Monday, December 1, 2008

Milwaukee’s Irish Connection

Recently named the Irish-pub-themed Brocach Milwaukee’s best new restaurant of the year. Also this year, Johnny Vasallo (that's Mr. Vasallo to me because I don't know him personally) retooled his Milwaukee restaurant empire to focus on his most successful operation, Mo’s Irish Pub . I’ve always been partial to County Clare because it was very close to my old apartment and became the preferred lodging for the sales reps calling on our bookshops.

Let us also not forget that we’re home to Irish Fest, often called the largest Irish cultural festival outside of Ireland. (Really? I tend to be a skeptic about such pronouncements, but I digress.) I don’t know how we compare to other markets, but Ireland ranks among the top international travel destinations, based on sales at our bookshops.

So Milwaukee should be thrilled that as we were poking through the back of the Thames and Hudson catalog last summer, we came across this delightful book called The Irish Pub. It was hardly a high-profile book, but immediately when we saw the blad (a sort of book sampler), we knew this was a great book for our area.

There are several really great things about Fennell and Bunbury’s collection. For one thing, it totally disproves the notion that all Irish Pubs look alike. If you haven’t traveled to Erin, you find that American incarnations sometimes tend toward cliché. These pubs are anything but, each one is quite different from the next. In addition, each pub tells its story—the words take the book from coffee table realm into reference, dream book, travel guide, and inspiration.

Hey, after the Tuscan kitchen craze calms down in remodeling, Irish pub style could be the next big thing!

While we're on the subject, we've had a great read from Carl at our Downer shop on The Irish Americans, the new history from Jay Dolan. You may have caught the fabulous Wall Street Journal review that came out a few months ago.

In mysteries, not a week goes by that I don't somehow talk about Ken Bruen with a customer. He's a great writer, with many comparisons to Michael Connelly, but he hasn't really broken out big stateside yet. His newest, Once Were Cops, is about a sociopathic Dublin police officer. And yes, Carl loves him.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Tana French, one of our favorite hand-sells from last year with In the Woods. The book wound up winning the Edgar for best first novel, and you probably missed a great visit with her for her second novel, The Likeness. She mentions Kate Atkinson as one of her inspirations, and you can definitely see it in her writing.

Up next: the novel that critics, readers, authors, and publishing folk can’t say enough about. Now why can’t I get you to buy it? Yes, it’s another posting on City of Thieves, which to bring it all home, I see as this year's In the Woods, the book that is equally home with thriller fans and the lit set.

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