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"Beth Arnold has an ear for Southern talk, a feeling for how men and women act when they're in love and when they're desperate, an eye for the American landscape, from Arkansas to the Mexican border and beyond, and a sure instinct for storytelling. All these gifts are displayed in her new novel, Innocent Lanier, which is funny, touching, and mysterious."

--William Whitworth,
Editor Emeritus, The Atlantic Monthly

"I loved Innocent Lanier, and I'd love to sell it."
--Mary Gay Shipley,

Independent Bookseller


"People like Mary Gay Shipley don't predict sleeper hits; they
create sleeper hits."
--The New Yorker,

October 4, 1999*

Shipley, owner of That Bookstore in Blytheville (Arkansas), is credited in the New Yorker article for making Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells a best-seller.

"Mary Gay is a legend," Wells said. "She just kept putting my books in people's hands."

That's not the only book Shipley has launched to best-sellerdom. "Shipley was plugging Terry Kay's To Dance with the White Dog long before it became a best-seller. She had Melinda Haynes lined up to do a reading at her store before Oprah tapped Mother of Pearl as one of her recommended books and it shot onto the best-seller lists.

She read David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars in manuscript and went crazy for it. 'I called the publisher, and they said, 'We think it's a regional book.' And I said, 'Write it down. M.G.S. says this is an important book.'"

Shipley and her bookstore are one of the five independents that helped John Grisham in the beginning of his writing career.

"They not only opened their doors to me, but enthusiastically supported me and A Time to Kill."** She and they continued their advocacy to make him a best-selling novelist. "The Firm as hand-sold and pushed by independent booksellers," which he said was "traditionally how young authors get started."

It was at That Bookstore on March 17, 1991, where Grisham first heard that The Firm made the bestsellers list. "And we celebrated by drinking green beer."

"Beth Arnold's Innocent Lanier is so wonderful. Reminds me of a Southern John Irving. The way the main character got his name alone would make the book very worthy of being read plus a zillion other things. In fact, the entire work is one of the best things I have read in a long time. Do you think a book or movie would be better? I think both."
--Virginia Thornton,

Mother of Billy Bob, Ironic Observer of
Humankind and Fine Storyteller
in Her Own Right

(Sources: *"The Science of the Sleeper" by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker; October 4, 1999. **; The American Booksellers Association; February 19, 1999.)