It’s only been five years since the start of Seventh Street Books—the mystery, thriller, and crime fiction imprint of Prometheus Books—but there’s reason to celebrate, and it’s happening in the Prometheus Books booth (2706).
The imprint’s name is based on the address of a home once rented by Edgar Allan Poe in Philadelphia, Pa.; while living in that city Poe published The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Launched in October 2012, Seventh Street is one of three imprints under Prometheus, which was founded by Dr. Paul Kurtz in 1969. (The other imprints are Humanity, for nonfiction, and Pyr, for sci-fi and fantasy.)
Prometheus is celebrating with giveaways honoring the work of Edgar, Anthony, and Barry Award finalist Allen Eskens (most recently, winner of the 2017 Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction). The giveaways include finished copies of Eskens’s first three novels—The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, and The Heavens May Fall—as well as a limited quantity of ARCs of his forthcoming book, The Deep Dark Descending (Oct.), featuring returning protagonist Max Rupert. To score an ARC, show-goers should request the next “Minnesota mystery” from Allen Eskens while supplies last.
Jon Kurtz, Prometheus publisher and son of the founder, explains one of the reasons to celebrate: “In the short time since we started, we’ve been up for Edgar, Barry, Anthony, and Macavity Awards.” This year, of the six Edgar Award finalists for Best Paperback Original, three were published by Seventh Street—and the winner was the press’s Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty. At the awards ceremony, that ratio prompted the presenter to state that there was no favoritism toward Seventh Street, but that the finalists simply represented “the best of the best.”
Seventh Street publishes 14–18 titles a year and says that its initial title, The Bookseller, the first Hugo Marston novel by Mark Pryor, is still in print. Dan Mayer, editorial director of the imprint as well as being acquisitions person, agrees that the fifth anniversary is significant “because we’ve come such a long way in such a short time. Times are tough in bookselling, but we’ve managed to stay out there. We’ve been successful both commercially and critically.” He adds, “As an indie, even though five years is a small milestone, it’s important. When we started, the atmosphere of publishing wasn’t giddy and happy, so to have the successes we’ve had is an achievement.”
Before joining Seventh Street, Mayer spent 25 years as a bookstore buyer. “I grew up in the book business, as a buyer. I bought fiction and mysteries for Waldenbooks, then Borders, then Barnes & Noble. Then the layoffs came.”
Mayer’s layoff turned out to be his big chance. Kurtz, who started working at Prometheus in 1993, had met Mayer while selling Prometheus titles to Borders and Barnes & Noble. “Publishing a mystery line had been a passion of mine for 15 years,” Kurtz says. “I was just waiting for the right individual to come along [as editor], and I always wanted that person to be Dan. I never approached him with the idea until after he’d been laid off.”
BookExpo is the first leg of Seventh Street’s anniversary celebration, which will be officially marked in October with a cocktail party held during Bouchercon at Toronto’s Ben Books.