June 12, 1995 12:00 PM

>John Dunning


If John Dunning, 53, kept his book collection in his Denver home, there wouldn’t be space for his family. Fortunately for the clan—wife Helen, his 84-year-old mother, also named Helen, and kids James, 21, and Katie, 17—the writer rents storage space to house his more than 8,000 volumes, mostly mysteries saved from the Old Algonquin Book Store he closed last year. “To me, it’s the second greatest game in the world,” says Dunning, still an avid book hunter. “The greatest is writing them yourself.”

Why do you write on the old manual typewriter your father gave you?

Computers are destructive to the creative process—it’s a left-brain machine used in right-brain work. If I retype a page, I benefit even if I don’t change a comma, because it drives the story deeper into your subconscious, which is where the book gets written.

You’ve called your hero, Janeway, “the man I wish I were.” Why?

As a former police reporter [for the Denver Post], I admire good cops. But mainly, I think he’s a guy with the courage you always wish you would have—and that you’re afraid you wouldn’t. Of course, there are some things about him that are not quite admirable—like going around the law to catch a criminal—but that’s what you do to make a character well-rounded.

What was your own best book find?

Once in a thrift store I bought Wild-flowers of America, a beautifully illustrated 16- or 17-volume set, for $65.1 learned later that it goes for something like $1,700—which was a shock even to me. That was a really nice day.

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