The Poisoned Pen Bookstore Welcomes Racism, but Not Dissent
A future “literary event” at The Poisoned Pen?
Sadly, I won’t be doing any more.
Last week, in protest of the racist remarks made by author Brad Thor and his fans, I approached Thor with a biography of a Nazi and asked him to sign it. To read the story of what happened, click here.
The next day, I posted the blog and photo linked to above. Thor, thin-skinned as fascists tend to be, had his publicist contact the owner of the Poisoned Pen, Barbara Peters, who was on vacation at the time. Someone on staff at The Poisoned Pen asked me to remove the photo, even though it didn’t show anything that would identify the bookstore. Though I thought this was an over-reaction, as a gesture of friendship I complied but, of course, I said I would not remove the post.
On Friday evening, Barbara Peters called and left me a voice message in which she clearly threatened me twice in an attempt to get me to take the blog post down. I put the deleted photograph back on the post, deciding that it was the only proper response to such a message. I received an outpouring of support from a number of writers in the crime fiction community nationwide.
Here is the transcript of Barbara Peters’ voice message:
Barry, this is Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen. I am on vacation, and I gather that an extremely difficult situation has arisen for which I have had endless emails for the last two days. I am calling to ask you nicely in consideration of our past history with you—when we have welcomed you to the bookstore and accorded you a forum and respect as an author—to please remove your post about Brad Thor and we will discuss it when I get back to Phoenix on Monday. I don’t think you have any idea of the sort of damage you have dealt to people who have been kind to you, the position you have put us in, and the general unpleasantness that has resulted from this. It was not a political event. I think that if we give you respect as an author coming to the store then you can understand that we have to give visiting authors that same kind of respect. Your proper course of action if you were displeased by what was going on was to leave the bookstore. It was a literary event, not a political event, and I cannot tell you how unhappy I am that you have turned it into some sort of nightmare and basically thrown Patrick, John, David, myself and all of us under the bus in pursuit of some goal of your own which we don’t participate in and do not agree with, and that does not make us members of the Ku Klux Klan. I am really upset, and I think that before any further action is taken I will ask you again nicely to take down the post—and we can talk next week about what else might ensue.
Some of her points require rebuttal:
- “It was not a political event” - This is absurd. Poisoned Pen staff who were at the event agreed that it was. Barbara Peters seems to think that a “literary event” is by definition not political. Saying that an event at which Brad Thor spews his bigotry is not political makes as much sense as saying that his friend Glenn Beck’s T.V. show is not political. My own “literary events” at The Poisoned Pen were certainly political, as you can see by watching this video of an interview with me there at the launch of The Wrong Thing.
- “some goal of your own which we don’t participate in and do not agree with” So The Poisoned Pen does not agree with anti-racism? Perhaps Barbara Peters is speaking for herself and not her staff, as I know staff members there who certainly do agree that racism and jingoism are foul.
- “Your proper course of action if you were displeased by what was going on was to leave the bookstore” No action is neutral. To fail to oppose the bigotry of Brad Thor and his followers is to support it.
I can understand Barbara Peters’ not wanting Brad Thor to be upset with The Poisoned Pen; I know his hatefest sold a lot of books there and made serious money for the store (though I don’t understand why he would hold what I did against the store, since I’m not on staff there and did what I did as a member of the public). He probably sells more books in a single day than I have in my entire career, which I imagine makes his hate more tolerable to a businessperson like Barbara Peters than my protest of his hate.
I was unsure of what she meant by her threats of ”further action ” and “what else might ensue.” So I decided to wait and see…
Today, via a mutual friend, I got the message that The Poisoned Pen will no longer carry my books, and that I am no longer welcome there. Bestselling racists, I presume, will continue to be welcomed there and, as Barbara Peters puts it, “given the same respect.” Therefore, despite my past fondness for the store, I am flattered to be banned there.