We Interrupt This Program…

by J.D. Rhoades

It’s very hard to write this post, and I wish you were reading my planned entry on my workspace. But the usual drollery seems inappropriate at the moment, because we’ve lost a dear friend.

David Thompson, manager of Murder by the Book in Houston and one of the founders of the excellent small publisher Busted Flush Press,  passed away suddenly on Monday afternoon at the age of 38. It came as a cold steel shock to all of us in the mystery community, not just because David was so young, but because it seems impossible that someone so full of energy and enthusiasm could ever be gone from among us.

David loved books, loved writers, and even loved this crazy business. Most of all, though, he loved his beautiful wife McKenna, who became owner of the store.

It seems only fitting that this photo, taken by Our Zoe at David and McKenna’s  wedding, should show the two of them happy and smiling, because that’s the way I, and everyone who knows them, best remember them.

(Our Alafair also remembers them like this, crashing on her NYC couch after being stranded by bad weather on the way home from the wedding):


I first met David shortly after my first book THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND, came out. A mutual friend put David in touch with me, and he invited me down to do a panel with Duane Swierczynski, Jason Starr, Allan Guthrie, and Ken Bruen (can you imagine?) I have many fond memories of that night, but one of the fondest was of David and McKenna’s hospitality. We ate well, we drank well,  we laughed hard, and we ended up back at McKenna’s apartment, reading aloud from each other’s work into the wee hours. We’ve all been friends since that night. It was my first experience in this wonderful community of writers,  and for that alone, I owe David Thompson a debt of gratitude I can never repay.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. All of us can testify as to the amount of time David spent hand-selling our books and promoting our careers, and of the sheer joy he took in doing so.

If you knew David, you were lucky. If you have memories to share of him, please do so in the comments.

RIP, David Thompson. May your story be told forever.


24 thoughts on “We Interrupt This Program…

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    It's heartbreaking.

    The tidal wave of shock, grief, and mourning that is rushing through the mystery community has reminded me that this really is a community, and David was one of the pillars of it. Thank God we have McKenna and our collective memory of David to remind us of the best we can be.

  2. Brett Battles

    Heartbreaking. A huge loss for all of us, but especially for McKenna, David's family, and his Murder by the Book family. All our thoughts and prayers go out to them.

    Beautiful post, Dusty.

  3. TerriMolina

    I'm so sorry to hear about this. I never met him but I'd been to his store often when I lived in Houston. Truly a loss to the community. My condolences to his family.

  4. Maria Lima

    I'm still stunned and in shock that such a bright light was extinguished. I met David at a Bouchercon – can't remember which one–his enthusiasm and love of books and support of authors are only a few of his best traits. He will be sorely missed by us all.

  5. Judy Wirzberger

    What a life to celerate. Not a small insignificant pass through this place called earth, but rather a ball of yellow energy and flashing white. How fortunate he traveled with us for a while.

    I feel your loss and thank creation for your memories.

  6. Rachel Brady

    He was such a fun guy! It never mattered what we were talking about. Every single word he ever said to me was energetic. David was always smiling and always had something to share. A good friend described him as a "hub" in the mystery community. David knew everybody and delighted in introducing us to each other. He introduced me to other people at the store, to other writers at conferences. It seemed his mission to glue us all together.

    I couldn't be sadder and can't believe he is gone. Thinking of McKenna, hoping she knows we are all here for her.

  7. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I feel I've lost something in that I never had the opportunity to meet David. It seems he was a remarkable individual. I wish I could have shared some time with him – even a moment. My heart goes out to McKenna and all their loved ones.

  8. Dudley Forster

    I never met David, but from this and other loving tributes I wish I had. All my thoughts and prayers go out to David’s wife, family and friends. To the Ratis that are grieving, I am so sorry that you have lost such a good friend.

  9. JT Ellison

    Thank you for the tribute, Dusty. This is such a tragic, senseless loss. Love and prayers go out to McKenna, the MBTB family, and all the crime fiction 'verse – we've all lost a great friend.

  10. Cornelia Read

    His magnificent enthusiasm about everything and everyone to do with our genre was so luminous, so uplifting… Fuck. This is awful. It's like our flock has lost a beloved wise and funny border collie shepherd who kept bounding around, keeping us safe and together and happy.

    It's not just the loss of his excellent conversation and friendship that hurts, it's the idea of losing what he would no doubt have achieved over the coming decades.

    My heart aches for McKenna and all their friends and family.

    Thank you, Dusty, for expressing this so well on all our behalf.

  11. Sandie Herron

    I love the pictures you've included here. It was only recently that David even let his photo or personal information become known … and we probably owe that to McKenna. I love the blog or website that was set up to show the photos from their wedding and the stories about Scotland and about their courtship. David was very shy, but not when it came to books. He was one of the passionate ones. I very much enjoy sharing his handselling love. Even tho I haven't had my own store for ten years, I still find myself standing is aisles of bookstores handselling books! It is an engrained passion you don't turn off. I am so very grateful for all the suggestions and recommendations David gave me above and beyond his friendship. My library and my life are richer because of him.

  12. JD Rhoades

    Thanks, all. Just got back from court to read all these lovely thoughts. I'm sure right now David's feeling all the love, even as he's wandering up and down the aisles in Heaven's indie bookstore, grabbing souls and going "here, try this, I think you'll really like it…"

  13. Cara

    "I'm sure right now David's feeling all the love, even as he's wandering up and down the aisles in Heaven's indie bookstore, grabbing souls and going "here, try this, I think you'll really like it'
    Thanks, Dusty…made me laugh thru the brimming tears!

  14. KDJames

    I'm trying to reconcile the fact that I'm so very sad about the loss of someone I never met simply because so many people I admire and respect are mourning his death. But I certainly understand loss. There's simply no way around it; you have to go through the dark center of it.

    Sending hugs and love to all of you here, and wishing for all those who loved him that the time between soul searing grief and loving remembrance will be of respectful duration, yet brief.


  15. Yvette

    I'm feeling like KD, How can I express my sadness over the loss of someone I never knew ? All I can say is that the love I've seen expressed in the many tributes for David, tell me he was a truly special person. Not many of them pass our way in this life, and I so wish I'd known him. May I say that those who did know him are blessed for having done so. The photos you've included in this blog post, Dusty, are absolutely beautiful.

  16. phyl Kennedy-Bruen

    The names David and McKenna are as familiar to me the name of the man/author who frequently talks of his love and admiration for them. Ken was shocked and distressed when he phoned home with the sad news. May David rest in peace; we'll pray that, in time, McKenna realises David will be forever by her side.

    Phyl and Grace Bruen (Ken's wife and daughter)

  17. Nancy, Mother of David Thompson

    Dusty, yours is the first tribute that I saw after David died. My husband Dennis Dillow forwarded the Facebook message. It has been so heartwarming to read the posts both here and on other sites. There is so much love for my son out there, so many people who knew him either in person, or just by emails and phone calls. I can't express how much this means to me, and to his brother and sister.

    So many have posted pictures of David that I have not seen before; I am downloading them to my computer. I hope the owners of these pictures don't mind. I am seeing a totally different side of David that we could only speculate about. It rounds out his whole personallity for us.

    We, his immediate family, including cousins, aunts and uncle, and neices will cherish all these memories for a long time.

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