James R. PrestonJames was a mystery fan long before he started writing mysteries. From those early days:

It was the summer before junior high, a time when the first dim feeling that you won't be a kid forever begins to appear. I was walking down Main Street in El Segundo, CA and entered the R&B Drug store - a true drug store where you could buy anything from sundaes to small appliances. I headed straight for the paperback rack. That's when I saw it. A new book.

I made my way up to the counter. The gentleman at the register took one look at the cover, pushed it back at me and said, "Oh, you don't want that."

I may have only been a kid but I knew what I wanted. "Oh, yeah," I said, "this is a new book and he writes stories like Ian Fleming only better and . . . "

I went on until the gentleman wanted my forty cents more than he wanted to save me from a lurid cover. The book was Murderer's Row by Donald Hamilton and I still have it.

It seems I came by that trait honestly. Years earlier, when real department stores had real book departments, my mother took me to Robinson's in downtown Los Angeles. I was cranked up because their book department sold hardbacks and I had five dollars my grandmother sent me for my birthday. I found a Complete Sherlock Holmes but the lady behind the counter refused to sell it to me. "We have a fine Boy's Sherlock Holmes," she insisted.

Too young to prevail, I stood mute until my mother came with her purchases and told the clerk what I could not articulate: "He's already read The Complete Sherlock Holmes. He just wants it for his collection."

I still have that one, too.

Where does James gets his ideas?