Vincent McCaffrey has owned and operated the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop for more than thirty years, first in Boston, and now online from Abington, Massachusetts. He has been paid by others to do lawn work, shovel snow, paint houses, and to be an office-boy, warehouse grunt, dishwasher, waiter, and hotel night clerk. He has since chosen at various times to be a writer, editor, publisher, and bookseller. He can still remember the first time he sold books for money in 1963—and what most of those books were. Hound is his first novel.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Of all the reviews, the one that tickled me the most was one of the first by Paul Tremblay, the author of The Little Sleep. Its accuracy is a question I cannot answer with any modesty:
“McCaffrey’s bookseller, Henry Sullivan, is as endearing, frustrating, and compelling a character I’ve come across in some time. Hound is more than Henry’s show, however. It’s a slow burn murder mystery, a sharp character study, a detailed exploration of Boston, and a mediation on the secrets of history—both personal and universal. But I’m wasting our precious time trying to pigeonhole his wonderful first novel. Hound is, quite simply, a great book.”
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I read constantly—mostly history, fiction, and poetry. Of all the books I have read recently, and read again, Liberty and Freedom by the great historian David Hackett Fischer would most fit the potential of changing a reader’s life permanently.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy?
Charles Fernley Fawcett. One of the most incredible human beings I have ever heard of, never wrote about himself. A founder of the International Medical Corps, explorer, resistance fighter, soldier, airman, filmmaker, actor, wrestler, and perhaps the best drinking companion of all time.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I have been a child of middle class prosperity for most of my life. The closest to starving I have ever managed was in New York in 1965, as a student living in a four floor walk-up on Avenue A. I wrote about it in a novel, Habits of the Heart, currently posted on my website.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
That a reader of Hound should give the book to their best friend and say, “Read this. You’ll love it.”
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Luckily those stories never found their way to print and I have thrown them in the trash—all but the lot in the attic of my parents house which was sold when I was away at college. I have often wondered about them.