Blue Umbrella Books owner’s new novel aims to help keep shop open

Local author Russell Atwood has published a new novel, “Apartment Five,’ which is a haunted tale available at Blue Umbrella Books and

WESTFIELD – Russell Atwood’s new novel “Apartment Five is Alive” takes readers on a 187-page journey into an urban paranormal fantasy that soans 40 years.

Atwood, owner of Blue Umbrella Books, said the idea for this story has been in his head for several years and he wrote much of it last fall, but the COVID-19 shutdown and potential loss of his business inspired him to complete and self-publish the book.

“I have specifically written and published this new novel at this time to try and save Blue Umbrella Books from closing,” said Atwood. “We did not receive any of the relief we applied for and I turned to the only other thing at which I excel. The idea for the book has been building in my head for several years, but the desperation of these pandemic times fueled me to complete it.”

Atwood said paying the bills before the pandemic was a struggle, and COVID has made it even more difficult.

“Currently Blue Umbrella Books is facing eviction because our landlord wants us to pay rent for the four months we were closed by state mandate. We re-opened in August, trying to bounce back, but the fact is many people are still not going out,” he said.

Atwood is funneling all book sales back into his business and has also reactivated the shop’s Go Fund Me campaign.

“I wrote the book to do my best to save the bookshop by creating a product I could sell globally, not just locally,” Atwood said.
“Apartment Five is Alive” is not Atwood’s first book, but it was a labor of love.

“I used to be managing editor of Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine, and after I left there, I wrote my first novel “East of A,” a private eye mystery that was published as a hardcover by Ballantine Books in 1999,” said Atwood.  “Its sequel “Losers Live Longer” was published in 2009 by Hard Case Crime.”

Atwood’s latest offering is out just in time for Halloween.

“The new novel is a haunted house story,” he said. “The idea has been building in my head for several years, but last November local author Kelly Buffum hosted National Novel Writing Month at Blue Umbrella Books and I joined in and wrote the first three quarters. The last chapter, ‘Sleeping Witch,’ was written this September on a deadline to have the book self-published through Amazon and on sale by Oct. 1. This is not usually how books are produced, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And besides, it is a helluva story.”

Atwood has spent a lifetime in love with books and words and stories, all of which have inspired him.

“I’ve been a reader since I was eight, about that time I had some passionate teachers who showed me the beauty in words,” he said. “After that I think it was the TV show ‘Kolchak The Night Stalker’ because he was always typing on a typewriter. Much of this novel was originally written on a manual.”

Atwood said choosing a favorite book is difficult, but in honor of this time of year he said “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson is at the top of his list.
“Apartment Five is Alive” is available on and Blue Umbrella Books receives 70% of the sale price which is 19.99 for paper back first edition, 9.99 for Kindle edition.
Copies are also for sale at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main St.

“And the author will even sign them while supplies last,” said Atwood.

Blue Umbrella Books launched the return of its Buy One Get One Free Sale, starting Oct. 23 and running through November, “provided we are still open,” said Atwood. A local resident is sponsoring the sale and donated $500 in February to match every purchase made in the shop.

“Now she is doing it again,” said Atwood. “I know people want Blue Umbrella Books to stay open in Westfield. I am doing everything I can, but these are difficult times and better businesses than mine are going under. Nonetheless, we aren’t done yet. Sales of the new book are good.”

Atwood said one customer offered the following review of “Apartment Five is Alive”:

“If you’re in the market for the perfect little Halloween read, you should really check this book out! At only 187 pages, it’s not long, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It follows the ‘life’ of an apartment and its tenants over the span of 40 years. After housing and ‘loving’ a tenant who threw amazing Halloween parties every year, the apartment has grown to believe that EVERY tenant should do the same. When they don’t, bad things happen. It felt almost like a book of short stories because of the different characters. Truly enjoyed this one. Absolutely perfect for this time of year.”


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