Enjoy "death and desserts" on the last Thursday of the
month with Just Desserts Mystery Book Club
Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group is a friendly library-sponsored group open to all mystery fans.
The group meets on the last Thursday evening of each month, January through October, from 6:45-7:45 p.m. at Lincoln's South Branch Library.
Scott C., Just Desserts coordinator and library staff member, recently shared with me his insights into the group.
How did Just Desserts get started?
Just Desserts began as an experiment in April 2006 to see if there was enough interest to justify a mystery fiction discussion group. Since we'd read of other libraries around the country trying a "book and desserts" concept, our mystery group seemed like the likeliest candidate for us to start something similar, and the concept of "the killer got their just desserts" leant itself to a catchy name that emphasized the "desserts" part of the equation.
How many members did you have when you started? What is the typical attendance now?
With some heavy promotion at UNL, as well as throughout the libraries, we actually had 17 attendees at our first gathering, where we discussed the culinary-themed mystery novel Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson (a thematic tip of the hat to our "desserts" concept). The group membership has fluctuated over the years, but we've got a core set of about 8 to 10 "regulars" and 3 to 4 "occasional attendees". The average attendance at any given gathering is 7 to 9 people.
How would you describe your group?
Just Desserts is, at its core, participatory. The group is, obviously, comprised of mystery readers, but with a variety of individual tastes -- some like "cozies", some like "police procedurals", some like forensic fiction (like the works of Patricia Cornwell), some like P.I.s, some prefer historicals. But even if one month's selected novel isn't really everyone's cup of tea, most of our members appreciate the opportunity to sample new authors (to them) that they wouldn't have tried if it hadn't been for the group.
Could you describe a typical meeting?
Sure. We currently meet out in the open at the South Branch library at 27th and South Streets, from 6:45 to 7:45 on the final Thursday of each month (Jan-Oct). Two or more study tables are pushed together around 6:15 in the middle of South's open main room. At around 6:35, coffee and juice are put out on the tables and participants start to trickle in. Depending on whether the majority of the participants are on time or not, we hold general chit-chat and go around the table describing what books each of us have been reading lately -- either before the discussion of the selected title or after. Our primary discussion may be based on a series of questions, or it may just be free-flowing, moving from whatever questions/comments people have about the book as our whims take us. The discussion of the assigned title usually takes up about 35-40 minutes of our hour, with the rest of the time dedicated to more general conversation and socializing. (And eating of desserts!)
Are there any particularly memorable moments that you'd like to share?
We had a really rollicking discussion of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, which brought in several movie fans to discuss the differences between the book and the various film adaptations that have been produced. I think the most enjoyable or memorable thing to have come out of our meetings is the number of readers who have connected with new authors and found writers that they want to stick with.
How do you choose the books?
Most of the authors/titles selected are based on group members' input. Based on the standard size of our group -- 7 to 10 members at each meeting -- library staff select titles from among the recommended authors, of which the library has at least 8 copies, and which we preferably also own in audio format as well. Some of our members like to buy the books we'll be discussing, but since we're promoting library usage, we want to make sure there are enough library copies of the titles available to meet the demands of our group. It is because of this that we tend to NOT select new (published in the past 2 years) books, because there may be too much demand for the copies of newer titles for our members to find enough copies in enough time for our meetings.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about Just Desserts?
Just that we encourage interested mystery fans to come to one of our meetings, even if they haven't read the book being discussed -- we hope that seeing the tone of our group will convince them to become active participants at future meetings. The Just Desserts regulars have turned into a good group of friends, who like to chat about mysteries whenever possible, and we're always looking for new voices to join us.
To view a printable pdf list of the first 35 novels read and discussed by the group, click here. A complete list of all titles can be viewed online at the Just Desserts archives page.
For more info: Visit the Just Desserts website.
Photo credits: Cover images (The Big Sleep, Vintage, July 1988; Maisie Dobbs, Penguin, May, 2004)
used with permission from LCL.