The “Write” Crime

Once Upon a Crime’s annual pun-addled “Write of Spring” event is upon us.

Martina Marosi


WHAT: Write of Spring

WHEN: 12 p.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, April 2

WHERE: Once Upon a Crime mystery bookstore (604 W. 26th St.)

COST: Free


Every spring for the past eight years, husband and wife Gary and Pat Shulze transform the cozy corners of their Once Upon a Crime bookstore into a veritable madhouse.

Spending months in preparation for a four-hour event, the Shulzes play hosts to more than 45 local mystery and crime fiction writers theyâÄôve invited to cycle through the space by the dozens in hour-long shifts.

This high-energy micro-festival is a celebration of all things crime- and mystery-related and styles itself the largest Minneapolis event âÄî if not the only of its kind âÄî where local mystery writers can connect with their readers. Throughout the day, hundreds will pass through the doors of Once Upon a Crime.

The otherwise quiet locale will be transformed as swarms of fans descend upon a store thatâÄôs no larger than a living room for the event now approaching its ninth year, aptly titled âÄúWrite of Spring.âÄù

âÄúItâÄôs a madhouse, and we get a kick out of it,âÄù Gary Shulze said.

Gary bought the store with Pat in 2002 from original owner Steve Stilwell who opened Once Upon a Crime in 1987 on April FoolsâÄô Day. Gary met Pat shortly before she started working for Stilwell, and when she proposed the idea of buying Once Upon a Crime to him, he quit his 30-plus year job as a piano technician to take on running the store full-time. On the fifth anniversary of buying Once Upon a Crime, Gary and Pat were married in a brief ceremony that took place in the store.

Both Shulzes are themselves longtime readers of mystery and crime fiction. TheyâÄôve brought their love of the genre with them in their eagerness to provide recommendations for both new and seasoned readers.

This emphasis on social interaction is facilitated by the absence of computers on-site, which the Shulzes believe fosters a more intimate environment.

âÄúWell, if we could have one of those old-fashioned crank registers, we would âĦ we like to keep it as low-tech and cozy as we can get away with,âÄù Gary said.

In addition to the storefrontâÄôs stock of 15,000 to 20,000 titles, there is âÄúThe Annex,âÄù a second room that houses used, collectible and out-of-print editions.

âÄúItâÄôs crowded, but you kinda like it that way,âÄù local author and customer Steve Thayer said.

All of the bookracks in Once Upon a Crime are on wheels, a clever solution for rearrangement to best accommodate the full calendar of in-store events. In April, the Shulzes have either a launch party or an author visit scheduled once every three days.

âÄúYou wonâÄôt find a Minnesota mystery author who doesnâÄôt consider [the Shulzes] personal friends,âÄù local author Jenifer LeClair said.

Whether it is an eco-thriller, a suspenseful story âÄúset in the desperate world of television news,âÄù like former WCCO employee Julie KramerâÄòs series, or just a classic tale of good olâÄô fashioned murder, the world of mystery novels has evolved greatly beyond the days of gumshoe sleuths on the trail of a suspect.

Local writer Michael Allan Mallory commented on his genre and acknowledged its niche-specific appeal. âÄúOne has to be open-minded, certainly,âÄù Mallory said.

âÄúTheyâÄôre entertaining as well, but they have this extra dimension to them âĦ A good story is a good story, and thatâÄôs the main reason you read anything,âÄù Mallory said.

Once Upon a Crime is a traditional, romantic bookstore whose inventory is dedicated to the solving of often-violent mysteries. While the store itself shows no signs of slowing down, the next âÄúWrite of SpringâÄù in 2012 may be its last.

âÄúItâÄôs so much work,âÄù Gary said, but his wife hints at a different story.

âÄúWe say that every year âĦ WeâÄôre gluttons for punishment,âÄù Pat said.