away to give us little glimpses into the ordinary life of women in Umbria through the millennia, ordinary lives which end bloodily, at the end of a blade.

Taking the flattened-out, scattered-to-rumor-and-madness story of the Amanda Knox trial, Crouch cleans out the guts and inserts her own, imbues it with completely new and fictional stuffing – the stuff of life: wine and Campari, mozzarella and pancetta, cocaine and designer drugs, Ovid and Patricia Highsmith, blood and cigarettes and mud and clay.

Semester Abroad

We all know kids who go abroad in college or their early 20s. Some just go to party, some manage to take it in stride, but for many, like Claire, the American in Crouch’s Abroad, going to Umbria is a chance to become someone new. You know people like this, they come back home, trying to keep the impression of France or Iceland or Brazil on them as long as they can.

Maybe they insist on calling soccer ‘football’, or their phones ‘mo-BILES.’ Maybe they have new opinions on coffee or what’s wrong with the American education system or what time to eat dinner. I’ve been this guy myself, more than once. (I still make my number sevens with a horizontal dash because I picked that up in Italy.)

In Abroad, Claire serves the role of the Amanda Knox figure — the Seattle college student who, while studying in Umbria, was accused of killing her Irish roommate Meredith Kercher. She’s a fun twist on the Ugly American. She shows up as a hot mess: badly died purple hair, ill-fitting clothes. Her first appearance is in the town piazza, getting felt up by a random Italian guy while smiling at the narrator, Taz. She has a bad sunburn, dirty fingernails, and “a large and hideous tattoo of a moose.”

Yet like Athena or Diana cloaking themselves in mortal garb, Claire, even from the get-go, is described as unmistakably beautiful, a fact which even her enemies don’t bother to deny (they find it ‘off-putting’). As the book progresses, this beauty, both spiritual and physical, continues to emerge, like a goddess emerging from inside a still-wet statue, the clay dripping off.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

So is this book about the Amanda Knox story? Claire seems a good bit different from the real Knox: she’s from the wilds of Montana and is an utter nymphomaniac. The narrator, Tabitha “Taz” Deacon, like the real victim, Meredith Kercher, is an Irish student at Nottingham University in England. There’s an Italian lover, a British lover, and an American roommate. Fictionalized are the “Brit Four,” three bitchy classmates of Taz’s from Nottingham, who, surprisingly, invite her into their clique while abroad. (She’s the Fourth.)

If you know even a little about the Amanda Knox case (I knew very little), you likely know that Taz is going to die. You likely know her roommate, drugs, and a lover or two are going to be involved somehow. Towards that end, the plot barrels along like a train through the Dolomites. You know the destination, that everything will funnel into that gory ending, but you don’t know how.

Most likely no one knows for sure who killed Meredith Kercher except for Kercher and her killer. Acknowledging the powerful failures of history, Crouch comes at it from a fresh angle, creating a particular fictional world that, without trying to nail the courtroom truths, depicts the emotions and the desires that were at play that semester. If you’ve ever traveled in Europe as a young person, there’s a good chance you’ve felt a dizzying mix of awe and elation and dread. There’s a chance that you’ve felt despairingly lonely and that you’ve made (what felt like) lifelong friends after five minutes on a train. So in this sense, by hitting these universal travel-abroad emotions via a very specific, fictional retelling, Abroad is entirely about the Amanda Knox case.

Guys don’t care about cheekbones

At least they don’t consciously. “Check out the cheekbones on that!” is not a line you will hear a man utter while eating hot wings. Cheekbones are a Beauty thing, as in beauty counter, as in the kind of physical beauty that women notice in each other. But when Crouch describes a girl as having “cheekbones that seemed to soar off either side of her face,” this is not her saying, ‘Hey girls, you know what I mean…’ It’s opening up this view of beauty to both genders. The intended audience in Crouch’s books is way more universal than you’d expect from an author of five books with attractive women on the covers. (Good sentence writing will always have universal appeal.)

Guys don’t care about cheekbones, but we care about power and desire, trust and betrayal. Glengarry Glen Ross turned a scammy real estate office into a War Room. The movie Bridesmaids nearly did the same, in an early scene where Maya Rudolph’s two friends compete over maid-of-honor duties. For me, the “War Room” scene in Abroad, when great powers collide, is when the doomed Taz finally introduces her Ugly American roommate Claire to her other friends, the B4 British Clique.

Interestingly, another Southern writer who writes equally well for men and women, Pat Conroy, understood this as well. In The Prince of Tides, he treats the mother’s vain attempts to get a recipe in the Colleton Junior League cookbook without a lick of irony or condescension. (Anyone who doesn’t realize that those spiral-bound community cookbooks share prominence with The Bible and To Kill a Mockingbird on the family bookshelf did not grow up in the South.)

Speaking of the South

Speaking of the South, it’s a little hard to see Crouch leave it after four books. The heroine/narrator is not even American, but Irish, a trick she pulls off (at least to this American reader) pretty flawlessly.

But young women go to Italy for many of the same reasons they go to Charleston: good wine and food, history, culture, fashion, shopping. The ooze you want to coat yourself in, the buzz you want to catch, is pretty similar in each place. (And despite the fact that beautiful women flock to Charleston and Italy, young men seem less likely to clue in – the College of Charleston is known for its lopsided male-female ratio, and there are no prominent male American or British students in Abroad.)

So this great Charleston writer has chosen to write about a historic European town, overrun by wealthy outsiders and hard-partying college students, with some dark secrets in its past, a history of women who have both all and none of the power. Fair enough.


Technically a palimpsest is a parchment or tablet that has been erased and reused, layers of text on top of one another. In Abroad we have the palimpsest of history, the archaeological layers of the fictional Grifonia, settled by the Etruscans, then the Romans, now conquered by students. We also have the archaeological layers on the small, human scale: the hidden things that remain in our childhood bedrooms, the shabby histories of shabby little places. And the palimpsest of spilled wine and blood. The palimpsest of lovers on the body, the scars that remain over the years. The taste of someone else’s cigarettes on their lips when you kiss them.

History will flatten out all the details, and the stories that are told the most and the loudest will  dominate. But put a piece of wax paper over the old stone and rub it with a crayon and peer closely — you might uncover some lost voices.


June 17, 2014

Katie Crouch & Patti Callahan Henry Happy Hour – July 2

kati crouch C piro patton_cmyk

Come see Katie Crouch (Abroad) & Patti Callahan Henry (The Stories We Tell), Wed., July 2, 5:30 – 7 pm, as we celebrate exciting new releases from these two bestselling Southern authors. Books will be signed, the wine will be flowing (as will the campari-and-sodas). Don’t miss it.

Katie Crouch’s newest novel, Abroad (Sarah Crichton Books / FSG, hb., 304 pp., $26) tells the thrilling story of a young American on a study abroad trip to Italy — inspired in part by Amanda Knox’s experiences and trial in Perugia.

Katie Crouch’s Abroad might be the most widely-recommendable book I’ve seen in 18 years as a bookseller. Like a dance party at an ancient castle, it’s contemporary and exciting and NOW, while at the same time sending out tendrils into the past, as Crouch breaks away to give us little glimpses into the ordinary life of women in Umbria through the millennia, ordinary lives which end bloodily, at the end of a blade. — Jonathan Sanchez, owner, Blue Bicycle Books

Read our full review of it here.

Katie Crouch is a New York Times bestselling novelist and essayist. Her books include Girls in TrucksMen and Dogs, and Abroad as well as two novels for young adults.  She has a regular column on The Rumpus called “Missed.” A MacDowell Fellow and alumnae of Brown University and the Columbia MFA program, Katie lives with her family in Bolinas, California.



Patti Callihan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry’s  most recent novel, The Stories We Tell (St. Martin’s, hb., 272 pp, $26) tells the story of a Savannah power couple who have been graced with wealth and influence. But not everything is as it seems for Eve and Cooper Morrison. Eve’s wayward sister is staying with them, her daughter is rebelling, her husband thinks she works too much. All of this Eve can handle, until her husband and sister are involved in a car accident and things begin to unravel. A story of Eve’s insistence on uncovering the truth, Patti Callahan Henry offers us insight into the delicate balances of marriage, family, fiction and fact.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author of ten novels. Though raised in Philadelphia, she moved south when she was twelve and is regarded as a fresh voice in Southern fiction. She began writing after she had her third child, and, by the time her daughter turned six, she was writing full time. A wife and mother of three, Henry currently lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

Bearwallow by Jeremy Jones


Join us Thurs., June 26, 5 – 7 pm, as upstate-based writer Jeremy Jones signs copies of his memoir, Bearwallow (John F. Blair, hb., $24.95).

The book follows Jones’s and his wife’s move to a small house about the creek his family settled on two hundred years prior. Contemplating the ways a landscape can shape a person, Jones undergoes as much a genealogical as an archaeological dig through the mountains, his new community, and his family history.



Author Luncheon Series: Mary Alice Monroe


Join us Fri., July 11, 12 pm, for an Author’s Luncheon with best-selling writer Mary Alice Monroe as we celebrate her newest novel, The Summer Wind. Lunch will be provided at Blue Bicycle Books, now that we have the space!

The Summer Wind (Gallery Books, pb., 384 pp., $16) is the second in Monroe’s Lowcountry Summer trilogy set on Sullivan’s Island. Exploring the complex relationships of three half-sisters scattered across the country and their grandmother determined to keep their southern roots alive, The Summer Wind finds all four women back on Sullivan’s with storms brewing on the horizon.

Monroe is known for her intimate portrayals of women’s lives and for drawing parallels with nature and human nature. An active environmentalist, she draws on her own experiences in the Lowcountry. The author of 16 books, including The Beach House, Time is a River, and The Butterfly’s Daughter, Mary Alice lives on Isle of Palms.

Tickets are $35 and include lunch, author talk, and a signed copy of The Summer Wind. To purchase tickets, click here, or call the store at 843.277.2666.

Mary Alice Monroe photo credit Barbara J. Bergwerf

Christopher Watson and The Handy Man

handy man

Sun., June 15, 3 – 5 pm, local writer Christopher Watson will sign copies of his first novel, The Handy Man (Holladay House, hb., $24.95).

Set in Charleston, the novel follows John Wright, a young construction worker, as his very unexpectedly finds himself setting aside his own troubles and entering into a paranormal murder mystery.