About the Cliff Hanger

The mild-mannered Kevin Spall is The Cliff Hanger…

In his day job, Kevin Spall is President and CEO of Thomson Shore, a short-run book printer of case and soft bound books for various markets. But when Kevin hears from publishers and authors who tell horror stories of badly printed and produced books, that’s when Kevin becomes “The Cliff Hanger,” a hero who will not allow bad quality books to pass as the norm.  The Cliff Hanger works with his trusty sidekick, Booker the Well Read Rooster, to rid publishers and authors of all the problems they encounter when trying to make great books with modest budgets and tight timelines.

Kevin has worked for Thomson-Shore since 2009. Over his career, Kevin has held various roles in business development, operational, sales, and management in companies focused on the manufacturing and distribution of books (including RR Donnelley, Lightning Source, and Consolidated Graphics). Kevin has served on the Board of the Book Industry Study Group and is still an active member in this organization as well as the Green Press Initiative, serving as a member on the Environmental Council. Additionally, Kevin is a member of the Thomson-Shore Board of Directors and serves on the Board of the Scanlon Network which promotes employee involvement, business leadership and open-book management practices.

Kevin met his wife Rachel in college, and they have been together ever since with 4 kids ages 3, 4, 11, and 14. In spare time, Kevin and Rachel both paint and sculpt along with a variety of family activities which can hold the attention of both infants and teens… never an easy thing to do.

A Story About Booker (The Well Read Rooster)

Booker (The Well Read Rooster) is the Cliff Hanger’s constant companion and trusty sidekick. He travels the globe helping save the world from badly made books. So just how did Booker and the Cliff Hanger first meet? And how is it that a rooster from Dexter, Michigan became such a fan of reading?

Here’s the adventuresome story…

Booker lived on Craig’s farm where he was surrounded by a bunch of rambunctious roosters. Tina had a farm down the road where the henhouse was chocked full of hens, but they had no rooster. While talking in the lunch room at Thomson-Shore, Craig and Tina decided that Booker would make a fine addition to Tina’s flock of hens, so they arranged an exchange.

The next morning Craig brought Booker to Thomson-Shore in a cage in the back of his pickup truck. He parked the truck in the Thomson-Shore parking lot, and put the cage under the shade of a maple tree. When Tina came out to the parking lot to visit her new rooster, she was very impressed with his rust-colored plumage and dashing good looks. She knew her hens would be happy to meet Booker.

But Booker had other plans. No one had asked him if he’d like to move to a new farm. At his old farm, he spent his days in the yard with his brothers. And each afternoon, this nice little girl visited the chicken pen, where Booker stood beside her while she read books to him. She would say things like, “A is for apple, and B is for Booker.” Then she would read him all kinds of stories about things he’d never seen like cities, sail boats, princesses, and airplanes.

Now that he’d been taken away from the farm and seen the world outside his own chicken coop, he decided that he wasn’t going to be fenced in ever again, let alone go to Tina’s farm. That was when Booker began to craft a plan to outsmart Tina and escape to see the world.

A few hours later, when Tina came out to the parking lot to check on Booker, she noticed that both his food and water containers were flipped over, and Booker was panting slightly and looking dejected in the corner of his cage. Tina said, “Oh my, you poor rooster. You’re so hungry,” so she opened the cage to give him a little dried corn. That’s when Booker sprang into action. He rushed at the cage door with all his might, knocking Tina back in surprise. Without the chicken wire surrounding him anymore, he sprinted in a wild zigzag manner all around the parking lot.

In a matter of minutes, many people streamed out into the parking lot and chased Booker under Fords and over Jeeps. Booker felt wild and free as he darted and sometimes flew to keep out of their reach. Finally, Booker decided that he’d had enough running, so he flew into a tree just above a marsh next to the parking lot. He observed that the people who’d been chasing him for most of the afternoon looked rather exhausted, and they didn’t bother to follow him into the marsh. Instead they went back into Thomson-Shore, and a little while later came back out, got in their cars, and left. Booker was now alone in the tree, and while he wanted to be free, he began to feel scared as dusk settled on the marsh. He’d heard horror stories from his brothers about foxes and coyotes prowling the countryside at night. He also recalled the story the little girl used to read to him about Little Red Riding Hood and the hungry wolf in disguise.

Just after dark, when Booker could no longer tolerate the fear of what lurked in the marsh, he jumped out of the tree and quickly crept around the back of the Thomson-Shore building. There was a cool light coming from a door left ajar, so he peeked inside. Loud, rhythmic noises were coming from huge machines under a high ceiling. In the distance he saw large rolls of paper that looked like hay bales. Since it seemed safer to hide inside the building rather than worry about the wild animals outside, Booker snuck in the door, crept down an aisle, flew up onto a shelf and hid himself amongst the stacks of books. He decided he’d hide there and watch to make sure the door stayed open so he could escape before dawn.

As he looked around at the books beside him, he started to sound out the letters of the titles just like the little girl taught him. He saw books about a land called “A-L-A-S-K-A.” The scenery in that land looked lovely. He saw other books filled with drawings, text, and colors. One of the books was all about these fast machines called “M-O-T-O-R-C-Y-C-L-E-S.” Booker decided he really needed to ride on a motorcycle someday soon.

Throughout the night, he crept along the shelves and lost track of time while admiring all the knowledge in all those books. If he could just live amongst the books, he would be a happy bird. Eventually his “rooster sense” kicked in and he realized that dawn was approaching. He quietly crept out the back door and resisted the urge to begin crowing. He went back to the marsh and flew to a high branch in one of the willow trees, where he watched the cars as they began to fill the parking lot again.

Minutes later he heard a rumbling sound as a man on a black machine came rolling into the parking lot. The machine had two wheels and a sort of cart attached to the side of it. Booker exclaimed to himself, “Holy gizzards, it’s a MOTORCYCLE!”

Without hesitation, he flew down out of the willow tree, ran across the parking lot and jumped in the sidecar attached to the motorcycle as it rolled by. The man driving the motorcycle looked down at Booker in amazement, and Booker looked back at the man. The man had a kind face with sparkling eyes and a big smile. To Booker’s surprise, the man did not stop the motorcycle, but instead sped up a bit and cruised around the entire parking lot. Booker looked back at the man and joyfully crowed at the top of his lungs. It was like the man knew just what Booker was thinking because when the motorcycle approached the parking lot’s exit, the man pressed down on the throttle and headed out onto the open road.

Booker felt the wind in his feathers and thought “This is what eagles must feel like when they’re flying over the trees.” The man drove over hills and around curves with a glimmering smile on his face while Booker cawed and crowed.
When they arrived back at the parking lot, Booker thought that his gig was up, and Tina would surely put him back in his cage and take him to her farm. Instead when the motorcycle stopped, the man reached down, picked up Booker, put him on his shoulder, walked into the building, down a few hallways, up some stairs, and into a sunny office. He put Booker down on his desk and said, “Man, you must be hungry after such a big adventure.”

Then he gave Booker a bite of his bagel and sat down at his desk. Booker noticed an interesting book about “modern art” on the man’s desk, and he couldn’t stop himself from flipping through the pages with his beak. This caused the man to chuckle which in turn caused Booker to cluck happily. The two of them then proceeded to chuckle, cluck, eat bagels, and leaf through books for the good part of an hour.

When Tina eventually arrived at the man’s office door, Booker was not surprised. He had accepted the fact that he’d have to leave. Tina said, “Hi Kevin. I heard you caught my rooster there. I’ll just take him and put him in his cage.”

To which the man replied, “Tina, I’m afraid I can’t give you back your rooster. I’ve had such a fun morning with him. He likes to ride motorcycles and read books, which makes him a very special bird and the best sidekick I could ever want. Would you mind if I kept him?”

To which Tina replied, “Yeah sure, that’s OK by me. I’m sure Craig can hook me up with another rooster for my hens. It’s just a bird, you know. There are many more where that one came from.”

To which the man (whose name Booker had inferred to be “Kevin”) replied, “This bird right here is one of a kind, and I don’t intend to let him leave my side.”

And that’s how Booker (the Well Read Rooster) escaped life on the farm, learned to love books and motorcycles, and met Kevin Spall (otherwise known as the Cliff Hanger).