Bill Petrocelli

News, Notes, Tweets, & Opinions

A quick look at upcoming events and news items

November 3 — National Kidney Foundation Lunch

I will be one of the speakers at the National Kidney Foundation Lunch in San Francisco on November 3  at the S.F. Marriott Marquis. I’ll be talking about what goes into writing a novel like Through the Bookstore Window. This is a very prestigious event and probably the largest of its kind in San Francisco. Am I excited about this? You betcha!

September 27 – Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference

I will be on the faculty for the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference which runs from Thursday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Sept. 30. This is the 25th year of this annual Conference, and it has produced some great mystery writers. You get to work with lots of editors, writers, agents, publishers, but you also have a chance to hang out with cops, D.A.s, and coroners and find out how they do their jobs.

May 24 — Event at Laurel Book Store

I will be at Laurel Book Store at 14th & Broadway in downtown Oakland for Through the Bookstore Window on Thursday, May 24, 6:30 pm. This is exciting! I was born in Oakland, and my first job was about two blocks away.

Behind the Bookshelves

It started in a bookstore

The first Human Rights movement started in a bookstore. On May 22, 1787, twelve people gathered in London to begin a process that would lead to the end of the British slave trade. It was the first time that any group had ever been formed to protect the rights of other people — not just the rights of themselves.
Bookstores have a long tradition of independent thinking, and they have often served as gathering places for their communities.

Hold the Presses!

When a book becomes a major news story, local news services often run to local bookstores to see what the story feels like on the ground. That was the case with Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury when the news hit the fan in January. That’s when this photo began its world-wide journey from Book Passage.

Who Needs Publishers & Bookstores? Just about Everyone

An idea has taken root in certain quarters that publishers aren’t necessary. And for that matter, who needs bookstores? According to this facile argument, they’re both are just relics of the pre-internet days. This is a very misguided idea.


Relentlessly Optimistic

I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Khizr Khan  at Dominican University for his book An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. Khan is probably the most sincerely optimistic person I have ever met, and his enthusiasm is contagious.  (If I knew the Pakistani word for mensch, I would insert it here.)

Through the Bookstore Window

Through the Bookstore Window is a novel that explores the grim effects of war, gun violence, and sexual abuse. But it is also a story about love that transcends age, gender, background, and – perhaps – the readers’ expectations.

“Bill Petrocelli dares to reveal in his searing new novel Through the Bookstore Window both sides of the ambivalent power of recollection. His lionness-hearted heroine, Gina Perini, survives the minefields of tribal memory in vengeance-torn Bosnia, only to have the terror follow her to a bookstore she opens half a world away, in San Francisco.”

Phil Cousineau, author of The Book of Roads and Wordcatcher

“It’s a rare mystery that can deliver so much in the way of pure emotional resonance. Bill Petrocelli’s Through the Bookstore Window is such a book. This is a thriller with a heart.” 

Janis Cooke Newman, author of A Master Plan for Rescue

“Bill Petrocelli knows books and bookstores. He also knows how to write a compelling, provocative, meaningful novel that will sweep you from San Francisco to Bosnia and back again, delivering chills, suspense and some profound thoughts on the power of love.”

Kelli Stanley, award-winning author of the Miranda Corbie series and City of Sharks

Buy a copy of the book

“Wounded by War, Saved by a Bookstore”

Book Review

by Muriel Dobbin, a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy Newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.

“Bill Petrocelli has written an often bleak but poignant account of a woman’s tragedy focusing on her desperate attempts to escape from the unspeakable. It is remarkable that she displays determination to elude terrorist killers after fleeing a vicious, war-torn situation in Dubrovnik. What is even more remarkable is that she clings to the memory of a baby girl who would now be in her teens — if she is still alive at all — given the circumstances of her birth. Gina has re-created herself as the eye behind the little bookstore window in San Francisco, but the past is and shall be always with her. “

Washington Times — March 18

“A bold exploration of lives joined by history.”

A great review of Through the Bookstore Window by FOREWORD REVIEWS:

“Through the Bookstore Window is a bold exploration of lives joined by history. The story features Gina Perini, an exile in San Francisco, whose life as a bookstore manager covers a troubling past in Bosnia, and Alexi Wilder, an abused teenager trapped in Indiana. When Gina responds to Alexi’s need, a serpentine thriller unfolds as both women run from their demons. . . .

Through the Bookstore Window is an unusual, rewarding take on the nature of memory: how it haunts and heals, how single moments set the future in motion, and how it binds survivors together in ways they seldom expect.”

An Introduction to Gina

Meet Gina Perini, the protagonist of Through the Bookstore Window. Gina escaped the war in Bosnia and is living in San Francisco under an assumed name to escape those who are still in pursuit. This first page of the book — in Gina’s own words — set the tone for the story. (A hint to to future readers: this excerpt could also serve as the last page of the story)

Read More Through the Bookstore Window

The Circle of Thirteen

How far do the ripples of violence go?  The Circle of Thirteen begins with a mindless act of family violence in 2008 and spans seven decades, finally culminating in the desperate effort by Julia Moro, the U.N. Security Director, to stop a major act of terror.  In this rich, textured thriller, Bill Petrocelli weaves the story around themes of poverty, political corruption, environmental disaster, and the backlash against the rising role of women.

Weaving back and forth in time, this gripping narrative illuminates the unbreakable bond between strong women, providing an emotionally grounded window into the future’s unforgettable history. This is a thrilling ride that will mesmerize until the end.

Praise for The Circle of Thirteen

“The Circle of Thirteen is a true celebration of the power of women in the face of great odds.”Lisa See, author of China Dolls and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

“A remarkable tale . . . fascinating and provocative”John Lescroart, author of The Fall and The 13th Juror

“A unique and thoughtful thriller”Martin Cruz Smith, author Gorky Park and Tatiana

“A fantastic, futuristic view of the reality that we may already have created”Katherine Neville, author of The Fire and The Eight

“A wonderful, uplifting thriller full of strong and unforgettable women”Abraham Verghese, author of The Tennis Partner and Cutting for Stone

Buy a copy of the book

Keeping Reality Out of the Way

The Circle of Thirteen is a work of future-fiction, and that presents some unique challenges.

The basic rules of character, tension, and pace are the same for any fictional thriller, but with future-fiction you have the problem of creating a world that is familiar enough to seem real but unfamiliar enough to create the feeling that it has not yet happened. The reader needs to be in a not-quite-comfortable place. This was a chance for my imagination to run – if not wild, at least at a controlled trot into the future.

Video of Bill Petrocelli with Isabel Allende

When Isabel Allende volunteered to be in conversation with me for The Circle of Thirteen on Sunday, October 13, at Book Passage, I knew I was in for something special.

I didn’t know how special until I heard one of the first sentences out of her mouth: “Who knew that Bill Petrocelli was a bigger feminist than Gloria Steinem!” Wow! (Did anyone ask Gloria Steinem how she feels about that?).

With a beginning like that, how could the event not be special. My very deepest thanks to Isabel for such a gracious interview.

You can see it here:

Five Ways Men Benefit from Women’s Empowerment

This is taken from a speech that I gave to the League of Women Voters of Marin County at Sausalito,…

Seven Questions Writers Should Ask Before Publishing

This is a reprint of an article that I wrote for on March 4, 2014 Years ago, the only…

Great Book Review!

Suspense Magazine says The Circle of Thirteen “offers an intriguing plot” that takes readers “on the ride of their lives.” …

Bill Petrocelli — Bio

Bill is the co-owner with his wife, Elaine, of the nationally known-bookstore Book Passage. Book Passage has three bookstores in California in Corte Madera, Sausalito, and at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Bill attended Oakland Public Schools and is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the U.C. Law School. In addition to several years in private practice, he served as a California Deputy Attorney General and as the head of a poverty law office in Oakland, California.

Bill served on the Board of the American Booksellers Association and as attorney for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, in which he successfully pursued a major price-discrimination suit against publishers. Recently, he was the plaintiff in a First Amendment case challenging a California law that threatened to interfere with the distribution of autographed books. The law was subsequently modified by the California Legislature.

He is a frequent advocate on women’s issues and on the problems of local businesses.

He is the author of four books.

  • Low Profile: How to Avoid the Privacy Invaders was published by McGraw Hill in 1980 and was one of the first books that talked about abuses of data collection by government and businesses and about the future implications of computerized record-keeping
  • Sexual Harassment on the Job: What it is and How to Stop it was co-authored by Barbara Kate Repa and published by Nolo Press in 1992. It was the first book published on the subject of stopping workplace harassment and sexual violence.
  • The Circle of Thirteen is a novel that was published in 2013 by Turner Publishing. The theme of the novel is the coming empowerment of women. Novelist Lisa See called it “a true celebration of women in the face of great odds.”
  • Through the Bookstore Window is a novel published in March 2018 by Rare Bird Books. Foreword Magazine calls it “an unusual, rewarding take on the nature of memory: how it haunts and heals, how single moments set the future in motion, and how it binds survivors together in ways they seldom expect.”


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