A Wicked Welcome to Zac Bissonette **plus a giveaway**

by Julie, summering in Somerville

I am delighted to welcome Zac Bissonnette to the blog today! Zac’s debut mystery, A Killing in Costumes, was released on Tuesday, and we’re thrilled to help him celebrate!

My Little Perry Como Memorabilia Collection

Some shots of Perry Como with the stars of the day. Center left, the meeting of the only two hobbies I have: Perry Como and Angela Lansbury

As part of the research for my debut mystery novel, A Killing in Costumes, set in the world of Hollywood memorabilia dealers, I interviewed Joseph Maddalena, who runs the Hollywood memorabilia department at Heritage Auctions. He’s been in the industry for thirty-five years, and has sold millions and millions of dollars of Hollywood props and costumes.

I asked him what he thought of my book’s plot.

“It’s totally plausible,” he said. “These people are crazy. You have some old lady with a collection no one’s seen in Palm Springs, and get a couple dealers competing for it? Someone could hypothetically end up dead, absolutely. This memorabilia is an obsession. People covet it. It’s not like any other collectibles category. There’s a passion, an intensity that’s different.”

“Why?” I asked him.

“These objects give people a connection with these people. It’s what movies do: They transport you somewhere and then having the objects takes that to another level. If you hadDorothy’s ruby slippers [Which Maddalena once sold for more than two million dollars], what else do you need? It’s the ultimate symbol of hope. That’s the thing, to be able to have that moment. It’s magic.”

A couple comic books that guest starred Como.

I don’t own Dorothy’s slippers, nor do I have a large or varied memorabilia collection.

Peter Lawford’s script from a 1960 guest appearance on Perry Como’s TV show; a few candid photos Como, including with Frank Sinatra at a charity event.

Instead, since I was twelve years old and decided I loved Perry Como after I heard my grandparents playing him, I’ve been assembling what is, I have to assume, the largest collection of Perry Como ephemera in the world. None of this stuff is terribly valuable, but it’s given me great joy—and browsing eBay and emailing with dealers about hot finds has been a weird constant in my life for twenty years. Over the years, my collecting has brought me into contact with people who knew him—TV producers, relatives, and, most recently, a singer who was a member of the cast of his TV show in the early 1960s. The warm and wonderful reminisces they share of the barber from Pennsylvania who became, according to a LIFE Magazine poll, the man women most wanted to marry, enhance the joy my collection brings me. Perry Como was, unlike the other famous Italian-American singer of his era, a wonderful person, as kind and carefree, as his mister-nice-guy persona would have you believe.

A signed menu from an appearance Perry Como made at a Catalina Island restaurant in 1939—shortly before he left the band and contemplated reopening his barbershop, but stayed in the business when he got a radio show offer. Check out those prices!

So, there you have it: A few favorite pieces from my personal Perry Como collection. I probably wouldn’t kill anyone over any of this stuff—though maybe there’s some piece that’s eluded me that would meet that hurdle!

Wickeds Readers and Writers: Do you collect anything, or even just have one piece that has special meaning to you? Would you go to extreme lengths to get something?

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and we’ll pick someone and send them a little piece of Hollywood memorabilia: a Murder, She Wrote script signed by Tom Sawyer, a writer for the show and longtime producer.

About A Killing In Costumes:

Stardom fades fast when you’re on the line for murder, in this debut cozy mystery perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Jenn McKinlay.

Jay Allan and Cindy Cooper were soap opera stars in the late ’90s, a wholesome young husband-and-wife duo who combined musical talent with humor and charisma. When the truth about their sexual orientations came to light, their marriage and TV careers ended, but decades later they have remained friends. Together, they open Palm Springs’ chicest movie memorabilia store, Hooray for Hollywood–but no customers and dwindling finances spell trouble.

A Hail Mary arrives in the form of Yana Tosh, a ninety-year-old diva of the silver screen who has amassed a valuable collection of costumes and props and is looking to sell. But first, Jay and Cindy have to beat their competition, a vice president from a mega-auction house with ten times their resources. And when he winds up dead, they become prime suspects in the murder.

With their freedom and livelihoods on the line, Jay and Cindy desperately need to clear their names. There are plenty of other potential suspects, but they’ll have to solve it soon before they’re forced to trade in their vintage costume collection for two orange jumpsuits.

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Zac Bissonnette‘s most recent book is 2015’s The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute. He is an equity analyst at a hedge fund, and lives in New York City with his partner and a tuxedo cat named Perry Como. A Killing in Costumes is his first novel.

79 Thoughts

  1. Zac, congratulations on your book release. I used to collect celebrity photographs. I will have to check to see if I still have the photo album.

  2. The book sounds fascinating. I collect Sherlock Holmes books written by anyone. Nothing of great value, but great reading. I also have thousands of postcards, all carefully organized.

    1. It’s funny. My middle school principal was a Sherlock Holmes collector–his office was full of Sherlock Holmes stuff and every year, the sixth grade class did a unit on Sherlock Holmes, and he would come in and talk about his collection and how much Sherlock Holmes meant to him. It was one of the things that hooked me on mysteries, in part, I think, because his enthusiasm was so infectious.

  3. Hi Zac,

    Congratulations and best of luck with your first novel!

    I just popped over to Amazon and ordered a copy, and plan to start it as soon as I finish the book I’m currently reading.

    I did a quick double-take when I spotted the photo of Angela Lansbury with PC and then noticed that she’s your other obsession. She’s been a personal favorite of mine since the first movie I saw her in, “The Manchurian Candidate.” I’ve seen almost all her stage performances (at least since her original run in “Mame”) and have been fortunate enough to meet her in person several times. Happily, she’s as nice (at least she was to me) as her Jessica Fletcher persona, something that alas isn’t always true with celebrities.

    The most recent occasion was in 2016. I was visiting a friend near San Luis Obispo (where many of the exteriors for “Murder She Wrote” were filmed, and she gifted me with tickets to a benefit “In Conversation” evening with her. I was also invited to a party for her (celebrating her upcoming 90th birthday) after the talk and was able to spend about 20 minutes chatting with her. We have some mutual friends and chatted about them, and was gracious enough to sign a show card that I’d purchased at a performance of “Blithe Spirit” and posed for a photo with me. That photo has been the “wallpaper” on my phone ever since.

    I can’t say I’ve ever received a better gift than the tickets to that talk and the after-party, so I guess the memories and mementos of that evening count as a “collection.”

    Best wishes,

    Lee Sauer

    1. Every single thing about this post makes me jealous–but you saved me from hating you too much by buying my book! 😉 If you–or anyone else–happen to be in the market for more Angela Lansbury mementoes, Heritage Auctions will actually be selling my Jessica Fletcher painting, with all the proceeds going to the Entertainment Community Fund. https://entertainment.ha.com/itm/entertainment-and-music/angela-lansbury-murder-she-wrote-production-made-painting-1997-/p/7316-11001.s?ic4=GalleryView-ShortDescription-071515

    2. I love Murder She Wrote or anything with Angela Lansbury, so that is too cool. I remember my parents listening to Perry Como. I have a collection of NASCAR stuff that my dad got me started on, plus some of his carnival glass collection.
      I was a kid during the Beanie Baby craze. We only had a few from gifts and such, we liked them as they were cute (and we’d try to find one with our same birthdays). Never tried to collect them, although as a kid for some reason I always wanted the duck. I finally bought it myself in college when I was out and happened to run into one.

      1. You collect NASCAR and Angela Lansbury! I haven’t done any market research but I think not a huge amount of overlap between those two interests. You’re an original! March to your own drum!!!

      1. Well, I could reasonably argue that some of her last stage performances should be considered her “heyday.” Specifically, in both “Deuces” and “Blithe Spirit” (both of which won her Tony Awards for Supporting Actress in a Play) she was onstage for as much of the play as the leads, and (especially as Madame Arcati) acted up a storm and stole the show.

        But of course, in a way you’re right. While both of those performances were beyond fabulous, they aren’t iconic, the way her performances in “Mame” and “Sweeney Todd” are. (And don’t I wish that I’d been old enough to have seen her in “Anyone Can Whistle” which closed 7 days after it opened. I’m equally jealous of those who DID have that experience.)

        But let me make you even more jealous. When she brought “Mame” to San Francisco, I was a student at Stanford and got ushering tickets to see the show for free. I was bowled over and raved about it nonstop to my friends and anyone else who would listen.

        I had a somewhat older friend (I was about 18 then) who was a bartender in San Francisco. The bar where he worked had a resident performer there, Charles Pierce who was an incredible impressionist, famous for his Mae West, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and many, many other Hollywood Divas. All these years later, I can’t remember if it was by chance or because we knew in advance what was going to happen, he agreed to get me in to the bar (which was completely illegal because I wasn’t 21) to see the show.

        What occurred was that Angela Lansbury and some other members of the company (including, Anne Francis who was playing Vera, if I remember correctly) came to see the show. It was a completely wild and unforgettable evening. Charles (with whom I became friends a few years later) was ad libbing like mad and I remember laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Every other line out of his mouth was either about or delivered to Angie. She (along with everyone else in the club) was having an incredible time.

        Later, Bea Arthur (who was one of Angie’s best friends) became very close to Charles, and they often shared dinners with Angie, so that was our personal connection.

        Just in case you’re wondering, my friend made sure that all the waiters and bartenders at the club knew I wasn’t to be served anything except ginger ale, and I was warned that if he found out I was drinking alcohol, not only would I be bounced and left to make my way back to Palo Alto on my own, but he would personally ensure that my face was so rearranged that my mother wouldn’t recognize me. I presume he was kidding about the last part, but I wasn’t about to try and find out.

        Besides, there was no way I was going to take a chance on missing a single moment of that incredible evening.

        Now are you REALLY jealous?

      2. Julie, Julie, Julie. That’s Anne Francis, not Arlene Francis. See Funny Girl, Honey West, and Forbidden Planet rather than What’s My Line.

  4. I collect signed books. Most of them are books I have won but some I have gone to see the author and bought the book. I would like to add your book to my collection. I also read them. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

    1. Ooh, signed books are great. I have a shelf of first editions–some signed, some not–by my favorite authors. It’s both inspiring and intimidating!

  5. Zac, congratulations on your first book!

    I do certainly get signed books when I have a chance to meet authors. I collect the music of bands I like, though just for listening purposes not any kind of pristine unheard condition stuff or anything.

    That pretty much describes anything I collect. I get it for listening or reading purposes rather than just as an untouched object on a shelf. I don’t see myself resorting to murder over any one particular piece though.

      1. This book sounds like a hoot, and set in familiar territory. I’m a retired theatrical dresser and look forward to reading this book. There is often more drama backstage than on stage.

        One of the best parts of the work was the costumes, and keeping performers calm as needed.

  6. I don’t have anything valuable lol! But I do collect Charming Tails mouse figurines, does that count? I love their innocence and sweet characteristics. My parents listened to Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others – they would play their albums on the big stereo cabinet, and I always liked listening to them. Especially Bing Crosby’s and Burl Ives Christmas albums. Brings back happy, warm feelings for me. Maybe that’s what Perry Como does for folks, brings back memories of more innocent times!

    1. KATHY!!!!

      It’s so funny you mention Charming Tails. My last book, which was nonfiction, in 2015, was about the Beanie Baby craze–and to understand a little about the 1990s collectibles era/market, I interviewed Dean Griff, the creator of Charming Tails. I found him to be one of the most charming, funny, smart people I ever talked to–his stories about growing up on a farm and creating this world in his head and starting by drawing the eyes because that’s what his grandfather had told him. . . it was just amazing, and the respect and love he had for his fans was just memorably awesome. Just a truly wonderful person, one of the best.

      1. Oh my word, that is just incredible! The eyes on the mice and other animals on those figurines are exactly what drew me to them, so neat he realized how important they would be!! Lucky you to have met him, thanks for sharing that.

  7. Welcome to the blog, Zac, and congratulations on the new book! I can’t wait to read it.

    I’m not sure I collect anything except ideas for new ways to murder people. I have lots of my own ephemera around, lol, and that’ll have to do.

    1. Haha. How do you get your ideas for how to murder people? The Poison Lady told me she gets idea by reading safety journals for accidentals injuries/deaths, and then thinks of ways to turn those into murder. CLEVER!!!

  8. Congratulations! “A Killing In Costumes” sounds like a fabulous novel and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read it.

    We use to have so many collections that it might have been easier to say what we did not collect. However, when we downsized we had to figure out what we really loved and the rest went out the door one way or the other. One of the things we kept was the part of our Emmett Kelly collection that meant the most to us – framed picture given to us by Emmett himself, old and rare signed photos by both father and son (that take up very little space) and a doll that started not only our collection but meeting and becoming friends with Emmett Kelly Jr. which eventually led both hubby and I to become clowns. Now the favorite thing we collect is photographs. We are both very much into photography but it’s the rare fabulous capture of both landscape or critter that we take that evokes memories of where we have been or seen that end up being printed and kept. That love of photography has also led to the collection of photography equipment.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. We also have that problem. We collect too many things, and it would be hard to even think of what we don’t collect. But it has been fun. We remember where we got most pieces and that is fun to discuss our escapades.

  9. Congratulations, Zac! I have a stuffed bear collection, but I don’t think I’d resort to murder over it.

    My grandparents loved Perry Como.

    1. STUFFED BEARS!!! What kind? I did a book on the Beanie Baby craze and once went to a prison in West Virginia to interview a guy who’d murdered a friend over a Beanie Baby deal gone bad. One of the more unsettling conversations of my life. He told me he’d joked to his mother when he got arrested that, “I can’t go into prison as the Beanie Baby killer. I’ll have to kill someone else once I get there to get my credibility back!”

  10. Congratulations on your new release from a Western PA girl who grew up on Perry Como stories. Grandpa had a wicked — and not very nice — Perry Como imitation that was clearly straight-out jealousy because of grandma’s crush! These days, I have Grandpa’s glass collection…and I’d probably kill any burglar who came after it!

  11. I am not a huge collector of anything in particular, but I do have a small collection of angels, which started when we lived in Germany and includes things my family have given me over the years. I also live next to Cannonsburg, where Perry Como lived and where there is a statue of him in the downtown area to celebrate their famous barber.

    1. Are those Goebel angels by any chance? I know they made a lot of them, the same company that made Hummel figurines, and they were big with US servicemembers stationed in Germany.

  12. Zac, I love the premise for your book, it promises some really funny scenes and that is what we all need!

    Growing up, Perry Como was a favorite of mine. We watched his show all the time. He had a beautiful voice!

    I have never been a passionate collector of anything, but I have bits and pieces around that make me very happy.

      1. Thank you so much for the link. I saw Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun when I was in High School – a very long time ago! Unforgettable.

  13. Welcome, Zac. It is such a delight to see you here! I’m so happy your fabulous book is out in the world. I love that you love Perry Como. I have a collection of cobalt glass, but don’t buy more. I also collect vintage tablecloths and little “H”s that fit in a bowl. They are everything from printer’s blocks to antique cards.

    1. A collection of H’s is absolutely incredible. And thank you so much for commenting. You’re gonna make me cry. This book never would’ve seen the light of day without your incredible feedback and kindness and inspiration.

  14. How. fun! Congratulations on your first novel Zac!!!…it sounds like it is a must read for me.My wife and I have collected ladies’ vintage hats from the 1900-1970s’, and amassed over 1300 treasures. We have traveled all lover the world collecting them, but found that most of the unusual ones came from estate sales of the Hollywood film industry in Southern California. As we age, we have been selling one. at a time to collectors and vintage enthusiasts. It is hard to part with our treasures, but glad they are under the care of others whowioll love and preserve them as. we have. Now I have get A KILLING IN COSTUME. Thanks for sharing your writing talents. with us eager readers! Luis at ole dot travel

    1. A hat collection is is amazing, and you and you have wife must have the best memories and stories about acquiring them. It really is the thrill of the hunt. I have that with things I buy–so much fun getting them and then I have them and it’s like, “OK, now what?” So then I have to go get something else! 🙂

    1. Isn’t the cover just incredible? I was almost disappointed it was so beautiful because now if the book doesn’t sell well, I can’t blame the artist! 😉

  15. I love Murder She Wrote and am fortunate that I live not too far from where it was filmed, it’s fun to visit Mendocino and see all the paces Jessica Fletcher roamed. Your book sounds like a fun read. I love quirky and old ladies!

    1. There’s a bed and breakfast there that they used for shooting and you can stay in the Jessica Fletcher room. Perhaps I need to make a pilgrimage!

  16. Congrats on the book debut! I am loving the comments as much as your post! I guess I collect books, haha and I have been excited to meet authors at events and have something signed. I also searched long for a set of butterfly gold Pyrex mixing bowls just like my mom had when I was little. It’s good to have a quest!

  17. Congratulations on the novel! Was is difficult to switch from non-fiction?

    When I was a kid we called Perry Como Perry Comb and Brush, much to my mother’s chagrin. She had a huge crush on him. It’s nice that from all accounts he was as nice as his stage persona made him appear. Looking forward to reading your book!

    1. I love that! Milton Berle called him “Perry Comatose!”

      It’s funny you ask about the switch. Non-fiction is hard because you can’t make stuff up. Fiction is hard because you HAVE TO make it all up. So they’re both hard and miserable but also fun in different ways but also similar ways.

    2. Three cheers to you on the release, Zac! Hope you’ve having an amazing release week! I’m not a big collector, but I do have a variety of items from Star Trek and The Muppet Show. Then there are my four floor to ceiling bookcases that are jam-packed. 🙂

  18. Congratulations on your book. I have a photo album of celebrity autographed pictures and I collect Star wars stuff and teddy bears.

    1. Star Wars stuff is crazy hot now. One of the things that’s interesting about movie memorabilia is how much it follows nostalgia curves. A lot of the early Hollywood stuff has declined in value quite a bit over the past few years. But fantasy/sci-fi has been on a tear.

  19. Congratulations on your new book. I have a photo album filled with celebrity autographed photos. I also have a collection of all things Star Wars and a teddy bear collection.

  20. I saw Zac interviewed on A Mighty Blaze on his publication day this week. Sounds like a fast paced mystery romp combining my love of golden age cinema and mysteries. A must read for my nightstand! And “yes”, Zac, I’d still take the Black Bird statue any day! And a Tom Sawyer Murder She Wrote script? Oh, my! Wishing you great success, Zac, and a closet full of Perry Como cardigans! Still miss all those crooner Christmas tv specials when I was growing up.

    1. Ha! It’s funny–he actually hated the cardigan thing, thought a tuxedo was a better way to show respect for the audience. But in those early days of TV, executives thought a cardigan would really make people want to welcome him “into their homes.” And it was . . . magic!

  21. Congrats on the debut novel! It sounds like fun.

    I can’t think of anything like that I collect. I do value a few of my signed books, but they probably wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me.

    (No need to enter me in the drawing.)

    1. I love your reviews, Mark. So consistently thoughtful and interesting and fair. I’d offer to send you a copy of mine but you’re such a discerning reader the thought of you looking at it scares me!!!

  22. Congratulations on your book! I’m not a huge collector. However, I do collect and cherish my signed book collection!

    Thanks for the chance! You are a new author to me.

  23. I love the theme of your series, it sounds like such a fun read! I’ve had a lot of favorite tv series through the years but my absolute favorite of all time is Murder, She Wrote, so I love the chance to win the script. That would be a cool item to collect! I LOVE collecting things! I have a lot of “mini” collections , as well as some larger ones. I have a collection of tv and movie memorabilia. I have gone to Cons & Expos and collected a few autographed photos along the way as well as other goodies at them, and I have quite a few other promo items that I’ve gathered through the years, a lot of popcorn buckets from the movies as well as other stuff. I have a few vintage sewing accessories that I display with this cool metal Singer children’s sewing machine from the 1950’s. My grandmother gave it to me when I was a kid and I used to sew all kinds of stuff on that old hand crank machine. I still have my first collection ever which is a collection of miniature pitchers. My grandmother thought everyone should collect something and when we were kids she gave all of the grandkids a couple pieces of some small item that would be fairly easy to find, and cheap, to get them started on a collection. My grandparents had a junk store when I was growing up so “collecting” is in the blood. We always called it a junk store but it was actually mostly antiques, I guess the appreciation for older stuff came as I got older. Lol! My largest collections are my books and my Disney stuff. My Disney stuff branches out into its own collections of kitchen stuff, Christmas ornaments and decorations, and snow globes to name just a few things that I have. I have quite a few vintage Disney items too. That brings me to my books, which are my absolute favorite collection that I have. They are the one collection I would cry over if I ever had to give them up. I have pretty much every book I had in my childhood, thanks to my mom. My love of Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid are what I credit my love of cozy mysteries as an adult to.

      1. Vulcan jewelry! I knew there was a reason I have to read your book…Hoping to add to the photo/ autograph collection next month.

  24. Congratulations on your new release. I’ve read really good reviews on your book and I’m looking forward to reading it. I have a collection of elephant figurines.

  25. Congratulations on your new book baby. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

  26. Congratulations on your new book!
    It looks wonderful!
    I love your collection! I have a photo album of movie stars that was my mom’s. Some of them are signed. I love it. I collect Wizard of Oz.

    1. Wizard of Oz. One of the most treasured categories in all of Hollywood memorabilia. For my research for A Killing in Costumes, I interviewed a Hollywood memorabilia dealer who once sold a pair of Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers for more than $2 million dollars! : )

  27. I collect comic books and books. My library is approaching 3000 volumes starting in the 1950’s. I would have a larger comic collection except my mother thought they were useless and a waste of money. She tossed out a box containing comics from the 50’s and 60’s including Jimmy Olson #2 and Scrooge McDuck and other offbeat titles. My current comic collection is roughly 300 comics valued around $10.000.00. Those and my library (lots of 1st editions and autographed) should bring my kids a few shekels when I’m gone.

  28. My father was the district manager of four theatres in our hometown in Texas. My mother collected silent star photos in the 1930s and gave them to me. These two things started my love for movie stars and memorabilia. I began collecting autographs in 1959 when I was 11 and have continued to this day. I have over 1800+ photos and several hundred movie related books, many of which are autographed. Along with that I have collected many more items of movie memorabilia of all kinds from stills to lobby cards, to magazines, Beautebox Canco tins, a signed photo by all of the stars of MGM at the time, one of Sally Rand’s awards, and on and on. I love these things and have decorated our bonus room into my movie room, but it has overflowed into other areas. I would never kill for anything, and I would never spend more than I could afford, though I have had to scrimp and save for some. I have missed out on things for that reason, but oh well. Your book sounds like it is right up my alley.

Comments are closed.