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Listed here are both so-called literary and genre fiction (Harlequin-style romances, science fiction). Drama too is included, for now at least (Lovelace, “The New Hardware Store”; see also the discussion of Viña Delmar’s play “The Rich, Full Life” (1946) (here).

Women either own or work in not a few of the hardware stores found in this fiction.

Fictional hardware stores are often cast in a benign light. This is always the case in the romance novels I have encountered. Exceptions to this pattern include Amy Green’s Bloodroot (2010), Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge (2008), Stephanie Vaughn’s “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” (1978), and Thomas Zigal’s “Recent Developments” (1989).

One “trend — or perhaps just an emerging feature — of romance fiction, is the inclusion of special topics, e.g., handicaps. Examples include:

Catherine Anderson, Phantom Waltz (2001, 2007; female protagonist is paraplegic);
Anna Jacobs, The Corrigan Legacy (2006; ME/chronic fatigue syndrome); and
Karen Rose Smith, Kit and Kisses (1997, 2011; male protagonist cares for a “special needs” sister).

Some of the books appear under Christian or inspirational imprints, including Ann Bell’s Autumn Love (Heartsong) and Sunni Jeffers’s The Start of Something Big (the Grace Chapel Inn series); Grace Livingston Hill’s The Chance of a Lifetime (1931) was an early exemplar of evangelical romance fiction.

30 June 2014 / 29 June 2023

  1. Anonymous. The Man Who Felt Sad.

    Appeared originally in the Detroit Free Press, and reprinted in Phineas Garrett, comp., The Speaker’s Garland and Literary Bouquet... (1905). Earliest newspaper appearance that can be found via America’s Historical Newspapers is The Macon Weekly Telegraph, April 6, 1875, which takes it from the Detroit Free Press.

    A comic sketch, in which a customer enters a hardware store, feelingly announces that we have all got to die, and launches into an eloquent catalogue of notable passings, including Christopher Columbus, King James, Andrew Jackson, William Penn, And Shakespeare gone too!. The merchant wonders if the customer is wanting anything in the line of hardware, to which the sad man asks,

    Can you speak of hardware to me at a time such as this?

    And departs.

    full text here.
    my transcription, here.

  2. Catherine Anderson. Phantom Waltz.
    New York: New American Library (Onyx), 2001; reprinted by Signet, 2007

    Ryan Kendrick works for the Rocking K ranch, comes into town to pick up some parts at The Works, a ranch supply house. He’s in a bad mood — the parts are late — but the young woman sitting behind the counter under the Parts and Repairs sign changes his mood; she’s smart, funny, sharp, good looking. The opening pages contain their increasingly good humored banter. He sees this is love at first sight. Bethany Coulter, it turns out, is wheelchair bound, the result of an accident in a rodeo barrel racing event (she was three-time state champion). Her boyfriend had left her after that accident, so she’s got trust issues (a common theme in romance fiction); she’s also learned to achieve — or regained — a degree of independence that she’s loathe to surrender. Ryan (a legs man) can’t see her legs behind the counter. The novel goes on from there.


    Catherine Anderson, Phantom Waltz (2001)



    Readers seem to like the book at Goodreads. One reviewer calls the place Bethany works at a hardware store, but it’s also referred to as a feed store and a ranch supply house.

    Apart from the opening scene, there’s little about hardware in the book. Much more about horses, in later chapters, and sex (including discussion of phantom orgasm (for women with spinal cord injuries)). The novel is notable for its inclusion of a paraplegic character. The author’s one-page preface addresses the issue of romance fiction for those with disabilities; her earlier book Annie’s Song (Avon, 1996) is about a deaf girl. The characters in the novel are remarkably articulate about their feelings and issues.

    Physics/chemistry dynamics: The hardware store, like all retail, is passive and/or solid: the kinetics happen outside, or before, or after. In this case, formerly kinetic Bethany stabilizes; hyper-kinetic Ryan comes in. He rekindles her emotional ambitions, she tames his.

  3. Ellen Barker. East of Troost.
    Berkeley : She Writes Press, 2022 : link
    google book preview snippets : link

    haven’t (yet) read entire; hardware store an important element :
    ...Driving south, nothing remains from my past, nothing at all. I find a chicken restaurant (hurrah), a sketchy food mart (hmm), and wonder of wonders, a hardware store (double hurrah). The hardware store seems promising, both for my own convenience and what I imagine it says about the neighborhood.

  4. Ann Bell. Contagious Love.
    Uhricksville (Ohio) : Heartsong Presents, 1994

    from back cover —
    Whatever happened to the simple, happy days of Rocky Bluff? Edith Harkness Dutton feels those days are gone forever, and with good reason. Despite the promise of Edith’s joyous second marriage to Roy Dutton in the autumn of her life, life in this Montana hamlet is anything but blissful.A former standout high school basketball star abuses his wife and is now stalking her despite a court-imposed restraining order... Edith’s son, Bob Harkness, struggles desperately to save the family hardware store from bankruptcy only to watch it go up in flames... and Roy always seems more tired than he should. — As these seemingly isolated events entwine, Edith is drawn into a maelstrom of emotions and needs. Never before have her unwavering faith and contagious love been in such demand.

  5. Thomas Berger. Feud.
    New York: Delacorte Press / S. Lawrence, 1983

    The Beelers, who live in Hornbeck, have a series of encounters, ranging from the hostile to the amorous, with members of the Bullard family, who own a hardware store in the adjoining hamlet of Millville.

    Have not examined.

  6. (Brett) Ellen Block. The Language of Sand.
    New York: Bantam Books Trade Paperback Original, 2010

    Here’s some of the publisher’s blurb:
    A magical novel that unravels one of life’s greatest mysteries — how to go on after a devastating loss — through the power of words and their ability to heal, to transform, and to touch the heart.Luck: an event that could be for good or ill, depending on your interpretation. ¶ As a lexicographer, Abigail Harker has always taken refuge in the meaning of words. But when fate erases in one tragic moment what she loves the most, the very foundations of her life vanish. Abigail retreats to Chapel Isle...

    Merle Braithwaite’s Island Hardware store is one of the grounding points in this novel. Abigail is a word person, a lexicographer, for whom words — and definitions — can be an impediment to life.

    Each chapter is headed by a term and definition. I can’t resist listing all twenty-six of them:
    a·be·ce·dar·i·an, blan·dish, co·na·tus, dree, e·lide, fan·tod, gam·mon, ha·mar·ti·a, in·stau·ra·tion, jer·e·mi·ad, kith, lum·pen, mun·di·fy, no·va·tion, op·er·ose, per·si·flage, quoth·a, ruc·tion, sed·u·lous, tour·bil·lion, u·su·fruct, ve·rid·i·cal, wel·ter, Xe·nod·o·chy, yare, zetetic

    The lexicography is a nice feature of this novel. I’ve just returned from a lexicography conference myself — that’s me, third from the right, top row at McGill University, for the DSNA Conference in June 2011 (I talked about telegraphic codes, of course). For that and other reasons have been thinking about definitions, and my inadequacies in that department, which probably also relate to my decision not to become a USA Swimming official and judge swimmers’ strokes and turns.

    Anyway anyway, Abigail and Merle have a conversation about moving on from personal pain that both have had their share of. Merle’s solution comes down to shoes (read the book!). Woven into that passage is this —

    ...Objectivity was what Abigail grappled with.Dictionaries were intended to be impartial and exact, yet the act of defining a word reflected the passions and prejudices of the definer. Dictionaries required the faith of the user, faith dependent on the belief that the dictionary was beyond subjectivity, but the best dictionaries had come from those with the strongest personalities, the zealots and idealists who sought to teach and to preach, to politicize and to moralize. Abigail could try to be objective about her grief and acknowledge it for what it was, or she could define it by her own biases and feel it as it came. Either way, the definition didn’t make the hurt subside any faster. pp242-43

    Google Books page here, author’s website here.

  7. J. S. Borthwick. Bodies of Water (a Sarah Deane mystery). New York: St. Martins, 1990

    Oh I’ve done this and that. Rope horses, drill wells, tend the store, keep the old wheels spinning. Actually, my front is a hardware store, but at heart I’m a rolling stone.

    Have not examined beyond this page, but that’s a good line!

  8. Ray Bradbury. June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air in The Martian Chronicles.
    Doubleday, 1950

    The blacks have built rockets and are going to leave for Mars. Samuel W. Teece, hardware store proprietor, doesn’t want to lose his black employee Silly. (Teece is a racist, bully, and probably lyncher.) But Teece’s customers — a kind of chorus — agree that Belter can leave; Grandpa Quartermain even offers to take his job. Silly intends to open his own hardware store on Mars. The exodus takes place; the participants leave their bundles of stuff neatly along the side of the road.

    Here’s the wikipedia summary of the story, which apparently was dropped from an English edition of the collection, and from a 2006 reprint.

    Hardware stores would be a natural part of Bradbury’s ideal of a small-town, Midwest-oriented society. See entry for his essay The Great American What am I doing here, and why did I buy that? Hardware Store. (1987, 1991) here.

  9. Scott Bradfield. The History of Luminous Motion.
    New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989 (Originaly published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing, Ltd.)

    cover (design by Valarie Jean Astor), Scott Bradfield, The History of Luminous Motion (1989)

    Library Journal writes (I’m taking this from Amazon: concerns the exploits of an eight-year-old California psychopath. Phillip Davis and his mother travel the highways, living by their wits and occasionally settling down with various men his mother meets. Things go from bad to bad. Library Journal thinks the novel squanders believability.

    Pedro, one of the boy’s mother’s partners, talks about his life in terms of owning a hardware store: “I mean, it’s not like I ever had these big ambitions, you know, to run a hardware store, for chrissake. I mean, opening a hardware store wasn’t something that, you know, woke me up excited every morning. Like I’d wake up thinking, Hey, I own a hardware store! Hey, I’m on my way to work in my very own hardware store! Hell, no. It wasn’t like that at all, kiddo. I mean, running a hardware store was just a lot of hard work every day, believe you me. There were plenty of days when I just wanted to lie in bed, too...” (pp34-35)

    An eerie trip to an Ace Hardware and Plumbing Supplies, with Phillip’s father’s credit card, is described at pp 163-65).

    wikipedia : link

  10. Jason Brannon. Winds of Change.
    Pacific (Washington): Nocturne Press, 2006.

    Three stories, the book taking its title from the first, which is set in Kingsley’s Hardware and Appliance. A shooting star falls outside Crowley’s Point. People outdoors turn to piles of dust (or salt). The several terrified survivors in the hardware store are safe, for now. The story traces their growing realization that this is not biological warfare or a terrorist’s attack, but something out of the Bible. The hardware store becomes a kind of “ark,” offering tools needed to ensure survival and some plot mechanics. E.g., flashlights, portable generator; battery-powered nail guns, scythe, pitchforks, twenty-pound sledgehammer, gas-powered chainsaw, pickaxe, blow torch. Also, garbage-bags, walkie-talkie, duct tape, etc. The hardware store setting also offers something like a microcosm of humanity, and a parking lot stage upon which destruction — car crashes and explosions, people turning to dust — can take place before the amazed refugees in the store.

    There’s some speaking in tongues — by Vera Weaver — and a translation by Steven, one of the store managers, given in a possessed state. (Glossolalia also appears in Richard Marius his After the War (1992). It’s not something specific to hardware stores in either fiction, however.)

    The writing is slack; the story would work better without the over-writing, perhaps as a script to something like Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

    Brannon’s fantastic fiction page : link.

  11. Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America.
    Four Seasons Foundation, 1967.

    Brautigan commenced to scribble a story about a man who finds a used trout stream in the back of a hardware store, while in a hardware store in San Francisco. See Pierre Delattre’s recollection, quoted in the page devoted to that novel at Brautigan.net here, and more fully in the memoirs page of the same archive.

  12. Bonnie Burnard. A Good House.
    New York: Picador, 1999.

    Bill Chambers has come home from WWII with several fingers missing, but with the will to restore his family life. He wants the best for his wife and children, and with his steady job at the hardware store the future stretches out before him. Yet as the future takes hold, generations pull apart and come back again, and love creates its own snares.

    Bonnie Burnard (1945-2017)
    wikipedia : link
    summary and reception of novel, also at wikipedia : link

  13. Gelett Burgess. The Whaup and the Whimbrel,
    in A Little Sister of Destiny. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1906

    Oh, pshaw! said the Whaup. Fancy romance in a hardware store! It’s impossible. It’s absurd!

    Miss Million determines to take a job in a hardware store, not for money (for she is wealthy) but for interest.

    Miss Stella Delafield came with the evident belief that nails were sold by the dozen, and hinges by the pound. She did not know the difference between a hasp and a door-jamb, or butts from escutcheon pins. Yet her inexperience was so distractingly original, and her desire to learn so charmingly avid, that the shipping-clerk had spent entire noon hours in teaching her the terminology of the craft. He explained laboriously the difference between the teeth of a cross-cut and a ripping saw, the distinctions of bits and augers and gimlets, the characteristics of cut nails, wire nails, and clinch nails, and screws of all sorts. He had awakened her mind to a knowledge of rat-tail files and rivets — but Miss Delafield still had much to learn.She did not need any instructor, however, in her study of human nature. Here she was an adept, alert and sapient...

    Miss Millions (Stella) acts as something of a guardian angel in the story, appreciating and encouraging the romantic notions of young John Gow (bookkeeper) and a young waitress at a dairy-lunch restaurant down the street, who she anoints the Whaup and the Whimbrel, respectively. The story starts here.

    Nice story. More —
    What would you do, if a wonderful, beautiful woman in Russian sables and diamonds should rush up to you, while you were walking up Broadway, and thrust a hot buttered roll into your hand, snip off the second button of your jacket with a little pair of scissors, and say Parallelogram! and run down a cross-street, looking back over her shoulder as if frightened?

  14. Kristin Butcher. Zee’s Way.
    (Orca Soundings.) Victoria, B.C. : Orca Book Publishers, 2004

    publisher’s summary —
    “Zee is torn between making a statement with graffiti and making art... Zee and his friends are angry that their old haunt has been replaced by stores that are off-limits to them and storekeepers who treat them with distrust. To let the merchants know what he and his friends think, Zee paints graffiti on the wall of the hardware store. After the wall is repainted, Zee decides to repeat the vandalism, but this time with more artistic flair. A store owner catches him in the act and threatens to call the police — unless Zee agrees to repair the damage.”
    (product details here).

  15. Jackie Calhoun. Friends and Lovers, A Romance.
    Tallahassee (Florida): The Naiad Press, 1993

    blurb —
    Seeking recuperation from the harsh pain of a divorce and the end of her first lesbian love affair, Danny has returned to Wisconsin. Living quietly with her mother and teenage daughter will bring her peace... won’t it? Working at a hardware store while she waits for a teaching position to open, Danny becomes embroiled in a project begun by two gay men — a Bed & Breakfast catering to AIDS patients. She also meets Chris, who makes no secret of her attraction to Danny. But Danny finds herself drawn to the alluring Maureen. There’s a very major complication: Danny’s closest friend Kara, long-time married, wants more than friendship with Danny. Marital anguish is nothing compared to this minefield of romantic and erotic fireworks. Then Maureen’s ex-love shows up... and Danny’s ex-husband... and Danny’s daughter learns Danny’s a lesbian Let Jackie Calhoun tell you all about peaceful, quiet lesbian life in midwest America...


    Marissa Carroll, Last-Minute Romance (2000)


    Jennifer Greene, Lady of the Island (1988)

  16. Marisa Carroll. Last-Minute Marriage.
    Harlequin SuperRomance 942, October 2000

    “Mitch Sterling has a lot on his plate. He owns a hardware store that’s competing with a big national chain. he’s taking care of his elderly grandfather — though Granddad might argue about that — and he’s a single father to a young child. On top of that, he’s just met a very pregnant, very stranded, very single woman who needs a friend. And if Mitch is honest with himself, he’ll admit that he wants to be more than her friend...”

    This is one of six books projected in the Riverbend series, all set in the Midwest town of —

    “Riverbend...home of the River Rats — a group of small-town sons and daughters who’ve been friends since high school. The River Rats are all grown up now. Living their lives and learning that some days are good and some days aren’t — and that you can get through anything as long as you have friends.<”

  17. Jon Cohen. The Man in the Window.
    Warner Books, 1992

    hardware store as magical place magical realism?...
    “Louis saw the different strength fireflies. Because Louis saw them, he believed Mrs. Meem and Harvey Mastuzek saw them, too. And the fireflies imbued everything in the store with their luminescent halo. Here’s another way of putting it: To a certain kind of person, a hardware store is a holy place. There, that’s a good moral to the story.” (27)

    amazon (for interesting reader reviews) : link
    author’s website : link

  18. Beth Cornelison. Trust in Me.
    December 2011 [ here ]

    Contemporary romance, available only as eBook.

    cover to eBook, artist unknown, Beth Cornelison, Trust in Me (2011);
    motorcycle does not look like the semi-reliable 1972 Harley described in chapter 2!

    Both protagonists need to get over damage done by previous relationships. Kevin Fuller manages Lowery Hardware and Farm Supply, in Grayson, South Carolina. His staff include Lydia Banks, a smart, competent and dependable cashier (who occasionally threatens to leave), and Ray Lowery, the immature, loutish (even thuggish) and spoiled son of the hands-off owner. Claire Albritton comes in to the store for a cashier’s job she’d seen advertised on the bulletin board at Harrison University. She's beautiful, carries herself well, is a recent graduate of Duke University (English literature); she’s come to Grayson to enter a Masters program at Harrison University, and eventually teach (like her grandmother Nana). She’s also struggling to establish independence from her overbearing father. While Kevin considers whether it’s wise to hire a wealthy, pampered beauty (a princess), she reflects —

    She’d been nuts to come in here thinking he’d ever hire her. She didn’t know the first thing about hardware and couldn’t tell a wrench from a socket to save her life. And then there was her lack of work experience. Why had she wasted the nice man’s time?Because her only other option was to go home with her tail tucked between her legs and admit she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d have to accept the decisions her father had made about her future, acknowledge she was dependent on her father’s income, and marry the unfaithful jerk her father had handpicked, paid to be her husband.Never.

    Claire gets the job, slowly learns hardware. There are some ugly encounters with Ray, but he’s eventually brought into line (it’s Claire who recognizes that Ray craves attention he’s not gotten from his father).

    Claire falls for Kevin, of course. After various ups and downs and seeming reversals, all turns out well.

    The hardware store is a way station for both Kevin and Claire. For Claire, it’s an opportunity to ground herself, pause, establish a personal sense of agency. By learning the business, she grows. For Kevin, it’s a job and, of course, an opportunity to know Claire. He’ll not stay in the business, but eventually move on to an accounting position with higher status and pay. There’s not a lot of detail in descriptions of the store, but where there is, it has a function, e.g.,

    An older man wearing overalls and walking with a decided limp hobbled up to the register and placed a package of nails — or were they screws? — on the counter. They had funny flat tops whatever they were.

    They’re roofing tacks.

    The older man, incidentally, is Clyde Schnider. He’ll come in again, much later in the novel, and Claire’s confident interaction with him at that point will show the changes in her life (she knows hardware, the store, the customers). In the same scene (chapter 13), Clyde opines that according to his aching joint, a storm’s coming. And so it is.

    It’s these passages that help to establish something about characters, that stand out for this reader; also, any passage involving flinty and perceptive Mrs. Proctor, at whose house on Elm Street Claire takes a room.

    Loutish Ray, who’s attitude improves, will one day manage the store. Kevin won’t need to.

    Cornelison discusses the novel, and particularly the background of its setting, here.

  19. SA Cosby. several mentions : link

    I know of SA Cosby only via an interview, in which he says “I was working 60 hours a week as a manager at a hardware store. Now I’m writing full time.”
    in “SA Cosby: ‘The holy trinity of southern fiction is race, class and sex’,” an interview by Ashish Ghadiali in The Guardian (21 July 2021) : link

    The expression “hardware store” is found in two of Cosby’s three novels (to date) :

    Blacktop Wasteland (2020)
    snippet —
    After a quick ride to the hardware store and some experimentation, it was ready. The convoy reached the end of the driveway and paused. Beauregard pressed send. The explosion didn’t look like a mushroom cloud, but it was still...
    My Darkest Prayer (2022)
    snippet —
    The whole compound sat in the middle of Queen County’s town center. Two grocery stores were about a mile from the courthouse buildings. Two doctors’ offices, three restaurants, a fabric shop, a hardware store, a car wash...

    wikipedia : link

  20. Mark Crick. Sartre’s Sink : The Great Writer’s Complete Book of DIY.
    London: Granta, 2008

    by the author of Kafka’s Soup : A Complete History of Literature in 17 Recipes. London: Libri, 2005.

    ToC —
    Hanging Wallpaper with Ernest Hemingway
    Bleeding a Radiator with Emily Bronte
    Reglazing a Window with Milan Kundera
    Replacing a Light Switch with Elfriede Jelinek
    Painting a Room with Haruki Murakami
    Tiling a Bathroom with Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Putting up a Shelf with Julius Caesar
    Repairing a Dripping Tap with Marguerite Duras
    Boarding an Attic with Edgar Allen Poe
    Putting up Garden Fence with Hunter S. Thompson
    Applying Sealant Round a Bath with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    Remedying a Drawer that Sticks with Samuel Beckett
    Unblocking a Sink with Jean-Paul Sartre
    Painting a Paneled Door with Anais Nin.

    preview at amazon.co.uk link
    author performs “Hanging Wallpaper” and “Boarding an Attic” via guardian.co.uk : link

  21. Joshua Danker-Dake. the retail : a novel.
    self-published, 2014 : link

    back-cover description —
    Aspiring writer Penn Reynard has just joined the ranks of America’s fifteen million retail workers: fresh out of college with an English degree, he can’t find a job anywhere except at the local big-box hardware store. Working returns, Penn experiences firsthand the often comical absurdity, chaos, and shenanigans of the retail world. At least he has a new romance with a coworker going for him—if he doesn’t screw it up. The constant pressures of dealing with hostile customers, oblivious coworkers, and overbearing management begin to take their toll on him, though, and as his desired career path threatens to fall out of reach, Penn struggles to break free of retail’s clutches.

  22. Daniel Defoe. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
    London : 1719.

    Might be called he first “hardware store” novel. Crusoe’s adventure starts — and his survival depends — on the “original stock of tools which he loots from the shipwreck; they comprise, we are told, ‘the biggest magazine of all kinds... that was ever laid up for one man.’ ” (Ian Watt. The Rise of the Novel, 1957: 87). Watts describes the “deep satisfaction” that Crusoe derives from surveying his stock of goods (following page numbers point to 1719 edition) —

          So that had my Cave been to be seen, it look’d like a general Magazine of all Necessary things, and I had every thing so ready at my Hand, that it was a great Pleasure to me to see all my Goods in such Order, and especially to find my Stock of all Necessaries so great. (80 — 4th edition, via hathitrust)
    as to tools, specifically — not that it is only tools that are to be found in a hardware store —
    “...I had other things which my Eye was more upon, as first Tools to work with on Shore, and it was after long searching that I found out the Carpenter’s Chest, which was indeed a very useful Prize to me, and much more valuable than a Ship Loading of Gold would have been at that time; I got it down to my Raft, even whole as it was, without losing time to look into it, for I knew in general what it contain’d.” (58)

  23. Paul DiFilippo. Lost Pages.
    New York, London : Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998.

    Parallel world (alternative universe?) stories, in which authors and other notables appear, rearranged, in oddball situations. In Linda and Paul, Phil(ip K) Dick works for his father-in-law at Ronstadt’s True-Value Hardware Store; Linda has gotten the notion that she wanted to be a singer. A pro. All quite opaque to me (although it appears that Ronstadt’s father was a prosperous machinery merchant (according to wikipedia). See the author’s website No Delusion Too Small Operating System of the God Box, and currently (20230404) link (under maintenance at present).
    yet this bio, and other material, via the wayback machine : link
    wikipedia : link

  24. Douglas Durkin. Mr. Gumble Sits Up.
    Liveright, 1930

    “He had been a hardware merchant, in a quiet way..., had wed a girl from the neighboring village of Wayne, and had lived with her in relative peace and comfort for a matter of some three or four years. I that time she had given him neither chick nor child, though the women of the village had never been able to understand why, for Emily was both comely of face and robust of figure and came of a very large family... ”
    pp 3-4

    an absurdist (or philosophical) tale; there is no detail about his hardware operation, but the word “hardware” appears 13 times in the novel, usually paired with “merchant” or “man.”

    pp 34-35 —

          Gumble’s experience with thinking was that it very often led only to greater confusion. He had often been surprised to find a problem growing more and more complex in proportion to the length of time he dwelt upon it. He was used to recall the fable of Buridan’s ass who died of starvation midway between two haystacks, for the lack of any good reason why he should eat of one rather than of the other. Once, in witty mood, he had quite vanquished the schoolmaster in an argument by declaring that the greater thinker a man was, the greater ass he must be.
          It could not go on. The sun had already moved well up in the heavens. His pipe had gone out. He got up at once. Chance would serve him now as it had served him earlier that morning when he had stood at the Four Corners in Hagar. In the road he found a small stone, the shape of which tempted him to try how far hie could skip it along the surface of a pond, when he should come to one. It was worn quite thin and rounded smoothly on the edges. He spat on one side and held it in position to toss over his shoulder. If it came down dry side uppermost, he would go back to Hagar.
          He hesitated a moment before tossing it, and looked at it as he held it between thumb and forefinger. The small, dark spot which his spittle had [34] made in the center of the stone intrigued him mightily. Within the limits of that tiny dark circle lay all of destiny and fate and sublime chance. By the simplest of means he, a mere hardware merchant from a small and hidden nook of the world, had endowed a gray pebble with all the circumstance of a despote whose impulse plunges empires into war, or of a captricious favorite whose whim unseats kings and changes the map of continents. Gumble was loath to toss the pebble over his shoulder. He turned it slowly until the dry side lay uppermost. It occurred to him that he might, by the same simple means, produce a tiny dark circle on this side as well. That would be his way of thumbing his nose at Chance. He had never had the courage to do that, even surreptitiously. To do so openly, under the broad heavens, would be too much. I thrilled him to contemplate, however, that for one priceless moment he had been at grips with destiny and had known himself the stronger. Though he had not actually done so, he might have laughed in the face of God. The trouble, of course, would be that he would have to go on laughing forever, or accept damnation.
          He shuddered at the thought and tossed the stone suddenly over his left shoulder.
          “Dry side — Hagar; wet side — the highway!” he chanted aloud. “Dry side — Hagar; wet side — the highway!”
          [36]... A circumstance which he had failed utterly to take into account, however, was that he frequently forgot things when they presented themselves in pairs. Alternatives were the bane of Gumble’s life...

    entire (Ohio State U copy) at hathitrust : link

    Brian Busby treats this book — including an image of its dustjacket — at his The Dusty Book Case
    “Dead Man Sitting” (2 January 2012) : link

    Douglas Durkin (1884-1967)
    wikipedia : link

  25. Kim Edwards. The Lake of Dreams.
    New York: Viking, 2011

    “Dream Master Hardware and Locks was the business our great-grandfather had founded in 1919, turning his intuitions about the internal mechanics of locks into a thriving enterprise. In its heyday the Deam Master factory shipped locks all across the country. Like most of the other industries in the area, it was gone now, but the hardware store remained, and Art owned it. My father had once owned it, too, but in 1986, the year the comet came, when I was almost ten, he’d come home one morning with a box full of things from his office, and he’d never gone back, or said a word to me about why he left.

    The hardware store appears several times, may symbolize stasis (Art runs it), secrets hidden. Haven’t read entirety of novel, but will.

    Summary, backstory, excerpt at author’s website, here.


    Janet Evanovich, Manhunt (1989)
    Very little about Alaska in that cover illustration, excepting the suggestion of Mt. McKinley/Denari viewed through the french curve knockout.


    Shelley Galloway, Finding Love Again (2006)

  26. Janet Evanovich. Manhunt.
    Loveswept 303. Bantam Books, 1989 (prices on back for Australia and New Zealand).

    Alexandra Scott decides to leave her investment banking career in New York, and go to Alaska, where she’s bought a “hardware store,” sight unseen. She’s also looking for a husband. The story relates her education in Alaskan ways, helped by bush pilot Michael Casey. She falls for him, and vice versa, but he’s wary of commitment until the end.

    Her hardware store (which she’d bought from Harry Kowalski, who’s returning to New Jersey, is somewhat rustic. It comes with Andy, an employee who lives (rent free) in back and is the reason many customers come in — for his deep knowledge about hunting and fishing, and the area generally (p77).

    The store is described, at one point, as a kind of man-trap:

    “She was bothered by the lack of interesting men. She’d imagined them flocking into her hardware store like lemmings, making their final, fatal migration. Well, it wasn’t like that. Mostly old men came to her store, and the young men were... wrong.” (p134)

    However, Alex is smart, feisty, equal to any of the men (including her inherited employee, Andy), and decisive about the business. These qualities — along with her good looks — impress Casey. (All he needs to do is be competent and handsome, and play distant.)

    Alex stared at the kegs of rusty nails and bolts and decided they were going to go. She’d never seen anyone so much as look at them, much less buy any, and she could use the floor space for the new line of cross-country ski equipment. She was feeling guardedly optimistic about the store. This week she’d actually been able to contribute something intelligent to a discussion about hunting bears. (p156)

    Janet Evanovich at wikipedia : link

  27. William Faulkner. The Sound and the Fury.
    Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 1929

    Hardware stores are dark and/or unhappy places in Faulkner’s fiction. There are two hardware stores in this novel: the first is the one in Harvard Square at which Quentin purchases flat-irons, for use in his suicidal drowning in the Charles River. The second is the store run by his brother Jason, which is described in greater detail in the appendix to the novel, written in 1945 (Appendix, Compson: 1699-1945). Jason’s frustrations on the shop floor (helping customers decide on small purchases) appear here and there; there is more about the store in The Mansion (1959).

    Faulkner’ own father had owned a hardware store in Oxford, Mississippi, 1912-18, but was unsuccessful at it, as in much else, and left for a job in the University of Mississippi’s business office.

    Page references to The Library of America edition, 2006

    I saw the hardware store from across the street. I didn’t know you bought flat-irons by the pound. (p942)

    Candace (Caddy) :
    Except there was a woman in Jefferson, the county librarian, a mouse-sized and -colored woman who had never married... she closed and locked the library in the middle of the afternoon and with her handbag clasped tightly under her arm and two feverish spots of determination in her ordinarily colorless cheeks, she entered the farmers’ supply store where Jason IV had started as a clerk and where he now owned his own business as a buyer of and dealer in cotton, striding on through that gloomy cavern which only men ever entered — a cavern cluttered and walled and stalagmitehung with plows and discs and loops of tracechain and singletrees and mulecollars and sidemeat and cheap shoes and horselinament and flour and molasses, gloomy because the goods it contained were not shown but hidden rather since those who supplied Mississippi farmers or at least Negro Mississippi farmers for a share of the crop did not wish, until the crop was made and its value approximately computable, to show them what they could learn to want but only to supply them on specific demand with what they could not help but need — and strode on back to Jason’s particular domain in the rear: a railed enclosure cluttered with shelves and pigeonholes bearing spiked dust-and-lint gathering gin receipts and ledgers and cottonsamples and rank with the blended smell of cheese and kerosene and harnessoil and the tremendous iron stove against which chewed tobacco had been spat for almost a hundred years, and up to the long high sloping counter behind which Jason stood... (p1133)

  28. Shelley Galloway. Finding Love Again.
    A Finding Love Romance. New York: Avalon Books, 2006.

    From back cover —
    Denise (Rose) Reece returns to Peyton, Ohio for a variety of reasons. Her fiancée broke up with her, life in California didn’t turn out like she hoped, and she’s inherited a run-down theater. Things become even more confusing when she meets Ethan Flynn — the irresistible hardware store owner and her family’s new favorite person.Of course, things go from bad to worse. Denise finds out the theater is haunted, her parents are attempting to play matchmaker, and her heart starts to beat a little more quickly when Ethan is around...almost like she was in love.Soon, Denise moves into the theater’s attic and discovers all she can about the ghost’s past life. A group of community members decide to produce a mystery play in her newly renovated playhouse. She finds herself feeling more at home as her siblings start to turn to her for advice... and Ethan Flynn becomes Denise’s favorite person, too.It looks like Denise was meant to return to Payton — and to find love — again.

    Not great writing, and lacks any kind of detailing (about hardware or anything else). Quite a bit about relationships, however. Ethan has had a rough life, but has ambitions to make something of himself. Denise’s interest in reviving the theater brings to mind Amy Parker’s similar ambitions for the movie theater, in Sarah Mayberry’s Her Best Friend (2010). The ghost theme brings to mind Karen Robards’s rather darker One Summer (1993). (Halfway through, 3 May 2010.)

    When Denise muses about performing a mystery on the theater’s opening night, as a hook to get people in the door, Ethan hasn’t much to say — He was no expert on that. There was a reason he was in hardware. Ghosts sound hook-worthy is all he can offer.

  29. James Allen Gardner. Hardware Scenario G-49

    in Gardner’s Gravity Wells : Speculative Fiction Stories (pp 209-223). New York: Eos (Harper Collins), 2005. (First appeared in Amazing Stories December 1991.)

    Humans reside in boxes — eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high — out in the desert, well cared for by really good robots. They visit and interact in the world — where/whatever that is — by astral projection. Someone chooses to be George Munroe, who runs a hardware store. The narrative opens with George pondering the question of nails, specifically, why there were so many types of nails, each size and type of which had to go into a different bin.

    Someone else chooses to be Diana, and she enters his projected/virtual hardware store.

    I am Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, she anounced. She had an announcing kind of voice.
    What can I get for you today? George asked. I'm having a special on nails.
    You are George Munroe?
    Then rejoice, Destiny has decreed we are to be mated!

    There’s quite a bit about nails in the story. The hardware store, and the town it’s in, are a holodeck-like projection; George and Diana slip into another story involving castle, dragon, scoundrel knight, etc. Some of it available via the Google Books preview. I’ll add only this extract, in which George reacts to Diana’s fantasy of a savage story of hysterical butchery —

    It didn’t quite match George’s notion of why his neighbors were living in the small-town scenario, but he knew he could be wrong. He went to a lot of movies. He knew that small towns were full of people just waiting to stir up a bloodbath. (p215)

    In his preface to the collection, Gardner writes (about this story) : All I can say is that my grandfather ran a hardware store and I worked there for several summers. The rest followed naturally.

  30. Amy Greene. Bloodroot.
    New York: Knopf, 2010 (and Vintage Contemporaries, 2011)
     Amy Greene, Bloodroot (2010)
    jacket collage by Mark Yankus; photograph of girl by Mark Steinmetz; jacket design by Carol Devine Carson

    This fine novel, beautifully written and well constructed, brings to mind the fiction of Richard Marius, though pitched at a different emotional register.

    Summaries can be found in the usual places, e.g., Amazon, Kirkus Reviews, Knopf and the author’s own website. My page references are to the 2011 paper edition, whose pagination differs from the hardcover (shown above).

    My reading had me writing in margins and endpapers, for hardware passages, but also to build something like an index to help me backtrack-and-forward through the story, told from the perspectives of several characters, in four parts —

    1   narrated by Byrdie Lamb and Douglas Cotter
    Byrdie writes about her granddaughter Myra, and about her own life, her husband Macon, her daughter (and Myra’s mother) Clio, the five children she buried; Doug is a neighbor boy who is completely smitten by Myra, and never recovers. He makes the comparison of Myra with a horse named Wild Rose. He and his brother Mark, and Myra, play in the mountains: The whole mountain belonged to us and we knew its terrain like our own bodies, every scar and cleft and fold. (p23)

    2   narrated by Johnny Odom and Laura Odom Blevins
    Johnny and Laura are Myra’s children; she raises them up on Bloodroot Mountain, but then loses grip on herself, and finally loses her children to social workers. Downhill from there, for everyone. Laura meets Clint Blevins in high school, has a child by him. He himself is troubled — finds moments of peace in a pond, swimming (especially under water); he brings to mind Maggie Tulliver in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860), her wanderin’ up an’ down by the water, like a wild thing: she’ll tumble in some day.

    Johnny however manages, in part by venting, acting on his passions and stupidity, and learning from the consequences, to survive and even (eventually) flourish. He writes, obsessively in a journal, and poetry. His and his twin sister’s paternity is in doubt, because of the appearance of the intriguing book scout (and writer) Ford Hendrix. (The second book scout mentioned in these notes!)

    3   narrated by Myra Odom
    Her life with John, her escape, her idyll with her children for a few years on Bloodroot Mountain.

    4   Epilogue, narrated by John Odom
    More sadness. Odom leaves Millertown, heads north where he comes to understand his fate (as Myra does hers).

    The Odom family owns Odom’s Hardware in Millertown. It’s a declining business in a declining town: reasons include the new supermarket and department store out at Millertown Plaza, but also the requirements of the moral universe of the novel — the Odoms’s cussed familial dysfunction and idiocy.

    John Odom is troubled, violent, life-long depressed. He keeps things inside, whereas others talk (or write). And yet here and there he tries to step out of his condition. Amy (and her grandmother) see the beauty in him — Amy will pay for that. For this reader, there’s something appealing in his assessment of his situation, vis-à-vis the hardware store. He’s talking to Myra, just after she’d wondered about his mother and clearly stirred something painful within. You ever feel out of place around here?, he asks. Myra wonders where he’d want to go, and he replies he’s going nowhere. His imagination won’t let him. His rant continues —

    People think because I’m Frankie Odom’s boy I’m rich, but they don’t know how it is. He works us like mules for next to nothing. When he’s gone, I mean to have my piece of that place. You know, one time this woman came in with her husband and said, Odom’s Hardware is a landmark. Buildings like this are the heart of the town. I wanted to say, Why don’t you come in here at the crack of dawn and choke on dust and sell nails and put up with hicks like you all day, then you’d think, heart of our town. (p272)

    John goes on to tell Myra that she had looked like you didn’t belong around here either. That may have been one of the attractions; but neither of them can find a way out. Odd that, about nails: it’s for nails and snail bait that Myra’s neighbor Mr. Barnett brings her and Granny (Byrdie) into Millertown, and into Odom’s Hardware. And that’s where Myra meets John Odom. It’s as if people are nailed down to the place, their fates.

    The store ends up being worth next to nothing, after the death of Frankie Odom, father of John and Hollis (p356). Hollis — thoroughly unpleasant — finds a temporary way out by going to Vietnam, but eventually returns to run the store with his brother.

    Odom’s Hardware is an evil place, neither farm nor mountains, no roots to the land. It’s dark, heavy with waiting and a mess of stuff. Ford Hendrix, the book scout/poet, also makes a life out of stuff, but he’s active (whereas Hollis is passive), out on the road buying, deciding what to keep, what to sell; he’s mobile, transactional (and something of a trickster figure, too). He reads (and knows) poetry, like Myra and her son. Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey appears now and then in the story (on the importance of memories planted in youth), notably at p157 —

                                        These beauteous forms,
    Through a long absence, have not been to me
    As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
    But oft, in lonely rooms, and ’mid the din
    Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
    In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
    Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart...
                      (1827 text; slightly different 1798 text)

    — where Johnny finds Wordsworth among three water-swollen books in a leaning shack out in the woods. They may have been his own father’s? or Myra’s? A few days after coming upon those books, Johnny visits Odom’s Hardware, in search of information about his father. The description of the store, now run by Hollis Odom, suggests the repulsion he feels for it —

    I stepped inside and the floor was made of wide, grimy plans that creaked under my feet. Once my eyes adjusted to the gloom I saw long aisles of shelves holding dusty cardboard boxes spilling bolts and screws and hinges. By the dirty light of the smeared plate-glass window I saw him perched on a stool behind the counter, just inside the door. It seemed as if he’d been waiting for me all along. (pp158-59)

    The store (and Hollis) symbolize much that is wrong about Johnny’s life, and he sets it afire.

    The reference to George Eliot above brings me to the opening paragraph of The Mill on the Floss, with its repeated I remember’s — very like the music of this novel.

    Myra Lamb her haint blue eyes. The color is significant in the South, especially: something about warding off evil. Plenty online, including a Haint Blue group pool at flickr.

    A good part of Bloodroot is retrospective; Myra recollecting, John Odom looking back. The Epilogue is John’s, and he starts this way: Sometimes I get to missing the hills. I never thought I would, when I first cut out and headed up north... (p347) John comes to visit Myra, where she remains at the asylum. He wonders how she can stand it there. Her response reminds us of an ability she’d demonstrated even as a child, with the touch, and also during beatings from John, when she’d been able to float free from her own body. She says: I can be anywhere I want to. Even home on the mountain. (p361)

    Tintern Abbey has retrospection built into its own full title: Lines Written Few Miles above Tintern Abbey : On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798. The poem concerns the deep impress that childish wanderings in the hills would make: a storing up, a source of all that is good in one, a place to which one returns physically, or in spririt.

    Not enough outdoors in the hardware store, and nothing there that John Odom wants to remember, or Johnny Odom wants. I’ll return to work on these comments, grown unformed; they’re now just reading notes. I suspect that more might be teased out from the connection with Wordsworth.

  31. Jennifer Greene. Lady of the Island.
    Silhouette Desire No. 463. Silhouette Books, 1988.

    Jarl Hendricks is the strong, silent, patient and capable owner of a hardware store north of Detroit. While vacationing (and hunting) by a lake for a month, encounters Sara Chapman, a woman with a lot of baggage and a son. Evidently (I’ve not read the book) he helps her sort it all out.

    I have read enough to know that Sara is the one in charge, and would point to the cover art (scroll up) as evidence. Interesting to me, that this is 1988.

  32. O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910). Confessions of a Humourist,

    in Waifs and Strays: Twelve Stories by O. Henry (Together with a representative selection of critical and biographical comment). Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1917.

    But I soon got the swing of it. Within a month I was turning out copy as regular as shipments of hardware. (p55)

    Clerk in a wholesale hardware firm finds that his gift for impromptu humor is appreciated; it leads him to leave the trade and take up professional writing. His font of inspiration dries, and he takes to using the expressions of his wife, even children... eventually, his writing declines. He finds respite from his literary stresses in the undertaking firm of an old friend, Peter Heffelbower, and eventually becomes a partner in the firm. Spice (and humor) return to his life.

    here; 1919 edition here.

    Grace Livingston Hill, The Chance of a Lifetime

  33. Grace Livingston Hill (1865-1947). The Chance of a Lifetime.

    J. B. Lippincott Co., 1931. This (later?) Grosset & Dunlap edition (not earlier than 1947, year of publication of Mary Arden which is listed among Books by).

    Alan Macfarlan must forgo the chance of a lifetime — participation in a research expedition to Egypt — in order to mind (and revive) his father’s floundering hardware store. Bills are due, full payment required; unprincipled real estate owner smells an opportunity. Meanwhile, Alan’s friend Sherrill Washburn embarks, without enthusiasm, on another chance of a lifetime — a stay at an aunt’s home in New York, where the socialite aunt promises advantages that life in a hick town does not afford. Alan finds that by staying, much good is accomplished; Sherrill accomplishes good in New York, before returning to home and Alan. For believers in God, there is no such thing as chance. Faith (and God) work in mysterious ways.

    Be thou there till I bring thee word. (Matt. 2: 13)
    I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will dear Lord,
          Though I wanted so badly to go;
    I was eager to march with the rank and file,
          Yes, I wanted to lead them, you know.

    — epigram, from Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charls F. Cowman

    some excerpts, in hardware store

    Alan MacFarlan has received a letter to accompany a former high school professor, at a small salary, on an archaelogical expedition to Egypt. It will be the chance of your lifetime, Professor Hodge writes.

    Alan was sitting at his father’s desk in the Rockland Hardware store reading this letter.

    A chance like that come to him! A smile broke over his face as he sat with the letter still in his hand and gazed through the iron grating that surrounded the cash desk. Across the store were shelves filled with neat boxes, green and brown and red, all labeled; gimlets and screw drivers and chisels in orderly rows, but he saw instead a wide desert under a hot orient sky, and toilers in the sand bringing forth treasures of the ancients. He saw himself with grimy, happy face, a part of the great expedition, exploring tombs and pyramids and cities of another age. ¶ Suddenly the immediate environment snapped on his consciousness; bright gleaming tools of steel and iron — saws and hammers and nails and plows; and the desert faded. They fairly clamored at him for attention like so many helpless humans. ¶ What are you going to do about us? they asked. Your father is helpless, and we are your responsibility.... ¶ Yes, but are you willing to put it up to him? winked an honest oatmeal boiler aghast. (pp 10-11)

    Alan’s hand made a quick nervous movement in laying down the letter, and a heavy paper weight in the form of a small steam engine, a souvenir of the last dinner of the United Hardware Dealers the elder MacFarlan had attended, fell with a clatter to the floor. ¶ Alan stooped and picked it up, and it seemed as he did so that all the blood in his body rushed in one aguished flood to his face... (p 12)

    Grace Livingston Hill was a prolific (100 titles) evangelical romance novelist, whose books remain in print today. There is a short wikipedia page. She is the subject of at least one monograph — Robert Munce, Grace Livingston Hill (1986), and one dissertation — V. G. Rempel, The soft white strong hand of God: Gender and the expression of evangelical piety in the religious fiction of Grace Livingston Hill, 1897—1948 (Vanderbilt University, 2003). Her fiction is also treated in studies of religious and evangelical romance fiction, e.g., Lynn S. Neal, Romancing God : evangelical women and inspirational fiction (2006).

    In reading about Hill’s life — first husband died early, second abandoned her — I can’t help but reflect on Viña Delmar (1903-90), the very professional bad girl writer who married early, and stayed married.

  34. Rebecca Hill. Among Birches.
    William Morrow 1986, Penguin 1987.

    Nine years of togetherness in Hancock’s Best Lumber in Bracken, and now Aspera wanted out. She desired it more with each day that passed, just the way Will desired another store. (p49)

    bio at Mississippi Writers and Musicians : link

  35. William Hoffman (1925-2009). A Walk to the River.
    Doubleday & Company, 1970; Fawcett Crest (M1732), 1972.

    William Hoffman, A Walk to the River (1972); cover art by Ted CoConis.

    I, Jackson LeJohn, a dead man, sat in the office of my dusty, aging hardware store and listened to the slow tick of an old clock on the tongue-and-groove wall. Up the street in the heat of the day I heard noise from the Progress Store... enough to make a man sick — if a man cared.

    The novel is largely about what it takes to get LeJohn to care.

    The narrator/retailer is a mournful and troubled man. His wife (whom he’d loved but with whom he’d fought) has died (cancer, I think). He’d had bad experiences in war. He neglects his son and, I’d say, his hardware store. He is Chairman of the Board of Officers, the governing body of his congregation. In that capacity, he is drawn into investigating the charge, by a wealthy member of the congregation, that the Preacher Paul had lechered his wife. The investigation takes LeJohn out of town, into Paul Elgin’s previous lives, and ultimately into the background of Lou Gaines’s beautiful wife Caroline.

    The characters that LeJohn encounters are, ultimately, more interesting than himself. These include people from Paul’s life, in the ministry, at college and seminary, in his career as a (successful) liquor salesman — in every instance yielding a good story. The encounters are part of LeJohn’s mid-life re-awakening. There’s a subplot of his courtship of a young woman (Val) that might have been dispensed with; in any event, she returns an engagement ring and leaves town at the end.

    Hoffman’s strength, in addition to a fluent and smart prose, lies in his characterizations.

    The hardware store

    The store doesn’t play an important role, unless it be that a hardware store owner is assumed to be solid. LeJohn’s heart isn’t in the business. But details proliferate when he brings his neglected son Injun in to help. Injun seems to have trading in his blood, but doesn’t do it with the dignity that Jackson wants to see continued. The store had been his father’s and grandfather’s before him.

    Two amusing passages involve Injun’s interactions with customers. In the first, Alec Turns comes in to buy a strap hinge: Injun — who appears to be simple minded — grills him with questions about what for, what’s wrong with the old hinge, why only one, etc.

    In the second, Mrs. Porter Poindexter comes in to look at paint for her kitchen. She has Injun climb up to the shelves to get first one can, then another, to open and dip a chip of wood into each for a sample. (Jackson stays in his office rather than coming out to intervene, thinking I figured it was a test. If he could please Mrs. Poindexter, he could handle any customer in the world.) After going through a few more cans — a dozen or so — Mrs. Poindexter announces she’ll go down the street to the Progress Store, where paint’s on sale. Injun lets out a couple of loud belches (that he manages to emit as profanities). She flees, horrified; Jackson corrects his son (without hitting him).

    There’s more about retailing, particularly at the end, when Injun orders a bunch of bicycles for a sale, precipitating a father-son interaction that Jackson has been avoiding all these years. It happens at the river.

    spine and front cover, William Hoffman, A Walk to the River (1970); jacket by Paul Bacon.

    William Hoffman (1925-2009) is new to me; there are several novels and stories. He wrote a beautiful prose. There’s something at wikipedia, and more at a page maintained by the library at West Virginia Wesleyan College, here.

    There’s a lovely line about Tennessee (Richard Marius country) —

    He laughed. Commodore Vanderbilt Mice. A name like that had to come from Tennessee.

    About Ted CoConis, illustrator of the Fawcett paperback cover, there’s tedcoconis.com, and an interview conducted by Rico Washington and published in July 2011 here (CoConis was 84 and living in Maine). He reports in the interview that his early inspirations were Coby Whitmore (here too) and Al Parker. Coconis was a precocious artist and prominent illustrator in his time, of magazine articles, books (and book covers, including Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada), film posters, record jackets. His book illustrations included adult and children’s books. Some posters and book covers at flickr.

    I find less about Paul Bacon, except that he designed many book covers for Doubleday.

  36. Hugh Hood (1928-2000). Be Sure to Close your Eyes.
    The New Age / Le Nouveau Siècle IX. Concord (Ontario): Anansi, 1993.

    Hardware is essential, like life. The trade resembles Being-in-itself in its endlessness. For why shouldn’t screws come in an infinite variety of lengths... No poet has chosen hardware as the subject of an epic; it is time for such a choice. (p178)

    Hard to know where to begin with Hugh Hood and hardware stores in his twelve-novel sequence The New Age. Codrington Hardware and Builders’ Supplies. Since 1867 appears in this novel — where I first encountered it — and in A New Athens (1977), Property and Value (1990) and Great Realizations (1997). The business plays a role in the symbolic cosmogony of the entire sequence — 1867 is the year of the Canadian Confederation, and so is entwined with the history of the country; the business embodies a sense of Canadian growth and aspiration during the twentieth century (Keith, Canadian Odyssey p4). I’ll not pursue that track here.

    And it plays a particular role in Be Sure to Close your Eyes, which I believe to be unusual in the series for its omission of Matthew Goderich, who figures in other volumes (particularly Great Realizations) as an art-architecture historian and executive head of Codrington Hardware. (Hood experimented in various ways with each of the novels in the series. )

    May-Beth is the artistically inclined daughter of a moneyed and visionary inventor, Professor John Sleaford, who has located his operations in Hanbury. Here he will perfect his automatic livestock feeder — a large-diameter round building in which gravity ensures supply of feed and water, even in the harshest winter conditions that keep human workers away. Much of the narative concerns his work, the development of the town of Hanbury, and the relationship of Sleaford’s daughter with Petter Arneson. Arneson is the son of a talented and artistic blacksmith, Arne, who arrives with a group of Swedes in 1904. Petter is also a gifted cornetist, able to get a pure sound out of his instrument, and one for whom jazz is a natural channel. May-Beth does not finally marry Arneson, who is killed in a sudden, tragic and shocking accident. Her father departs, to return to King City where he’d started.

    May-Beth goes on Toronto to study nursing, where she encounters Earl Codrington. Earl is from Stoverville, a trumpeter (though not at Petter’s level), a student of commerce near the end of his education. He’ll inherit and develop the family’s hardware business. He woos and wins May-Beth, who —

    ...recognizes something deeply sympathetic in Earl Codrington. Perhaps it was his freedom from personal ties, his parents dead, his future in his own hands, his commitment to music severely qualified by the rough claims of business management. After all, he couldn’t let a family business lapse or fall into other hands. Hardware, she thought, fascinating trade. Her father would relish her acquaintance with such a man.The complex inventory necessitated by the business, the endlessly differing sizes of screws, nuts and bolts, files, hammers, whether claw or ballpeen, saws, whether fretsaw, hacksaw, bandsaw, how toothed, how sharpened, would give John Sleaford a new field of study and might finally dissipate the cloud of self-accusation that still dammed her parents’ lives. (p177)

    Codrington doesn’t threaten to overwhelm the life of May-Beth, the way Petter might have, if he’d lived and flourished as a (male) artist. In their conversation about his business, May-Beth suggests he put in a line of artists’ supplies. He carefully thinks it over before responding, That’s an extremely good suggestion. p181

    Earl Codrington’s paean to hardware is taken up and elaborated by the narrator at pages 178-79, in the Google Books preview here.

    afterthoughts and asides

    Hood has been the subject of (a dwindling amount?) of critical attention. He is compared to (and contrasted with) John Galsworthy (The Forsyte Saga), Anthony Powell (A Dance to the Music of Time), Lawrence Durrell (The Alexandria Quartet, even Proust.

    I wonder if he’s much read, now. His propensity, at least in Be Sure to Close your Eyes to fasten on and elaborate any detail could cost him readers. An example might be his description of senior orderly Mervyn Fischback’s duties at Toronto General Hospital, and specifically his cleaning (and information gathering) in that institution’s four miles of corridors

    Along those miles of passageways day and night with never a holiday break, for at least twelve hours daily, Mervyn Fischback circulated, a few feet at a time.He pushed a small trolley, a canister, or bucket on a platform fitted with four rubber-tired casters. To the side of the bucket was attached a device that resembled a potato masher or garlic squeezer. You lowered the head of the mp into it... Time moved slowly forward, experience built up. In the end Fischback knew all about everybody, and everybody knew a little about him. (p153)

    Those few feet at a time are something like the progress of Hood’s fiction, or at least of my reading of it. And yet, and yet, I enjoyed this commodious book and its details — life is lived-suffered-endured-enjoyed in details, after all. This oughtn’t to be school-assignment reading, for that will kill it; one should stumble on it by accident or someone’s example. I find too much special pleading for Hood’s style in (too much of) the somewhat tendentious critical literature devoted to his work — too much for its own good. But I enjoyed it.

    Fischback’s ambulations in the hospital bring to mind Matt Goderich’s walking tour in June 1966, with which A New Athens (1977) commences. In that walk, he starts to look more closely at the roadway, the roadways lying beside one another, successive courses abandoned to meet improvements in horse-drawn, then in powered vehicles. You can read the evolution of motive power in the eliminaton of curves. (p6) Matt almost loses his head to a passing motorist, as he examines the successive layers of asphalt at the edge of the road. (p7) Keith makes much of the Tintern digression of this passage, and the relationship of the layered roadbed and Hood’s multi-layered text. It’s a remarkable (and beautiful) passage, that extends some 24 pages of walking, examining, digressing into history.

    Finally, Matt’s marriage with Edie Codrington — daughter of May-Beth and Earl — brings him into the family, and in contact with May-Beth and her visionary art. In Great Realizations, Matt reflects on the odd conjunction (in himself) of hardware and art history and criticism:

    It appeared to many that the two activities could hardly be carried on together. But I tell you than they can, that they have been. The humblest daily needs for hammers, screwdrivers, ballcocks, washers, piping, for 6B pencils and fine drawing paper, for watercolours in sixty tones, for inks and oils and acrylics, can finally merge into an idea of real service that has a serious claim on our attention and our feelings (p197) The proceeds of the hardware business are, additionally, used to acquire a major work of art, Titian’s King Priam Before the Tent of Achilles, Begging the Body of Hector from the Hero, for Burial.


    W. J. Keith, Canadian Odyssey: A Reading of Hugh Hood’s The New Age / Le nouveau siècle. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002

    Hugh Wood at wikipedia (limited to bibliographic entries, and dated, at that).

    Hugh Hood archives at University of Calgary.

  37. Rupert Hughes, “The-Stick-in-the-Muds” in ”Momma” and Other Unimportant People” (1920) : 33-59 : link
    initially in Collier’s 66:13 (September 25, 1920) : link
    beautifully illustrated by Frank Godwin (1889-1959), illustrator, comic strip artist, and “frustrated engineer”
    wikipedia : link

    The story is told in seven parts, summarized below

    Joel Wrixon, successful American business man (in wool) visits Straford to be close to Shakespeare, takes a skiff out on the river, ruminates and recalls his earlier years.

          Being a succesful business man, Wrixon was a suffocated poet. The imagination and the passion and the orderliness that brought him money that would have made him a success in verse. But lines were not his line, and he was inarticulate and incoherent when beauty overwhelmed him, as it did in nearly every form.

    Wrixon recalls his youth and close friend Luke Mellows, a sensitive and deep thinker, poetical son of a fundamentalist and cruel (to wife — a long passage about this — and son) father, owner of a hardware store, who would thwart Luke’s ambition, and was blind to his son’s gifts.

          Joel’s father was an editor; Luke’s kept a hardware store.
          So Joel wanted to go into trade, and Luke wanted to be a writer.

    Luke works in hardware store, and later at in the bookkeeping office of the Butterly Bottling Works. Joel goes off to college, where he is “pleasantly surprised. He found so much to do outside of his classes that he grew content to go all the way.”

          Luke Mellows was a boy, a boy that still “felt his life in every limb,” a boy devoured with fantastic ambitions. He had a genius within that smothered and struggled till it all but perished unexpressed. It lived only enough to be an anguish.

    Joel returns from his vacation, to find a morose and overworked Luke. And yet Luke will not leave Carthage, “dreaded to abandon his mother to the father who bullied them both... could not bear to leave Kitty alone with the wretched mother who ruled over her with tears.” He will take on his father’s hardware business.

    Joel recalls a poem that Luke had written, and that Joel’s father ha dpublished in his newspaper, the Carthage Clarion. He recalls “a letter or praise he had dictated to his astonished stenographer and fired off at Luke Mellows; and the flippant letter he had in return.”

    That letter — beautifully crafted — is given entire in the story.
    pp 55-57

    . Joel ruminates about the fate of men and women like Luke and his wife Kit.

    Joel returns the skiff to the surly boatman, and hears a nightingale — “It was as if Luke Mellows had suddenly found expression in something better than words, something that any ear could understand, an ache that rang.”

    review of the volume (including this story) in Harper’s Magazine (November 1920) : link

    Rupert Hughes (1872-1956)
    wikipedia : link

  38. Robert Inman. Dairy Queen Days.
    Boston (&c.): Little, Brown & Co., 1997.

    jacket (design by Steve Snider), Robert Inman, Dairy Queen Days (1997)

    Good writing, here (in a style that brings to mind Richard Marius, Larry McMurtry, maybe Thomas McGuane). The book is described at the author’s website, here.

    Trout Moseley has three job offers in one day: the family mill, hardware store, Dairy Queen.

    The thought of the mill gave him a dull, leadened feeling — all that clattering machinery, spinning bobbins of yarn, looms disgorging miles and miles of plain white cotton cloth, all of it going into the big ledger book on Aunt Alma’s desk. And the hardware store. He liked Uncle Cicero, but the idea of all that stuff . Nuts and bolts and loppers and tree spikes rattling around in his brain and banging into one another? There was too much rattling around in there already. He needed something cool and not too noisy and short on detail and long on routine. Dish it up and dish it out. (pp154-55)

    There’s a well-wrought description of Uncle Cicero’s hardware store — and the latter’s lecture on hardware selling — at pp 143-145. This stands out: Amazing how colorful hardware could be when you put it all together. Merchandise as decor.

    Cicero has large ambitions for the store, to turn it into Do-It-All hardware and auto parts. He is also the town’s police chief and the fellow that Alma Moseley had eloped with. Alma is the mater familias who’s trying to keep the mill running. Cicero brings to mind another hardware retailer / civil servant, this one not fictional: David R. Harder, Fire Chief and owner of Duvall Hardware & Appliance in Duvall, Washington, whose memoir Echoes of a Country Fire Chief (1994) is described elsewhere on this page.

    This novel turns up here and there in connection with Dairy Queen, if not hardware stores (not surprising, of course, given its title). Even Wikipedia mentions it : ...they have often come to be referenced as a symbol of life in small-town America, as in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond by Larry McMurtry, Dairy Queen Days by Robert Inman, and Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights by Bob Greene. I wonder if the authors of that (and other) mention(s) have read the book. The Dairy Queen in this novel may have been a fixture of social life but it was not a symbol of that life. Its virtue, for Trout, is that it is a neutral place, not connected to his family’s foundational and messy connection to eponymous Moseley:

    The Dairy Queen, even with maddeningly unpredictable Keats sitting over in the corner stroking her sketch pad, suddenly felt almost safe. A haven where laughter was possible. No theological angst, no industrial crisis, no grand plans for progress. A Dairy Queen should be a place that made people happy, if only just for the few moments that a banana split lasted... (p175)

    There’s a lot about names in this novel, about people trying to leave the names and lives they’ve outgrown — everybody scrambling for the lifeboats (267). Trout may be a Moseley, but his first name is taken from his mother Irene’s maiden name, Troutman. (p131)

    On (or near) the gender issue, there’s an interesting little throwaway line at p173, where Trout is the butt of another of Keats Dubarry’s barbs as he’s learning the routine at Dairy Queen — Trout thought longingly of the hardware store where, presumably, there’d be no Keats.

  39. Anna Jacobs. The Corrigan Legacy.
    Surrey (UK) and New York: Severn House, 2006

    The author’s website provides a summary, from which I take this :

    Des has four children. His second wife Judith has just left him and he’s over-stretched financially. His brother Leo is the unambitious owner of a hardware store in a remote Australian town and has two children. Leo’s daughter is suffering from ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, defies him to accept her aunt’s invitation to be treated in England. ¶ Des’s wife Judith has met another man, Cal...

    Does your brother know what you’re doing? Have you even asked Leo if he wants the family business back? He seemed happy enough running his hardware shop when we visited him. Leo was the unambitious one, a taciturn man more interested in his family than the world outside his small country town. Judith had only met him once, given how far away he lived, but she’d liked him and his sensible wife.Leo’s grown old and lazy — that’s what Australia does to you. Life’s too easy there. Anyway, he always was too stupid to help himself. I’m not.

    I’ve looked through the novel but find only this brief mention of hardware. The same character (and hardware store owner) is seen from the perspective of two observers: For Des, it marks lack of ambition; for his unhappy wife Judith, it marks a fellow interested in his family.

  40. E L James. Fifty Shades of Grey.
    The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2011

    This is the first volume in the Shades of Grey erotic romance (my characterization) trilogy. First-person narration by literature student Anastasia Steele, who works at Clayton’s, the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area. She encounters mysterious entrepreneur/tycoon/control-freak Christian Grey, and the story takes off.

    I’ve worked at Clayton’s since I started at WSU. It’s the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area, and over the four years I’ve worked here, I’ve come to know a little bit about almost everything we sell — although ironically, I’m crap at any DIY. I leave all that to my dad. I’m much more of a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of girl. I’m glad I can make my shift as it gives me something to focus on that isn’t Christian Grey. We’re busy — it’s the start of the summer season, and folks are redecorating their homes...

    Grey comes into the store (presumably no coincidence) and purchases rope, coveralls (Ana’s suggestion), masking tape, and cable ties.

    While not working at the store, Ana is writing an essay on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Damn, but that woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong century. (p14) Not much later, Chistian Grey will give her the three-decker first edition of the novel. Lots of sex, of the S&M sort (the items purchased at Clayton’s are a clue), Christian Grey’s withholding of self.

    Bottom line: fantasy. Wide-eyed English major works at hardware store (for four years?). Reads Thomas Hardy. Attracts magnetic, well-toned executive who knows what he wants, speaks in disciplined, clipped language, has a contract drawn up for sexual activities between the Dominant and the Submissive. We’ve left Clayton’s (the hardware store) far behind. The hardware store inclusion is perhaps the weirdest off-note in the whole.

    Author’s website here; publisher’s page for the author here.

    The book has become a publishing topic —

    An erotic novel, 50 Shades of Grey, goes viral with women, says The New York Times in a front-page story (10 March 2012, here).

    The rise of mommy porn: UK writer lures Hollywood with bestselling erotic trilogy Fifty Shades — Major film deal in pipeline for EL James, whose trilogy began as fan fiction online. Edward Elmore, Guardian/Observer, 25 March 2012, here

    Book Club Erotica : Why do women love the new smutty novel Fifty Shades of Grey? Hanna Rosin, Slate, posted March 7, 2012; here. James is not aiming for social commentary; she is instead writing a textbook female fantasy long recorded by sex researchers but embarrassing to feminists. Decades of liberation have not erased the very taboo fantasy among women of being sexually overpowered.

  41. Sunni Jeffers. The Start of Something Big.
    One in the Tales from Grace Chapel Inn series. Carmel (New York): Guideposts, 2005

    From the back cover :
    ...And when a Do-It-Yourself Warehouse opens in nearby Potterston and threatens Fred’s Hardware, Jane takes it upon herself to save his store. In the process, she strikes up a friendship with the manager of the rival superstore and struggles between loyalty to her friends and loyalty to her own heart. Could this be the start of something big or simply a test of Jane’s faith?

    Jane Howard is saved from decisions by Todd Loughlin’s ex-wife Brenda's reappearance on the scene, ready to reclaim her husband. Being a good Christian, he must give her the second chance. Todd is the lumber-department manager in the superstore and, naturally, a nice guy. All ends well: Fred Humbert is forced to rethink his business, and add an equipment rental service to it, which promises to turn out well. Unrealistically — but this is, after all, a Christian romance series — the superstore business’s market research shows that there’s plenty of business for both. And so Acorn Hill gets to enjoy the prices and offerings of the DIY superstore, while retaining the traditional hardware store, supplemented now by equipment rentals. And the Howard sisters’ operation of a B&B called Grace Chapel Inn continues.

    Here and there in this literature is found a certain quaint characterization of hardware stores and of the males associated with them. It’s nowhere more clearly expressed than here:

    We stopped in yesterday and they were swamped with customers, Jane said. She smiled, thinking about Fred’s new venture. You should have seen Fred in the parade. He was just beaming as he drove a small, shiny orange tractor. I’m sure it’s very useful, but it looks like a big toy. I bet every man in Acorn Hill wants a chance to rent it. (p246)

    Men are boys, who like their toys. Women do the thinking and negotiate crises.

  42. Barry Kenney. Through the Deadfall.
    Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited, 1997

    Protagonist Jack Thorpe’s hardware store will go under, should a bridge-and-tunnel project link Vancouver Island with the mainland. Fuller story accounts available elsewhere (e.g., amazon canada). The hardware store isn’t doing too well, neither is Thorpe’s life —

    There you are again, my wife called from the front of the hardware store. Always doing something....I’m sorting screws in the storeroom! I yelled.

  43. Stephen King. Needful Things.
    New York: Viking, 1991

    Stephen King Needful Things (1991); illustration by Bill Russell.

    Leland Gaunt opens a shop called called Needful Things where, miraculously, he just happens to stock the items that customers want most in the world. The first is a 1956 Saundy Koufax baseball card... There’s no hardware store as such, but Needful Things comes close. The lovely frontispiece illustration by Bill Russell shows Castle Rock Hardware (here).

    Illustration taken from book, and shown with gracious permission of the artist Bill Russell. Quite a bit of detail seems to have been lost between the scratchboard and the book; more is lost from the book to this jpeg, alas. A much better version of the same illustration, and more information about the artist, are provided at the Hardware Store Art page, here.

  44. Joseph Krumgold. Onion John.
    New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1959

    Andy Rusch, Jr. works in his father’s hardware store; encounters Onion John, learns a lot. Many summaries of this book are available.

     B. C. Legans, Cerro (2009)
    cover art includes photo of petroglyph at Prieta Mesa, New Mexico (information from author).

  45. B. C. Legans. Cerro.
    New York/Bloomington: iUniverse, 2009

    He looked over the store, at the rows of goods there for sale to help people in Cerro keep their homes and land in order and in good repair, even beautiful and personal. That was the purpose of Cerro Hardware Store, and Mrs. Powell had entrusted that purpose to him. Providing the service of keeping Cerro homeowners and business owners happy was now his mission... (p297)

    Book needs copy editing, and some tightening; but enjoyed it notwithstanding, maybe because I like the setting, or know something about acequia rights. The bad guys are totally bad (evidenced by their poor taste), the good guys totally good (good taste, senses of humor). The people that get the local magic (genius loci) are the good guys; newcomers tend to bring in foreign baggage (their lives), and thus don’t fit in. Delbert is a 30 year-old saint / holy fool. Some good local (by which I mean, closely observed/imagined) writing — I’m thinking here of an interesting description of the hardware store countertop, by the cash register — but also quite a bit of slack narrative.

    Best strand concerns Margaret Powell and (at the end) Mrs Emmett, who schooled together, once, and whose different paths have brought them to the same place. Also good about Lairdy Bardman, a failed priest, who wanders the mountain (and who once loved Mrs Powell). A few metaphors are nicely elaborated, including one about septic systems (p 194ff).

    publisher’s description —
    The feisty Mrs. Powell has died and left Delbert with a pair of big shoes to fill. Mr. Powell, anxious to become rich on the property he inherited from his dead wife, cannot wait to leave the horrid and backward village of Cerro — and so takes no notice of the prosaic Delbert, the only employee of the Cerro Hardware Store. In his mourning for Mrs. Powell’s friendship, Delbert comes to his own realizations concerning the forces that threaten to ruin Cerro, and decides to wage a secret war against what will eventually destroy all he knows and loves. Delbert’s initial act of vandalism wreaks havoc in the town, deeply dividing the sentiments of newcomers who are vested in profit, and those whose hearts are rooted to the mountain. From Harley Marlin, to Earl Pratt, to Lairdy Bardman the singing hermit, to the prissy Edmond Powell — the characters of Cerro wrestle with events and realizations about what they love and why, in a place that for some can be called nothing other than magical.

    Cerra is reviewed (only up) by Amazon customers here.

    Bettyann Craddock (Legans) also wrote The Culling Dark, a science fiction novel published in 2000 and reviewed (up and down) by Amazon customers here.

  46. Cara Lockwood. Can’t Teach an Old Demon New Tricks.
    New York: Simon and Schuster (Pocket Star Books), 2010

    From the publisher’s description
    Get an east Texas girl good and mad,and there’s going to be hell to pay! / Rachel Farnsworth doesn’t believe in the paranormal — she can find plenty of evil forces right in Dogwood County, like the Mega-Mart that’s driving her family’s hardware store into the ground.

  47. Earl Lovelace. The New Hardware Store.
    ...produced at University of the West Indies, 1980. Produced in London, England, by Talawa Theatre Company, at The Arts Theatre, 1987. And published in Jestina’s Calypso and Other Plays (Heinemann, London, England, 1984)

    A A ABlack is a hardware store owner, who lords it over his three employees Rooso (sandwich man, nightwatchman), Miss Calliste (bookkeeper) and Miss Prime (young typist, A-level graduate). The store was once owned by (white) Mr Cheery, bought when ABlack saw his chance. Rooso was (and remains) an idealist, once engaged in struggle for independence (Trinidad and Tobago). The play explores the gulf between ABlack and Rosso, and the contradictions alive in the store (its employees, even its merchandise).

    Rooso sets the stage, through a megaphone: A A Ablack hardware store. You have been waiting on it. Now it’s here to satisfy your needs for building, renovating, repair. Our twenty-four-hour delivery service will bring deliverance to builders; our carnival prices will make your worries disappear; padlocks, bolts, wrought iron. We offer security to citizens of our nation. Build with Ablack and you build strong. Build with Ablack and you build a nation.

    Sketch and links on Earl Lovelace at wikipedia. For the connected, an e-version is available via Black Drama: African, African American, and Diaspora 1850 to Present.

  48. Jo-Ann Mapson. Blue Rodeo.
    HarperCollins 1994, HarperPerennial 1995

    Sheep were simple enough to tend that Owen could work afternoons three days a week at Rabbott’s Hardware and Lumber. He put on his green vest with the dual waist pockets and checked stock against the yellow packing slips. Next he replaced fast-moving items on the floor—screws, ballcocks for toilets, keychains that lighted up when you squeezed them around the middle... They had steady customers and lumber sales kept them flush, but a week might go by without a significant sale in hardware...

    this from the publisher’s blurb:
    Those who do not remember family history are condemned to repeat it... Haunted by a failed marriage, a resentful son left deaf by a bout of meningitis, and the slow death of her artistic aspirations, Margaret Yearwood takes refuge in Blue Dog, New Mexico. There, in the shadow of Shiprock Mountain, and in the unlikely arms of Owen Garrett, she finds the courage to love again, and to be loved. And she comes to realize that even the most primal wounds scar over and that there’s nothing so renewable or so healing as passion. This is a bittersweet story of ordinary people who must learn to heal family bonds before they are permanently severed.

  49. Richard Marius. An Affair of Honor and After the War
    (Knopf, 2001 and 1992, respectively)

    Owners of hardware stores in Marius’s Bourbonville novels seem to be either of two types — racist and noisily religious, or quiet, reflective. In After the War (1992), Oswald Mahoney suggests that Moreland J. Pinkerton, who has brought blacks in to aid in construction of the Dixie Railroad’s wheel works, has been fooling around with black women. Mr. Mahoney laughed in his spitty way in the dark of his hardware store where he was king of steel plows and prince of pocket knives and lord of barrels and nails and saws and leather harnesses, where he was safe, he supposed, in his gloomy kingdom. (p19) Pinkerton goes in, spits tobacco juice into his face and throws him back against the wall. The sheriff (and later moonshiner) Hub Delaney advises Mahoney to let it go, for his own good.

    There’s a beautiful description of Douglas Kinlaw’s hardware store, in An Affair of Honor, just before the business is bought by proselytizing idiot Tommy Fieldston and changed under new management into an ugly (and doomed to failure) thing —

    The hardware store was like a reading room. Magazines lay about everywhere, and Douglas did not mind if you came in and sat in one of the many chairs scattered about and read to your heart’s content. If he had an enemy, nobody knew about it, and his business thrived because he told people when cheaper tools were just as good as the more expensive ones, and he knew everything about everything he sold, from the quality of the steel in a pocket knife blade to the torque that a wrench would take without breaking. Paul Alexander said he was an encyclopedia of the simple and beautiful world of fact that Paul considered the basis of all truth. (p186)

    Kinlaw is one of Paul Anderson’s best friends, which in Marius’s Bourbonville world is high virtue.

    It is from Richard Marius that I am reminded that hardware stores played a role in William Faulkner’s life (his father owned one, for a time) and fiction (The Sound and the Fury). More on Marius at wikipedia.

  50. Matt Matthews. Mercy Creek.
    Hub City Press (Spartanburg, South Carolina), 2011

    Young protagonist works at Chum’s Hardware. Old men sit around a stove in the middle of the store, talk all morning. Described at author’s website. A passage about the store —

    Chum’s sold kite string, shotgun shells locked in a glass cabinet, and hunting vests in camouflage and hunter orange. They sold rods and reels, torches, and galvanized pails. They sold tools. One section along the wall had countless brands and sizes of hammers, from twenty-five pound malls [also known as a wood maul/mall] to tack hammers. They sold air hammers and ratchet sets and air compressors. They sold reciprocating saws and jigsaws and grinders and band saws. What they didn’t have in stock, like table saws, which were too big to display, Mr. Chum could order from one of the eight big catalogs that sat open on the checkout counter, like handyman Bibles on the world’s widest pulpit.

    Isaac delighted in straightening those items that people had poked through the day before. To him, they were like ancient bones sprawled about an extinct watering hole, and he was the archaeologist responsible for laying them out in the shape of the dinosaur. (p37)


    Sarah Mayberry, Her Best Friend (2010)


    Jack McDevitt, Ships in the Night (2005)
    cover illustration by Par Olöfsson.

  51. Sarah Mayberry. Her Best Friend
    (Harlequin Super Romance 1626). Harlequin, 2010

    She’d invested the small legacy her grandparents had left her and saved her wages from working in her parents’ hardware store and taken any extra work that had come her way, planning for the day when she’d have enough for a deposit — for a theatre in the — small Victoria, Australia town of Daylesford.

    The hardware store is not an important part of the story, but Amy Parker is capable with tools.

    Author’s website here, where one learns that she took a job in trade journalism writing about... wait for it... hardware. Nuts and bolts and electric drills. Six years of them...

    Sarah Mayberry at wikipedia : link

  52. Kevin McColley. Praying to a Laughing God.
    Simon & Schuster, 1998

    dustjacket language — When Clark Holstrom goes each morning to open the hardware store he has operated for years on the main street of Credibull, Minnesota, he asks himself why he even bothers.

  53. Jack McDevitt. Ships in the Night,
    in Ships in the Night. Altair Australia, 2005. Originally published in Amazing Stories (October 1993)

    Arnold Whitaker was the proprietor and chief clerk at the Lock n Bolt, Fort Moxie’s hardware store... His customers thought of him as solid and dependable, in the way that a good wrench and good bolts are solid and dependable. Nothing fancy in his makeup, no slick housing or plugboard wiring; just good, plain metal, carved to specification, and used within the parameters of the instruction manual.

    An incorporeal traveler interacts with Arnold, gives him impetus or confidence to move forward with his life. That progress involves Linda Tollman, a teacher who’s come to Fort Moxie from Fargo because it gives her more freedom to teach the way she wants; naturally, she’s leaving something/someone behind as well. Lyrical interactions with the alien, who’s like the wind. Arnold trips and sprains his ankle, while walking in the woods with Linda. It’s a fortunate fall, in a good story.

  54. Larry McMurtry. Various, including Duane’s Depressed.
    Simon and Schuster, 1999; Pocket Books, 1999

    Duane’s sheer competence is expressed, in part, by his competence with tools. But this passage is not about Duane, but about a second hidden shop, out back of Jody Carmichael’s grocery store —

    He switched on the light—bright, in this case, not dim—and was startled to see that he was in a well-organized miniature hardware store, one that was as neat and carefully arranged as the other store was cluttered. All the items Jody had mentioned where there, plut adzes and awls, two anvils, giant wrenches and tiny wrenches, hammers, sledgehammers, saws, a wheelbarrow, screws and nails, and all manner of wires and tubing, all of it neatly arranged on hooks or on shelves. The equipment was so clean it looked as if it had been polished. One shelf held a selection of carpentry tools so old that they might have been in a museum. He puzzled over some of the older tools for several minutes, trying to figure out what they could be used for. The shed was so clean and well organized that being in it was almost shocking. Duane chose a spade, a hammer, and a saw, but mainly he just stood and looked. Where had Jody Carmichael found the time to organize his toolshed so well? The attractive array of hardware suggested not just another man but another life. Yet the shed was only ten yards from the store—it was as if the man had split himself somehow: he brought order to his hardware and let disorder spread among his groceries.

    After the shock wore off, Duane began to feel better than he had felt all day, just from looking at all the good equipment he could have if he needed it... (pp 164-165, paper edn)

    The store had been reorganized by Jody’s daughter Honor, a psychiatrist that Duane will get to know. Jody explains, later, that —

    Honor’s got that organized mind... I guess that’s why she’s a good psychiatrist. She can figure out what kinds of things ought to sit next to one another on a shelf. (p 375)

    The connections between hardware (tools) and the mind, change of mood... all very rich. This may be the best of McMurtry’s many novels.

    A Google Books preview here. (Read through page 143, for the introduction to Honor Carmichael, M.D.)

    The eponymous narrator and somewhat distant quasi-hero of Cadillac Jack (1982) has a hardware store in his background:

    My father, Gene McGriff, took little part in my life, and not much of a part in his own. His only affliction was a lifelong apathy, which he passed on to the dogs but not to me. Clerking in the local hardware store was good enough for him, and still is. (p23)

    Jack is an antiques scout and expert in people’s relationships to things (and to other people). I’ve heard it said he’s modeled on a book scout (or perhaps several book scouts). In his 1985 preface, and after comparing Jack to Danny Deck, another detached figure in his earlier novesl, McMurtry describes Jack’s conclusion, as a fairly acute student of the way in which people relate to their objects, that people are fickle with regard to objects and people, and have a tendency to jettison either without warning, however long and much-loved.

  55. Owen Meredith (pseudonym of Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1831-91). Lucile,
    1860 (and a revised edition in 1868, and many many reprints)

    This 7,000 line narrative poem is NOT hardware store literature, but is included here for two reasons.

    First — It might conceivably have been sold in hardware stores. See Sidney Huttner’s discussion of one of the publishers of the book, Alexander Belford, who opened books stalls in department stores, hardware stores, shoe shops... an idea many decades ahead of its time. I love the idea that this over-the-top romance might have been on the shelves of a hardware store in Blue Earth, Minnesota, in 1895 the year of my grandmother Ruth’s birth.

    Second — Even the suggestion that this romance might have been sold in hardware stores, oscillates nicely with the presence of hardware stores in much later romance fiction, some of which is listed on this page. Hardware stores become a marker for men, but also for women who may own, work in, shop in or avoid hardware stores. More anon. The publishing history of the book is treated exhaustively at Huttner’s website.

  56. Elliott Merrick (1905-97). The Lady at the Hardware Store,
    in The New Yorker (July 10, 1937): 36-37

    Customer’s exchange with Miss Robbins, at Robbins’ hardware store at Bentham Bend, Vermont. She doesn’t think much of his buying a water pitcher, and still less of his desire for Bordeaux mixture, used to control bugs on cabbages. She thinks that salt will do quite well enough. Can’t decide which side comes out on top, flinty Miss Robbins or the urbane and logorrhoea-ic New Yorker.

    Merrick is still read, particularly his first book True North (1933), about a hunting trip in Goose Bay, Labrador.

    wikipedia : link

  57. Kent Meyers. The River Warren.
    Saint Paul (Minnesota): The Hungry Mind Press, 1998

    From jacket blurb —
    When Two-Speed Crandall crashes a semi-trailer of someone else’s cattle in downtown Cloten, killing himself and his wife in the process, he unleashes the entire town’s gossips, half-truths, and memories.

    The novel is framed, Rashomon-like, in the accounts of seven different characters, including Angel Finn. The writing is tight; the book reads well.

    “The truck hit the bank, smashed its automatic teller, destroyed its facade, its plate glass, its plants inside the windows. Then it went back across the street to smack Angel Finn’s hardware store, sending files and hammers and hip waders spewing across the sidewalk. A twelve-pound maul, through some strange physics, few across the street and embedded itself in the wooden front of the pool hall, where Walt Latham, the proprietor, had the good sense to leave it, as a draw to customers and an aid to conversation...” (14)

    reviews etc at amazon : link


    Leigh Michaels, Once and for Always (1990)


    Allie Pleiter, Bluegrass Courtship (2009)

  58. Leigh Michaels. Once and for Always.
    Harlequin Presents No. 1245. 1990

    She’d sworn never to set foot in Iowa again. Jill Donovan loved big cities and the fast pace, and the prospect of spending her days as the wife of a small-town hardware merchant had never appealed. Yet her latest modeling assignment took her back to Springhill — to pose on an all terrain vehicle in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. Sure enough, Scott Richards — the man whose proposal she’d rejected ten years ago — was still manager of the hardware store. Only the store wasn’t the small business she’d imagined, and Springhill certainly wasn’t boring.

  59. Lorrie Moore. “How,” in Self-Help.

    stories, in a dead-pan tone of a how-to or instruction manual, mixed with a vein of shop- and out-worn conduct-of-life advice, too. “How,” which concerns falling into and out of love and marriage, begins thus :

    Begin by meeting him in a class, in a bar, at a rummage sale. Maybe he teaches sixth grade. Manages a hardware store. Foreman at a carton factory. He will be a good dancer. He will have perfectly cut hair. He will laugh at your jokes.
          A week, a month, a year...
    p55 (Warner paper edition, 1995, borrowable at archive.org : link)

    What I call the dead-pan delivery, maybe is a way of characterizing the deft handling of clichés, including the attractiveness of a hardware store guy that is found frequently in romance fiction. (20230421)

  60. Speer Morgan. The Whipping Boy.
    Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994

    Set in 1894 in the Oklahoma Territory. The story revolves around Dekker Hardware, which is but a prelude to a land-grab scheme (that would take land from Native Americans and poor whites. One of the three protagonists is Jake Jaycox, “an aging hardware salesman.”

    some reviews/summaries at amazon : link

    Speer Morgan at wikipedia : link

  61. Lesley Mouttet. “Love & the Hardware Store.”
    in Island Woman Series No. 1, Love and the Hardware Store, and other stories. Port of Spain (Trinidad): Inprint Carbbean, 1977 : 9-14

    “Mr. Lall had arrived... fat, soft fingers covered in rings, large yellowed teeth, their gold fillings flashing behind the leer. Mr. Lall — rich with his own hardware store and Ma’s choice for her...” (p 9-10)

    Mouttet has a second story in the volume, “The Homecoming.” Sara returns to St. Lucia after two years in New York studying “dress designing.” She doesn’t want to depend on Grant Sandison, owner of a large banana plantation, who has allowed her mother to continue living in a cottage on the estate, after her father’s death. Sara wants to be independent, set up her own shop. Grant meets her at airport; tells her he loves her; she had tried to hide her love for him, but can’t. That’s the story.

  62. Mary McGarry Morris. Light from a Distant Star.
    Crown, 2011.

    Peck Hardware will close. Ben Peck “was a decent man” writing local history. Corporate America (rapist, murderer Mr Cooper) is crooked.

    “Benjamin Peck was a fine man. Polite, thoughtful. Well raised and probably the handsomest man in Springvale. For almost a hundred years Peck Hardware on Main Street had provided most of the community’s workday needs: nuts, bolts, gadgets, hinges, keys, and every manner of tool, paint supplies, ladders, even wallpaper, though most of the rolls Benjamin had stamped SECONDS, they were so old, and long after they were fashionable, glossy decals to decorate our walls, furniture, and cabinets. Peck’s sold bird feeders and pails, lightbulbs and shovels, lawnmowers and rakes. Window shades were his specialty. MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE said the black-and-white tin sign over the shade-cutting machine, both sign and machine older than Benjamin, who took great pride in his shade-cutting skill, though not much else when it came to the cluttered store. For an impractical man caught in the most practical of lives, the past was sustenance enough. Benjamin’s true calling was the history he was writing of Middleton County, most especially the town of Springvale.” (5)

    synopsis at author’s website : link
    author’s page at wikipedia : link

  63. Bill Noel. Washout (A Folly Beach Mystery).
    iUniverse, 2009.

    The hardware store bloodbath was the topic of the morning at the Lost Dog Cafe... (p 8)

  64. Kathleen Norris. Certain People of Importance (1922).

    hardware stores appear in several of Kathleen Norris’s novels, as well as in her memoir, Noon (1925), adding her to this list, to be expanded in due course. she is also among the authors in my putterings project : link

    Kathleen Norris at wikipedia : link

    Kathleen Norris, My Best Girl (A. L. Burt Company, “by arrangement with Doubleday...,” 1927)
    google : link
    hathitrust : link
    archive.org : link (different copy)

    The copyright is to Kathleen Norris and Mary Pickford Fairbanks, and the book appeared as a “photoplay” edition, with four photographs from the film that appeared in the same year — same title and starring Mary Pickford and Charles “Buddy” Rogers. A paperback edition appeared in 1969 (Paperback Library, 54-723, Coronet Communications)

    The story was serialized in Collier’s (all links to hathitrust; also available at google : link) —

    (July 23, 1927) : 5-7, 28, 30, 32, : link (cover : link)
    (July 30, 1927) : 17-18, 41-42 : link
    (August 6, 1927) : 22-23, 38-39 : link
    (August 13, 1927) : 17-18, 30, 32 : link
    (August 20, 1927) : 24-26, 44 : link
    (August 27, 1927) : 20-21, 38-39 link
    (September 3, 1927) : 17-18, 41-42 : link
    (September 10, 1927) : 20-21, 32, 34 : link
    (September 17, 1927) : 26, 28, 49-51 : link
    (September 24, 1927) : 20-21, 53 : link

    from U Michigan copy, hathitrust

    The illustrations (by R. F. James) emphasize romance and glamour; it is only in the first installment that the illustrations show the “hardware” setting, if only a hint of it.

    R. F. James (1878-1959) —
    “Lee Roy F. James, magazine and motion picture artist, is dead at 80.
    James, who died Sunday at a rest home, was an illustrator for Colliers, Red Book, Ladies Home Journal and other magazines. He was a member of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture studio from 1935 until he retired in 1947.”
    — from an AP news item quoted at Alex Jay’s Ink-Slinger Profile of R. F. James (January 14, 2014) : link

    See wikipedia for thorough description of the film : link
    the film survives and has been restored; it can be viewed at youtube (as of April 2023).
    The film story differs in various but not essential ways from the novel.

    Maggie works in the hardware section of a department store, and falls for Joe, the son of the owner, who is working incognito in the store, to prove his worthiness to his father, and who falls for Maggie as well. Some passages relating to hardware follow :

          “Ha!” Joe said, adding a column.
          “I got even with a customer that was saucy with me yesterday,” Maggie recounted with relish, after casting about in her mind for a subject likely to interest him. “Miss Ollie was busy, and there was no one at the counter, and she ast me would I sell her a screw for an alarm clock she had with her. She was a fussy old lady, Joe; first things she said to me was” ‘Is the five-cent screws just exactly as good as the fifteen-cent ones?’ ‘Yes, madam, you’ll find that five-cent articles is always just [168] as good or better than fifteen-cent ones. That’s business, madam’ I says to her.
          “Well, she gave me an awfully dirty look, Joe, and she called Smith — he hates — he dislikes me, anyway,” Maggie resumed, “and she says : ‘Kindly find me another salesgirl — this girl is very impudent.’ So he pulled the usual stuff about firing me the minute the shop closed last night, and he made the sale himelf, and he fixed the clock and gave it to me to wrap up for her. She says: ‘Step along there as fast as you can, girl, because I’m meeting a friend on the four o’clock train.’ Mind ju, she called me ‘girl,’ Joe — —”
          “Well, you look as much like a girl as anything else,” Joe said.
          “Oh, you think you’re funny!
    p 167

          “Listen, Maggie, you can’t keep this up. Sooner or later you’ll have to make it up with me and tell me what the trouble is, so why not now?” Joe pleaded.
          He had made three previous overtures to a pale and unresponsive and haughty Maggie; it was late afternoon now, and he could bear neither her obvious suffering nor his own discomfort any longer.
          She was in the hardware department, standing at the boxed counter where the nails and bolts and nuts of all sizes were ranged in rows and rows of small compartments. The stock had become mixed, shoppers having distributed the small articles here and there at random; staples were looming large among the glass-headed tacks, coils of copper wire and spools of steel wire were mingled hopelessly together. [178]
          From this puzzle, Maggie was attempting to bring forth some sort of order again, picking up a long nail, running her eye along the little compartments, laying it with its fellows, and removing from their midst at the same time several foreign matters — balls of twine and picture hooks and door bolts.
          Her figure looked small and pathetic in its shabby black, her little head, with the bright hair wound and packed severely about it, drooped forlornly. But when she heard Joe’s voice, close behind her, she brought her proud little chin up with a jerk, her cheeks crimsoned, and her tone was cutting, if a trifle shaky, as she said:
          “You broke my heart, that’s all. But it doesn’t matter.”
    p 177

          Maggie made a strange sound of rage and grief and pushed the little cardboard flaps of tack boxes into place with shaking fingers. [182]
          “I’ll never,” she gritted between her teeth, “I’ll never speak to you again.” Joe went away, just as the scandalized saleswoman at that particular counter leaned over to say urgently: “Maggie, you can’t pull that kind of stuff right here in the aisle. Smith’s watchin’ you, dearie.”
          “Smith can go to — Hyde Street!” Maggie muttered. She had finished her task now, the hardware counter was in order, and her small hands were dirty and torn and stained from the nails and oils and dust. She went down to the girl’s washroom that smelled of face powder and damp plaster and a strong, wintergreen-scented disinfectant, and washed her hands and, after awhile, her tear-swollen eyes in cold water and wiped them on the soggy lengths of the exhausted roller towel.”
          “For to be wroth with one we love doth work like madness in the brain.” Maggie had never heard the line, but she knew that she was close to madness in the hour that followed.
    p 181

  65. Katie Norton. A Buddhish [sic] Monk at Home Depot,
    in January 2010 issue of the scrambler e-zine, here / now (20230325) here (wayback machine)

    Narrator encounters suburban white-guy Buddhist monk, at Home Depot, with his stupid wife (whom he’d not mentioned to her in a previous encounter) : You see something in her, obviously, that I don’t. You don’t want me. You’re married to her, renovating your marital home together.

    Another Norton story — non-hardware related, but similar in tone — is Office Politics, in Eastown Fiction (September 2009) here.

  66. Kathleen O’Connor. The Way It Happens In Novels.
    Available Press / Ballantine, 1989

    Though it was unseasonably warm, she kept her trench coat tightly belted. Garages and mechanics always made her feel exposed and vulnerable. It was so obvious when you didn’t have a man living with you. One look under your hood and your solitary state was totally apparent. The fan belts would be frayed and the radiator dry — because women had never been taught to fathom these mysteries.

    Rose remembered her relief yesterday at walking into a hardware store almost completely staffed by women. A brunette in bib overalls had been able to explain how to fix the broken chain on a toilet with straightforward delicacy. Some day Ridgely would have female mechanics, though probably not in her lifetime.

    The above passage (at page 220) brings to mind Florence Adams, her I Took A Hammer In My Hand (1973). Adams discusses precisely that vulnerability as the reason to learn the names of things one needs, and to learn how fix things on one’s own. My description of that book (and its paperback successor) here.

    I know of this novel only because of its hardware store reference, but will read it entire to see how it works with its romance fiction theme (character Cheryl Freedman is enraptured with steamy romance novels, says the blurb). Author’s webpage here (no longer, as of 20230413). This is not the Biblical scholar Kathleen M. O’Connor (link).

  67. John O’Hara (1905-70). The Hardware Man.
    The Saturday Evening Post, 29 February 1964

    A moral tale, setting two hardware men against each other — Lou Mauser, with a deficiency in the humanity department, and old-style, plain-spoken Tom Esterly. One of O’Hara’s Gibbsville (Pottstown) stories.

  68. Peter Pezzelli. Every Sunday.
    New York: Kensington Books, 2005

    Narrated by Nick Catini, owner of Catini’s Hardware, after his death. Up there on Federal Hill, somewhere. His children work in the store. Nice — and refreshing — take on women and hardware :

    She comes out from behind the cash register. Thirty years in the hardware business have taught her a thing or two. Rule number one is to never let customers, especially new ones, pick out equipment by themselves. Nine times out of ten they pick the wrong item and end up bringing it back. Theresa knows full well that it drives the male customers crazy to have a woman telling them what kind of hardware to buy. It hurts their egos. Business aside, of course, that’s half the reason she does it.

    The passage, at pp39-40, leads to this —

    Believe me, men like it when women tell them what to do, it’s that much less they have to think about.

    Nick wasn’t much for personal relationships, etc. He was a hardware man.

    Not as bad as its weirdly mixed reviews (on amazon) suggest. Quite amusing, actually. Author’s website here.

  69. Allie Pleiter. Bluegrass Courtship.
    (Kentucky Corners Series, Book 2) (Love Inspired #482). New York: Steeple Hill Books, 2009

    publisher’s description —
    The celebrity host of TV’s Missionnovation, Drew Downing is comfortable with his fame. He’s become accustomed to the cheering, starstruck townfolk that usually welcome him as he renovates churches countrywide. Usually. Then he and his crew set up in tiny Middleburg, Kentucky, to rebuild the church’s storm-damaged preschool. The very lovely, very no-nonsense hardware store owner Janet Bishop is suspicious of Drew’s true motives. It looks like Janet Bishop’s faith—in God, in herself and in love—needs some serious rebuilding. And Drew Downing is just the man for the job.

    and from within the novel —
    You don’t see too many female owners in the hardware business, he offered. Especially in small towns. How’d you get into it? Janet was well aware of her uniqueness...

  70. Alvin Rakoff. Baldwin Street: A Novel.
    New York & Charlottetown (Canada): Bunim & Bannigan, 2007

    A sequence of stories set in a Jewish milieu in 1920s-30s Toronto. The hardware store connection appears well into the book, in the chapter 178 Baldwin Street

    “My name is Leonard Abelson. I lived on Baldwin Street. 178 Baldwin Street. Our store was called Abelson’s Hardware. Not a good name. A misnomer. Wrong. Because aside from pots and pans, glasses and dishes, we didn’t sell much hardware. No screws. Or nails. No hammers. No wrenches. Light bulbs, yes. Electric plugs, yes...”

    The misnamed business is Leonard’s idea, to claim superiority over other similar businesses.

    “Most of the stores on the street—we had a lot of competition—that sold clothes had the words Dry Goods writ large on the outside awnings. Not us. Abelson’s Hardware”

    My own website goes by such a misnomer, though employed for a different end : a last connection to the business. And too, my homepage has more and more the look of a hardware store in the older mold: drawers labeled, mislabeled and unlabeled. Not a very welcoming face, I fear. More about the novel, which is pretty good, here. Rakoff is a Canadian film and television director, described here.

  71. Hope Ramsay. Welcome to Last Chance.
    New York & Boston : Forever (Hachette Book Group): (March) 2011

    Clay returns to Last Chance, South Carolina, from Nashville, where he’d been a sideman musician. He’s got a broken career and a broken heart, and now thinks of himself as a loser. He helps his uncle Pete out at a hardware store, where his best friend Ray also works. Jane Coblentz arrives, bringing her own messy past with her. The novel traces the consequences of their colliding trajectories.

    Several nuanced reviews at Amazon, and previews (to unpaginated, pre-designed copy) at Google Books. The Amazon reviews are interesting, including this from L. Burns Bigdog Mom

    Now this is one of my favorite romance themes: A hero who is hovering near rock bottom and struggling to get his life back on track. I also love the whole starting over in a small town scenario so I thought this would be a hit for me, and it was — almost...

    A nice McMurtry-an touch here, where Ruby Rhodes, Clay’s mother (and owner of the Cut ’n’ Curl beauty salon), tells Jane about her son (pp187-88) —

    I do respect Clay for wanting to help Pete, but I don’t think coming back here and hiding out and pretending he doesn't have talent is a good career move for him. And while I’m proud of him for his songs, I’d just as soon see him happy as see him having to suffer heartbreak after heartbreak so that he can write those sad country songs.

    Nothing detailed about hardware, but quite readable. Author’s website here.

  72. Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged.
    New York: Random House, 1957

    This? Lillian was saying, extending her arm with the metal bracelet for the inspection of two smartly groomed women. Why, no, it’s not from a hardware store, it's a very special gift from my husband. Oh yes, of course it’s hideous. But don’t you see? It’s supposed to be priceless. Of course, I’d exchange it for a common diamond bracelet any time, but somehow nobody will offer me one for it, even though it is so very, very valuable. Why? My dear, it’s the first thing ever made of Reardon Metal.

    This turned up in a routine hardware store literature search.


    Jude Randal, Just One of the Guys (1992)


    Marilynne Rudick, Fixing to Stay (1986); anonymous artist.

  73. Jude Randal (pseudonym for Jude Wilner). Just One of the Guys.
    New York: Silhouette Books, 1992

    Hardware store manager Dana Morgan was more comfortable with a hammer and nails than with a hairbrush. She was up to the challenge of making home-repair videos with sexy executive Spenser Willis, but one look into his dark, enticing eyes told her she was way out of her league...

    Alberta (Canada) author.

  74. F(rederick) J(ohn) Randall. Love and the Ironmonger.
    London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Lane Company, 1908

    309pp, plus ads; wholesale/warehouse, rather than retail.
    at archive.org : link.

    BL lists four novels between 1908 and 1914, one of which (Somebody’s Luggage, unless a Dickens story of the same title) was performed on the (New York) stage. Also, author of "People I’ve Met at the Play", Playgoer 9:49 (Oct-Nov 1913)

    May have died in war? A John Frederick Randall is associated with patent specification 20,450 for A New Game 1901. His address is 12, Elmhurst Mansions, Vernon Road, Clapham, S.W. and his occupation is editor, which might help explain the good press notice his 1908 novel received:

    A novel-reading public, possibly a little surfeited with the melodramatic novel, the problem story and tales of frenzied finance, has welcomed with no little enthusiasm the humorous conceits of Mr. F. J. Randall, a new author, who places the chief scenes of his story Love and the Ironmonger in — of all places in the world — Upper Thames Street, in the City of London. Upper Thames Street! Dingy conglomeration of ugly warehouses, converted abodes of old-time City merchants whose elaborately corniced drawing-rooms and dining-rooms now resound to the busy scratching of pens or the clang of metal. Upper Thames Street, where dim passages lead down to slimy wharves andthe ripple of brown tides as they flow up and down against the wooden piles. Upper Thames Street, narrow, gloomy, usually muddy, and even less suggestive of the sweet romance of love than the purlieus of the Stock Exchange or the gold-filled vaults of Lombard Street.

    And then there is a humorous suggestion of incongruity in the combination of love and the ironmonger. Why — I do not know. An ironmonger may be as susceptible a worshipper at the rose-decked shrine of the love-god as a poet or a curate, and still the juxtaposition causes a pleasant titillation of surprise and expectancy. It prepares us for the genial conceit with which the author engages us when he lifts the curtain on the interior of Fairbrother & Co.’s offices in Upper Thames Street. Old Joe Fair — brother, sole surviving partner, with the reputation of being good to his employees, is failing fast. But he has a duty to perform. His head clerk, his cashier and his accountant have certain annoying faults of character which he desires to eliminate. The first is mean, the second has a habit of lying, the third of drinking.

    One by one he calls them into his private office, tells each that he has left him a legacy of £500 a year on the express condition that he does not yield to his besetting temptation. Naturally, each is jubilant, but the interviews have been overheard by accident by a pushing young employee, George Early, who keeps his knowledge to himself and bides his time. And that time comes when old Joe dies, when the three legatees begin to enjoy their windfalls and in the belief that no one knows of the conditions, grow reckless and indifferent to an observance of them. Thereupon George reveals subtly to each of them that they are no longer masters of their own lives — that he is in possession of their secret and means that they shall either deserve or forego old Joe Fairbrother’s legacy. He becomes their ever-dangling sword of Damocles, always genially reluctant to remind them of their servitude, but never hesitating and always reaping a nice little dividend for himself out of his interference. Yes, said George to himself, it’s the luckiest thing I’ve struck for many a day. This is going to be a picnic.

    When the deceased ironmonger is succeeded by his very pretty daughter as head of the firm, George Early’s picnic reaches its most interesting stage. The chief clerk, cashier and accountant, completely cowed, can put no obstacles in the path of his vaulting ambition, and he becomes in rapid succession Miss Fairbrother’s secretary, representative, accepted suitor and husband. And still the merry game goes on, with three depressed and losing players and only one jubilant winner. This, however, is as far as I ought to go in disclosing the plot, which is ingeniously turned to satisfactory ends. Enough has been said to show that Love and the Ironmonger follows no conventional structure. It is farce, but quite possible farce, if we grant the eccentric conditions of the old ironmonger’s will, and there have been far more eccentric wills in real life than this invention of Mr. Randall.

    I do not know what experience of the metal trades has fallen in Mr. Randall’s way, but he writes of Upper Thames Street as though he knew more of it than could be absorbed from an occasional saunter along its irregular footpaths. He is thirty-five years of age and has, I believe, had a varied and rather strenuous career, but hard work has not dulled his sense of fun. Latterly he has been engaged in journalism, until recently editing a ladies’ magazine. Love and the Ironmonger is by no means without defects. Occasionally we come upon faults of taste, which betray hurried workmanship and a lack of careful revision rather than an inability to distinguish and avoid them. I imagine that, if he had foreseen that his book would be received so favourably as it has been (one critic avowing that if he is able to sustain such a level of high spirits he will soon be amongst the most widely read of contemporary humourists), he would have written with a little more restraint at times. But he has invention — humorous invention — the ability to keep the ball rolling briskly and the reader’s attention alert.

    ex The Book and Its Author, The English Illustrated Magazine (New Series, 39; April 1908) : 87-88

  75. Charles Raymond. Enoch.
    Illustrated by Marvin Friedman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969

    Enoch Parnell is 12 and white. His father operates a hardware store in a ghetto area. Lots of trouble and education for Enoch, helped by Skullcap, a black handyman who works in the store. Good story.

    From the author’s bio, on back flap —
    Charles Raymond grew up on an Oregon farm whose main products were spuds, timber, and callouses. While still single he combined work with travel by thumb and freight to see all the states. After his years abroad in the armed forces during the Second World War, he and his wife settled in the Midwest where he works as a carpenter. Years of repairing old buildings in Chicago gave him intimate knowledge of life in the slums. He uses his background and experience in his books. He says, I want young people to know what I have seen and felt, and what I have learned from them. He calls this bringing the generation into focus, as he did in his book JUD, which was awarded Best Juvenile of 1968 by the Friends of American Writers.

  76. Karen Robards. One Summer.
    New York: Delacorte Press, 1993

    Karen Robards One Summer, 1993

    From the jacket —
    ...Johnny Harris returns to his small, less-than-welcoming Kentucky hometown after serving time for a murder he didn’t commit. Among the cruel whisperings behind his back, one voice speaks to him without hostility — that of his former schoolteacher Rachel Grant, the sole believer in his innocence.

    Rachel Grant is both an English teacher (and poet (p43)), and steps in to help manage her ailing father’s hardware store. The connection between hardware and poetry isn’t made, let alone developed, alas..

    There’s not much about the business in the novel, other than Johnny’s employment there. A fight in the store gives occasion to describe the mess that is its aftermath:

    Rachel looked. Paint cans, brushes, rollers, and color charts littered the floor from an overturned display. One can had burst open, spilling bright scarlet enamel across the black and white tile. A plastic bin that had once contained a large assortment of nuts and bolts lay on its side, it contents scattered everywhere. Wild birdseed that had been stored in a large metal trash can made a gritty carpet underfoot. The can itself, now badly dented, rested against the foot of the wooden counter. From the look of it, it had been thrown at someone.. (p26)

    There’s a ghost — or rather skeleton — in the story (pp126-27 in this, and pp145-46 in the paper, editions): the pretty organist who, many years ago, had had an affair with the minister, and been killed by his wife.

    ...the scary part was that, on a rainy night such as the one on which the murder supposedly had taken place, local wags claimed that the doomed organist could still be heard playing her instrument as she waited for her partner in sin to join her. (p127)

    That old crime has strange repercussions in the present (involving Kay Nelson, Rachel’s friend from grade school). Another ghost plays a part in Shelley Galloway’s Finding Love Again (2006), described elsewhere.

    Author’s website here.

  77. James Robinette. The Naturalist.
    Baltimore: AmErica House, 2002.

    from publisher’s description
    ...Small town folk are often ignored by the mainstream. Small towns are used to being in a place where facts are never what they seem to be. Inside a hushed world of muffled dialogue while waiting for that certain word of recognition, the silent clamor of the mind lingers as facts and fiction are sorted out on a quiet summer’s evening. Harold Fitch and Susan Dow, only a year apart in age, introduce us to some of that world as they finish high school and step out on the larger stage, convinced that they are prepared for the future. Harold is off to college, his mind cluttered with debris. Susan takes a job at the town’s hardware store. At this she is thinking that she wouldn’t mind meeting a nice young man for a change that is if she could find one she could trust.

  78. Marilynne Rudick. Fixing to Stay.

    (Harlequin Temptation 128). New York: Harlequin Books, (October) 1986

    detail of (uncredited) cover art, Rudick Fixing to Stay, 1986

    reading notes —

    Laura Barclay brought in as marketing manager for Nils Johnson and Son: Hardware.
    hired by Nils senior, at urging (we’ll later learn) of his son Chris. Chris however doesn’t take kindly to replacement of sign (attached by nails and mastic, when it’s discovered holes don’t match) for Johnson’s Home Center. Laura’s task is to transform a sleepy group of family-owned hardware stores into a chain of modern home centers. This store was to be the flagship. Son signs like this would appear state wide. (5)
    lots of chemistry between Chris and Laura.
    7 : "Did a son exist?"
    10 Laura left Chicago, "Largo Computers," and Paul for Prairie. Paul is a lawyer, not into commitment.
    13 : Chris appears, "What the hell is going on here." he’s "central casting" idea of Viking. She’s Greek, has curves in right places.
    17 : "We’re selling a concept of improvement — of home and family — and the handsome new sign’s a symbl of what’ to come."
    27 "Chris had been all for gradual change, but he hadn’t bargained for wholesale upheaval. ¶ The decision to hire Laura had marked the first time he and his dad had had a major disagreement."
    28 : "Around here, things move with the speed of mud. Our customers know where the nails are — they’ve been in the same aisle for thirty years..."
    to which Laura replies
    29 : "To achieve the expansion you want, you’ve got to change.... The days of mom-and-pop hardware stores are gone. You’ve got to be efficient and modern if you’re going to expand statewide. Things change—even in Prairie. Women are owning homes, they’re heads of households, and they’re fiing the plumbing. You’ve got to appeal to them!"
    "And changing the name of the store does that?"
    "Certainly! A home center means more than rusty nails — it says warmth, and family. Women respond to that. Nils Johnson and Son: Hardware — it’s outmoded. What does that say to women?"

    this initial discussion leads to some compromises. Laura will spend a few weeks on the floor, getting to know the stock, the customers. However —

    30 : "Life was short and unpredictable. She knew that all too well. She couldn’t afford to spend weeks counting nails and sharpening saws." (her contract is for a year)
    32 : "Worn" and "tired" were the words that came to mind as Laura surveyed the sales floor the next day. She was sure no one had ever given a thought to product display, and if the word "decorated" had ever been used at Johnson’s, it must have been to describe a customer who’d been honored in the war. Laura stared at the green linoleum worn thin by generations of feet; then at the aisles of warped wooden bins filled in a random fashion with nails, screws, bolts, paint and hundreds of other items she hadn’t even names for. Laura winced as her eyes fell on tired Formica cunters relieved by dusty plastic flowers, a pitigul attempt, no doubt many years ago, to liven up Johnson’s. And the walls, she didn’t know what color adequately described the brownish, orange, beige paint that peaked through the few spots that weren’t covered with price lists and advertisements — some dating back twenty years. ¶ She squinted as she tried to imagine what the prototype for the Johnson’s Home Centers would like like. Those plastic flowers would be the first to go. She’d do the floors in a light wood varnished to a high goss. And the nails and screws — she’d arrange them alphabetically in lucite bins and barrels..."
    (scratches etc, and "alphabetically"? really?)
    34: Laura mixes paint for a customer, puts it on the shaker, and the can explodes. but things improve after that. Chris realizes that what he knows, he knows because his father spent years teaching him. he needs to give Laura a chance. he’s angry at himself.
    things improve, their chemistry is good. there’s a series of TV shorts on making home improvements, for women (Laura is the demonstrator).
    later in novel, she’s offered a job in Chicago, managing a new line of tools for women. Distaff Designs. she goes in for interview, it’s exactly what she — or her earlier self — wants, but she turns it down for Chris and Prairie.

    From back cover —

    This place was either purgatory... Or heaven on earth. Laura Barclay just didn’t know about Prairie, Illinois. While she tried valiantly to drag the local hardware store into the twentieth century, her laid-back boss kept jamming the wheels of progress.Chris Johnson liked his business, his town and his women family-style, cozy, easygoing. And Laura was none of the above. Then again... all the ladies in Prairie couldn’t be wrong about him. Just maybe he was the sexiest bachelor anywhere...

    A publisher’s note introducing the book — and its author — adds that The family hardware store she modeled Johnson’s on recently closed after fifty years in business. It is being replaced by a high rise.

  79. Sam Savage. The Cry of the Sloth.
    Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2009.

    A mostly epistolary fiction detailing the disintegration of Andy Whittacker, literary journal editor, negligent landlord, and aspiring novelist. Included here for the character of Dahlberg Flint, a hardware store clerk, writer and sometime contributor to Whitaker’s Soap magazine. From which this extract —

    “What happened to the tough little guy who told those tough little stories about his life as a hardware store clerk? ‘Good Luck at Smart Value’ got more favorable coments than just about anything we’ve published in years... Believe me, your description of the owner’s wife heaving those fifty-pound sacks of Quikrete into the bed of a pickup was flat-out amazing. I mean, that was real writing... It had the brutal honesty we usually associate with instruction manuals...”

    Sam Savage (1940-2019) at wikipedia : link

  80. Parke Sellard. The Boswell Gene.
    Haverford, Pennsylvania: Infinity Publishing (.com), 1982, 2000.

    From the back cover —
    “Middle-aged. In a loveless marriage. In a dead-end job. Harry Boswell has no future — literally. That’s because one day his body starts to age — backward. His genes have suddenly gone into reverse, and he’s growing younger every day. Is this a second chance for a lonely man’s life? Or the ultimate nightmare come true?.”

    The “dead-end” job is working in a hardware store. Much (most?) of the novel is in the form of Harry Boswell’s journal, which he had started on loose sheets of paper, hidden in a desk drawer at his hardware store. (p16) He’s regretting his life:

    If I were young again, I’d never let myself end up with a boring hardware store and a loveless marriage. I’d make certain that at least I would be able to sit under a tree in the spring, playing the flute and holding a pretty girl. I guess this is why I keep thinking about Jenny in Johnson’s meadow. But even going through it in my mind a thousand times is not as good as having it happen just once. I think of the hopes I had for my life [medical school] and how I made a mess of things. If I only had another chance.... (p29)

    Harry manages not to get entwined with Jenny, his rationale being that marriage would frustrate his ambition to become a doctor. However, the uncle who might have financed his education loses money in the stock market and thus, Damn, no college, no Jenny; just the dreary hardware store. There’s a funny parallel here to Mark Vonnegut’s great grandfather, who doesn’t want to sell nails.

    Harry is born in 1870, starts getting younger in 1925.

    About The Boswell Gene, Sellard says:
    Everyone I have asked or who has written to me has loved Boswell Gene. Even though it was written by a man and about a man, women have really gone for this book. I think there are two reasons for this. 1. Harry Boswell is a really nice guy. 2. So many people really would like a second chance in life. Harry’s experience with getting nothing he wanted until he was 57, then gradually getting everything he wanted is uplifting and makes one wonder what we could do if we had the chance to do some things differently. here.

  81. Karen Rose Smith. Kit and Kisses.

    Smashwords e-book published March 17, 2011; paperback original Precious Gem, No. 74), Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing, 1997.


    Karen Rose Smith, Kit and Kisses (1997)
    illustration: Pino
    Dimensions: 4.125 x 6.875 inches


    illustration to Smashwords e-edition (2011)

    Publisher’s short description —
    Kit’s specialty is public relations. Greyson needs her help to keep his hardware store thriving. But Kit was fooled by a con man. And Grey has responsibilities he’s not eager to divulge. Chemistry pulls them together but will their pasts tear them apart?

    The store has been in Grey’s family for three generations; his father has died, and the store is fighting a losing battle against big box competition. Kit comes in to pitch her consulting business, and to buy a ladder. Here’s what she sees:

    Even in his present position, she could tell Greyson Corey, owner of Corey’s Hardware, was tall, and at least six-two. Under the fluorescent lights, strands of silver shone in his thick black hair. The green T-shirt emblazoned with the store’s logo emphasized his broad shoulders, his muscular biceps. His jeans stretched tight over his thighs and buttocks. Nice, she drawled to herself before she remembered she wasn’t interested in men any more.

    Grey wants to keep the business, with its history of tradition and good service, alive; he’s also responsible for his sister with special needs. This is another instance of a special (handicap) topic wrapped into the genre: in this case, Grey’s special needs sister, who is living in a group home. Other examples are listed in the introduction to this fiction list.

    E-book page includes short and extended descriptions, reviews, etc. See also the author’s website.

    Romance fiction appears to be moving to e-formats. On Smashwords, see Ilana DeBare, Smashwords gets self-published e-books to market (San Francisco Chronicle, May 9, 2011) at sfgate. The Smashwords page provides the following tags for this edition: fiction, romance, relationships, public relations, contemporary, sexy romance, sensual romance, karenrosesmith romance, romance intimacy, special needs sister, couple love, work romance, hardware store.

    The cover art to the 1997 edition of Kit and Kisses is presumably the work of Pino Daeni (1939-2010), a prolific painter and illustrator of book covers who is described here and at wikipedia. The wikipedia article mentions the work Pino did for Zebra, as well as for Harlequin. Wonder why Smashwords didn’t use the (much superior) original art. The woman seems to be thumbing through the yellow pages, Choosing a Din(nner) reads backwards, curiously.

  82. Maura Stanton. Traps,
    in Cities in the Sea. University of Michigan Press, 2003. pp 119-131

    Coco’s life goes into a holding pattern at eighteen, when her mother leaves, father loses job, then suffers stroke. The hardware store where she worked sold three kinds of mousetraps, it begins. However, she keeps hopes up, reads literature thoughtfully, and exits the story with a laugh : She refuses, absolutely refuses, to let herself be trapped in a depressing short story.

  83. William O. Stoddard, Jr. Making Good in the Village.
    D. Appleton and Company, 1916. Illustrated by George Varian.


    I like the smell of hardware, he thought to himself, there’s no other business for me.

    First, these contemporary notices/reviews —

    A story for boys. The hero begins his active career as an errand boy in a New York hardware store. He does not shirk any of the tasks allotted him. In addition, he makes a close study of the buying and selling of the stock with a view to advancement in the business. Before he is able to progress materially, his mother’s failing health compels removal from the metropolis to a distant village. Apparently, the only way there of earning needed money is by turning to farm labor. But the boy’s training and ambition help him to see greater possibilities in the village’s dilapidated hardware store... The boy takes hold, and by applying up-to-date methods revives the dormant business and makes it successful. — Springfield Republican ¶ A L A Bkl 12:488 Jl ’16 / Springfield Republican p17 Ap 23 ’16 180w
    ex Book Review Digest (1917)

    Every fellow will like Tom Stewart, the hero of the book. He was a city boy who got a job in a hardware store and learned the business. Then his mother got sick and he had to go to the country were, in the village, he found a worn-out old hardware store. Tom got a job there on trial. By his ambition, work and clever schemes, he made the store one of the best in the town.
    ex Boys’ Life — (June 1916)

    This fiction falls loosely under the conduct of life heading, in the Horatio Alger mold. Energy and granularity in its telling, and some close observation of hardware-selling, make it readable today.

    What is left out of the above notices is an ordeal in the woods. Tom’s competitor in Steubenville, Slocum & Stilwell, are selling second-rate goods cheap, but dishonestly by suggesting they are their regular stock. Tom sees his business slow and, despite his own best judgement that a well-established line of standard goods is his best and honest bet, agrees in a moment of weakness to take on a line of second-rate merchandise, from a Mr. Bagby of Snare & Tobey. He has a crisis of conscience. His partner, mother and others arrange for him to take a camping/fishing trip with a customer, Hiram Johnson, and while on that trip he learns something about (1) negotiating rapids by being decisive and staying one’s course, and (2) not depending on shoddy goods (a cheap paddle breaks, and the canoe capsizes). Tom returns to the store, puts up a sign apologizing to customers about the poor goods sold during his absence, and promises to make good on any returns.

    THE   INCO N HARD   ARE CO. is the lettering of the decrepit sign above the store Tom takes on.

    Something about W. O. Stoddard (1835-1925) here, and more here. Stoddard worked in the Lincoln White House for a time, and was a prolific author. Remarks by his granddaughter Eleanor Stoddard in her contribution to a new edition of Lincoln’s White House Secretary: The Adventurous Life of William O. Stoddard suggests that he wasn’t a great businessman himself. It may be this trait that explains the sympathy shown in this novel to Jethro Lincoln, whose store Tom takes over, who prefers to read Virgil and has gotten used to failure.


    Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge (2008)
    jacket design, Francine Kass
    Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.5 inches


    Helen Tucker, No Need of Glory (1972)
    jacket design, Tim Gaydos
    Dimensions: 5.625 x 8.375 inches

  84. Elizabeth Strout. Olive Kitteridge.
    New York: Random House, 2008

    Thirteen narratives, (bound) together through the presence of one larger-than-life... character, Olive Kitteridge.

    The hardware store story is called Starving (pp75-103). Harmon is the middle-aged (or older) owner, in a bad marriage; his sons — with whom he’d been very close when they were young — are gone, married, no interest in the store. He chastely visits an old friend Daisy for chats. The title refers to the anorexic girl Nina who appears in town, and stays with Daisy for a brief time. Olive also steps in to help Nina, although the girl is too far gone. But Harmon realizes that he too is starving, and takes some actions in his life.

    The writing is Chekhovian.

  85. Barry Targan. Harry Belten and the Mendelssohn violin concerto,
    a short story in a collection with the same title. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1975. Described here.

    Here’s a passage from Michael Kardos review in the Missouri Review 27:1 (2004) —
    Harry Belten, hardware store employee and amateur violinist, decides to remortgage his house so that he can hire a professional orchestra and give a one-time-only performance, with himself as soloist, performing his favorite piece of music — the extremely difficult Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor. His wife thinks he’s gone crazy. His friends think he’s crazy. So does his boss. But Belten has been practicing this piece of music for eighteen years and, though well aware of his own limits as a musician, remains undeterred in following his dream...

    Harry’s wife Alice makes Henry an appointment to see a psychiatrist, who concludes, about the concert, Why not?. Henry navigates a few other obstacles, too, in order to play the Mendelssohn and two encores. The navigation — the interactions with people — are the best part of the story.

  86. Jean Thompson. Up-Hill All the Way.
    (Five Star First Edition Romance Series.) Unity (Maine): Five Star, 2000.

    The novel is set in 1950; Doris’s husband Carl Gooding dies of a heart attack in 1947, and she continues to operate his hardware store.

    The next year passed quickly, but at a distance. I could make changes, she told herself. But if I sold my share of the store, I’d have to get a job. What would I do? If I moved, where would I go? (p39)

    Doris is good with the store. She'd drifted into marriage at 18, her husband 11 years older. That was 1930. She helps out at the store, eight to ten hours a day, six days a week, getting no further recognition from her husband or his mother Doris.

    During a phone conversation with a supplier, about prices —

    Doris yawned. Running a hardware store was not a choice she had made. When she’d been asked, as a little girl, what she wanted to do when she grew up, she’d never said, I want to own a hardware store. She’d married it, along with Carl... told herself not to be modest. The hardware business had more than doubled since she took over. If she could have done what she really wanted.

    What she really wanted is unspecified. More about drift, as she thinks about her lover Lee —

    The contradictions in him had always baffled her —sensitivity combined with selfishness, intelligence with intellectual laziness, and his persistent refusal to consider consequences. Or maybe he was purely independent and refused to live life by standards of society with which he did not agree.On the other hand, Doris had always done the proper, the expected thing, except when she’d invited Lee into her bed and her life. Before that, she’d drifted into marriage with Carl and so into the hardware business. Now she drifted again, still in the store, still in Woodbridge. If she weren’t careful, she might drift into a romance with Glenn (local banker), simply because he was unaccountably infatuated with her... (p 329)

    Doris reflects about women, ambition and aggressiveness, with Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn coming to her mind —

    ...they had careers and were proud of them. No advice columnist told them to play dumb so that their males would feel smarter nor were they told to talk only of the men’s interests, so as to flatter them.What happened to us, Doris wondered.

    She thought of women she knew — Vivian who could have mobilized armies, Charlotte Domingo who did hard physical labor that would tax many men. Her mother-in-law, in spite of frivolity and occasional silliness, had a good business head and sharp mind. ¶ Doris told herself not to be too modest. The hardware business had more than doubled since she took over. Some of it could be attributed to post-war prosperity and the building boom, but she’d done a good job. A damn good job. She’d done it alone and could continue that way. If she did remarry, it would have to be a man who recognized her abilities and accepted her as a full partner. She would never step back into the shadows again. (p335)

    This selection of passages neglects the Balleau story (described in dust jacket copy, below), and a deranged murderer who is a threat to Doris. But it is the character of Doris, and her confidence born in part from her success with the hardware store, that is of interest here.

    From the dust jacket —
    Nineteen fifty. The half-century mark. The western United States could look both ways, as the rural, agricultural past tilted toward the urban future. It was a time of transition for the country and for four people, tied by the past and the present, whose stories unfold in both. Lee Jamison clings to romantic dreams of the mythical West even as he travels by car over asphalt highways. Always in motion, at fifty he’s beginning to feel the effects of that lack of connection. Doris Gooding’s life gets more complicated with the return of Lee, her former lover. A thirty-eight-year-old widow, she’s already dealing with the unwelcome attentions of two men, and terrified by the anonymous phone calls of another. Charles Balleau, seventeen, is always between — between adolescence and maturity, between his white and native heritage. He struggles with the unsolved murder of his sister five years before, and finds comfort and a surrogate grandmother in Charlotte Domingo. Over eighty and alone on her pony ranch, she lives the honest, rural life that hasn’t changed in generations, but is haunted by a secret from her past.

  87. Helen Tucker. No Need of Glory.
    Stein and Day, 1972.

    Political novel, in which Malvin Leak, proprietor of a hardware store, is selected to be Republican Party candidate for governor.

    Malvin Leak, age forty-five, graduate of the state university, major in business, served two years in the Army in World War II but never left this country, returned to Laurelton and opened Leak’s Hardware Store, which he still owns and operates. Baptist, married to Janetta Stiles, a Laurelton girl, and they have one son, Vic, age sixteen.

    Leak is a decent guy, who knows that there-but-for-the-grace-of-god he might have gotten into something like the same moral troubles as his Democratic opponent. He’s saved from winning the election when his opponent steps down, and is replaced by another. Hardware store owner as normal, non-extremist fellow — after all, in business, one deals with all types.

    Nice passage about his Philosophy of the Absurd at p129 —

    You see, I think everybody in the whole world takes himself and everybody else too seriously. And this is not a serious world, because the people in it are not sane, rational beings. Everybody has some kind of quirk. If they didn’t, we’d be all alike. It’s our quirks, our eccentricities, that give us individuality.. (A nice read; Tucker appears to have written several romance novels, from the mid-1970s and on through the 1980s.)

  88. Harry Turner. “Retail Romance,” in Urban Legends.
    London: Janus Publishing Company, 2005.

    Ned, a dispatcher at a taxi company, is in love with Marion, a clerk at a hardware store and, Ned felt, “a living demonstration of poetry in motion.” Due to his “crippling shyness,” he restricts his exchanges with her to those relating to his purchases. He comes in every day, buys things. They pile up in his apartment. Much of the story is in the form of lists, of things he’s bought, now crowding his front and bed rooms, the bathroom and “kitchenette” as well.

    “...perched on the arm of the said armchair, he contemplated the wreckage of his life. He was thirty-one, still un-married, hopelessly in love, in debt, the unhappy owner of more household hardware and do-it-yourself junk than you could shake a stick at, and still he had not spoken socially to his intended...”

    One day he goes to the hardware store to learn that Marion is gone.

    Entirety available (as of 3 August 2012) via Google Books preview, here. Publisher page for the author here.

    A comment —
    This story fits in with recent reading on clutter (Steve Baker, Jane Graves, Adam Phillips), particularly the psychoanalytic slant. Phillips writes that Our excesses are the best clues we have to our own poverty; and our best way of concealing it from ourselves, (the conclusion of Five Short Talks on Excess, in his On Balance (2010), and Looking, say, at the clutter of one’s desk it can sometimes seem the apotheosis of that wish that Freud saw as so insidious, the wish to frustrate oneself, ex Clutter: A Case History in Promises, Promises (2001). Frustration: one assembles tools, so as to have no time to use them; or enters the hardware store as if a monastery, to avoid the danger of relationships.

  89. Anne Tyler. Morgan’s Passing.
    Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

    blurb to Fawcett Columbine edition, 1996 —
    A tinkering, puttering sort of man, Morgan Gower works at Cullen’s hardware store in north Baltimore. He has seven daughters and a warmhearted wife, but, as he journeys into the gray area of middle age, he finds his household has become confusing, often tedious. Then Morgan meets two lovely young newlyweds under some rather extreme circumstances — and all three discover that no one’s heart is safe...

  90. Bernie Van De Yacht. A Man Walks Into A Hardware Store
    Solstice Publishing, 2017

    He has a traumatic past, it takes her to bring him out of it :
    “She thought about the first time he walked into her store. He was a man with a broken heart and a broken mind. He hadn’t let himself believe it and he was living as if nothing had happened. His mind wouldn’t allow him to go there. He believed that there was something he could do to make them come back, to somehow change the past — a past so devastating that he had retreated from the world.
          Until the day he walked into the hardware store and met her...”

    Not a lot of hardware store detail, but a hatred of Home De[s]pot throughout.

    from author’s page, at his business ProADR Looping & Voice Casting —
    “His first novel, A Man Walks into a Hardware Store, was published by Solstice Publishing in October 2017. It currently has over 445 reviews on Amazon, with an overall rating of 4.4/5. On Goodreads, it has over 1000 ratings with a 91% rating. It is currently in pre-production as an independent feature film.”

    several reviews at amazon : link
    @bernie_vdy at twitter : link

  91. Stephanie Vaughn. “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog,”

    in The New Yorker (June 5, 1978): 38-44. Later appeared in Vaughn’s short story collection Sweet Talk (New York: Random House, 1990), which was published in England as Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog (London: William Heinemann, 1990)

    The New Yorker abstract here.

    The narrator recalls her father presumably in the 1950s or early 1960s, now posted to a base near Niagara Falls where he has something to do with missile defense. He’s authoritarian and bossy at home, full of his reading on sundry topics. He teachers the narrator the military alphabet: Able for A, Baker for B. He drinks. Finally, his career falls apart (he calls a general a son of a bitch) and, after surviving (more or less) a risky walk over a frozen river, moves his family to Ohio, where he finds a liferaft in hardware. The hardware store passages are brief but significant in the sweep of the story —

    In the spring he resigned his commission and we went back to Ohio. He used his savings to invest in a chain of hardware stores with my uncle. My uncle arranged the contracts with builders and plumbers, and supervised the employees. My father controlled the inventory and handled the books. He had been a logistics officer, and all the skills he might have used in supervising the movement of land, air, and sea cargoes, or in calculating the disposition of several billion dollars worth of military supplies, were instead brought to bear on the deployment of nuts and bolts, plumbers’ joints and nipples, No. 2 pine, Con-Tact paper, acrylic paint, caulking guns, and rubber dishpans. He learned a new vocabulary — traffic builders, margins, end-cap displays, perfboard merchandisers, seasonal impulse items — and spoke it with the ostentation and faint amusement of a man who has just mastered a foreign language.

    The controlled hardware vocabulary that the father masters meshes with his constant reading about Eskimos and Arctic explorations. Hardware functions as a kind of anchor to the remainder of an unmoored life. (We learn near the end of the story that he’d survived a first-wave assault at Normandy.)

    I believe that all of the stories in Sweet Talk regard this family, and have ordered the book to find out. Thanks to AY for this reference and for this sideways introduction to a fine writer, new to me.

  92. Kurt Vonnegut. “Who Am I This Time?,”

    collected in Welcome to the Monkey House (1998 — originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post 244:1 (Spring 1972) : pp 82-83, 116-117 (need to check)

    He didn’t stay away from meetings because he had something else to do... He stayed away from all kinds of gatherings because he never could think of anything to say or do without a script. So I had to go down to Miller’s Hardware Store, where Harry was a clerk, the next day and ask him if he’d take the part... Somebody said one time that Harry ought to go to a psychiatrist so that he could be something important and colorful in real life, too—so he could get married anyway, and maybe get a better job than just clerking in Miller’s Hardware Store for fifty dollars a week. But I don’t know what a psychiatrist could have turned up about him that the town didn’t already know... (pp16, 17)

    The story was the basis of a 1982 American Playhouse presentation directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken, which I have not seen but that is remarked on by many.

    Vonnegut’s great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut Sr. founded a hardware store and wholesale operation in the 1850s. His own grandfather and father had become architects instead, but Vonnegut apparently worked in the family hardware business in the 1930s, when it was still going strong. The Indiana Historical Society has a thorough — and very good — piece on Vonnegut here (From a talk presented by Ray Boomhower... at a series on Indianapolis authors sponsored by the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library in 1994).

  93. Harold Whitehead. Dawson Black : Retail Merchant.
    Illustrated by John Goss. Boston: The Page Company, 1918

    frontispiece and title page, Harold Whitehead, Dawson Black (1918)



    Google scan of NYPL copy here. Both that scan and an archive.org scan of UC Berkeley copy (from which these images) available here

    Dawson inherits $8,000, decides to leave his job in hardware store, start up his own (by purchasing store owned by an acquaintance, without due diligence review). The novel tracks his education in the school of hard knocks, supported by wife, and friendly parties (including one competitor). Concludes with an expansion of the business into auto parts. From the introduction —

    Unfortunately, many books, excellent in their presentation of principles, ignore the human side, as it were, of business. I believe — nay, I am sure — that the influence of our home life is an important factor in the development of our business career. Our loves, our dislikes, our jealousies, our unfortunate, yet often lovable, unreasonablenesses are reflected in our business life. Our impetuous business decisions are often made through the subconscious influence of some dear one at home... I have tried to make Dawson Black a human being, not an automaton to go through a series of jerky motions to illustrate principles. I wanted him to do some things wrong and suffer for it, and some things right, and perhaps still suffer a little; but I wanted to make his business life REAL. I wanted the reader to say to himself, By Jove! I did just that same fool thing myself! And, underneath all this, I wanted to present a few of the principles of retail merchandising. I wanted to show that the result of the correct application of a principle was sure, and that a principle of retail merchandising is applicable to every kind of retail store — be it the little corner Italian fruit stand, or be it the largest department store in the country; be it hardware, drygoods, drugs, shoes, plumbing, or what not.

    An idea of the several registers of the narrative is suggested below. There is the conversation with Betty, followed by an exchange with his accountant Jock McTavish, with his Scottish brogue.

    pp26-27, Harold Whitehead, Dawson Black (1918)



    Each chapter of the novel teaches a business and personal moral. Hence, accounting details are juxtaposed with conversations between characters, even husband and wife. Lessons have to do with financing, credit, turnover, the value of salesmen, competition, listening to others, treatment of employees. Chapter 26, Fire and No Insurance (suspicious fire, but not large).

    pp84-85, Harold Whitehead, Dawson Black (1918)



    In the passage above, Dawson and the manager he’s kept on, Larsen, discuss Dawson’s poor treatment of a pencil sharpener salesman, who shortly after returns. The discussion here touches on the definition of a hardware store — a genre issue : what belongs in a hardware store, and does not? The salesman (a Mr. Downs, with the Cincinnati Pencil Sharpener Co.), suggests something along the same lines. Dawson —

    Well, I replied hesitatingly, it seems to me that a pencil sharpener is not just the thing for a hardware man to sell.

    Mr. Black, he responded, I am not going to try to persuade you what a hardware store should or should not sell; but I want to show you, with your permission, what you can make by handling this line. I have spent most of the day around here calling on some of the residents and other people. I have taken orders for eighteen of these pencil sharpeners. I will turn these over to you and you can deliver them and make the profit on them. (p86)

    The novel is a mix of conduct of life fiction, practical business knowledge, and drama (love, competition and even some violence and an unhappy end for one competitor).

  94. Jane Roberts Wood. A Place Called Shrub.
    New York: Delacorte Press, 1990 (and since reprinted by University of North Texas, 2000)

    summary —
    ...Lucy Richards (first met in The Train to Estelline) has returned home from a year of teaching. Trying to save the family hardware store and tend a tubercular aunt, Lucy contemplates the fate of old maids and maintains an inventory of available local suitors. There is no need for her concern, however, as Josh Arnold finds her after a three-year absence and sweeps away all objections. The newlyweds travel to Sweet Shrub, Ark., where Josh has a position as a school principal. Becoming acquainted with the various residents of their boarding house, they discover an incipient vein of bigotry against the black population, which is beginning to seek fairer wages and civil rights. Another concern is the fate of a foundling raised by a black woman, whose identity becomes confused as adolescent growth suggests that he may actually be white. Lucy is at her most appealing when she is still living with her family in Texas, and the reader is privy to her changing views of life and marriage. After she weds, there is more focus on Josh’s qualities and more straight narrative.
    (From Publisher’s Weekly, and Amazon product description.)

    Not much about hardware stores, save for letting one decline by letting things go... (pp 39-41).

    Second volume in a trilogy that also includes The Train to Estelline (Ellen C. Temple, Austin, 1987) and Dance a Little Longer (Delacorte, 1993)

  95. Thomas Zigal. Recent Developments,

    in Lyman Grant, ed., New Growth: Contemporary Short Stories by Texas Writers (San Antonio: Corona Publishing Company, 1989): 233-51

    In brief: Melissa Sims is 45, a photographer whose work has changed over the years, the shift in aesthetics vaguely matching the changes in her troubled life, and is now focusing on clean urban architectural views, e.g., chimeric reflections from the grids of glass panelling downtown (maybe Dallas). There’s some new interest in her work, in New York, where she’s sent sheets of her slides. It happens that her NY gallery rep is mugged and loses her bag with the slides. Melissa shrugs if off, has dupes. But someone finds the slides, with her address on the sheets, and returns them.

    The someone is a homeless WW2 veteran, who starts writing to her because she’s from his home state, Texas. He observes that she must be a morning person, because there are no people in her photos. His one-sided epistolary account about his hardships gets her to reflecting about her superficial life, and contemplating ways to change it. As she tells her mother, I’m not who I wanted to be at this point in my life. The veteran dies; because he’d listed her as next of kin, a dufflebag of his effects arrives. Melissa goes through the objects one by one. She sells her photography gear and other stuff, and volunteers to work at a mission.

    The hardware store passage regards Melissa’s memory of a family trip to a Mexican border town, where her father can’t understand why a beggar to whom he gives some change one night, is there begging again the next: A simple man who’d run a hardware store most of his life, he couldn’t fathom why his dollar and a half hadn’t eradicated the poor woman’s misery. (241).

30 June 2023