Tag Archive for: Julia Bonatti

When I began writing the first Zodiac Mystery (The Madness of Mercury), I didn’t intend that the fictional Mystic Eye occult bookshop would become a recurring location.  I should have realized it would as the series went on.  After all, my San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, discovered her first astrology books there.  Her best friend Gale runs the shop and then later, Cheryl takes a job to manage the bookshop and becomes a dear friend.  On top of that, The Mystic Eye attracts a unique group of psychics, mediums, past life regression hypnotists who have become important secondary characters.



But back up a few decades.  Many years ago, there was a real Mystic Eye Occult Bookshop in San Francisco.  It was just down the street from the fictional one, on Broadway, and across Columbus Avenue.  I remember it well.  It was a one of a kind (at the time) occult shop, selling books, talismans, gifts, candle burning supplies and all sorts of other unique items.  I figured the real shop had been gone for so many years, it was safe to use the same name.  Who would remember?


Guess again – lots of people remember the real Mystic Eye with fond memories and somehow they’ve stumbled upon my books or a blog post about the shop and they’ve written to me about their experiences.  I was thrilled to hear from them!

Ron M. wrote to ask if the Mystic Eye (in the Zodiac Mysteries) had anything to do with the 1970’s San Francisco Mystic Eye Occult Bookshop, next to the Green Turtle Bus Company, owned by Aeryn who had a weekly radio broadcast. 

Susa said it was such a wonderful shop, full of books on magic and mysticism, incense and figurines.  She had a spontaneous mystical experience back in the late 1970’s, and being an Atheist, had no idea what had happened to her.  In trying to research it, she ran across the Mystic Eye.  She said, “I found more than books.  I found a community of Witches and Pagans that changed the course of my life.  I am forever grateful to that mysterious little shop and its staff, and still mourn its closing after all these years!”


Ron L. was a teenager when he discovered the Mystic Eye and would spend his hard-earned money on a book or a piece of jewelry.  He loved the fountain by the window and the candle burning in the center.  He made friends with one of the employees and later did a Tarot reading for her.  He said it was an amazing experience. 

Jem was only sixteen when she first discovered the Mystic Eye.  She was intrigued by the pentagram on the floor and bought her first spell candle that day.  Her path has been “many shades of magic” since then.

Robert L. used to work at the shop.  He wondered what happened to the zodiac mosaic in the floor where he was initiated.  He said, “If that circle could talk. . .” 

Pam went to San Francisco on vacation.  She fell in love with the shop and bought a crystal ball. 

Mo said he had heard there were rumors that the Zodiac Killer worked at the Mystic Eye in the 70s and 80s. 



Micah worked at the Mystic Eye and lived with Aeryn, the owner, from the time he was 14 until he went to college.  He took care of her until her death in 2014.  He said she was an amazing and knowledgeable woman, one of a kind. 

Pamela had her cards read at the Mystic Eye in the late 60’s or very early 70’s. She said the scent of that storefront was so unique, as was the shop itself.  Her husband made a pendant (an upside down cross) for the infamous Anton LaVey.  She said, “Yes those were the days!”

Blake remembered all the mirrors and cool stuff when he walked around North Beach, barefoot in a toga with dragons, tripping his brains out.

Nancy loved the shop and visited often.  She purchased incense, body oils, little pouches of magic roots and herbs.  She can still recall the aroma inside.

Scott loved the shop.  He bought incense and had spells removed.  He once bought a jar of incense that was labelled ‘5 plus cous-cous.’  He said, “How did we ever survive the Haight?  Maybe the 5-plus cous cous gave us eternal life.” 


All these memories!  I too remember the shop well.  I bought candles and a book on candle burning rituals.  Who knew that so many people would remember the real Mystic Eye? 

I only hope the fictional Mystic Eye delivers as many good memories for readers! 


(This post first appeared at Book Diva’s Reads on May 30, 2022.)






I knew when I started to write my first mystery that it should be set in San Francisco, a city noted for its artists, poets, musicians and writers, not to mention breathtaking views, dark alleys, secret stairways and FOG, lots of fog!  And I wanted my protagonist to have an unusual profession, one that would put her in touch with people from all walks of life.  That’s how my crime-solving astrologer, Julia Bonatti, came to life. 

I’m not alone, of course.  There are many San Francisco mystery and thriller writers who have lived in, or written about the city.  And many people have investigated where some of these famous writers actually lived, or used their own address(es) for their fictional sleuth(s), like Sam Spade.

For example, Jack London was born at 615 Third Street.  Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, worked at the San Francisco Morning Call at 612 Commercial Street, now the location of the Transamerica Pyramid.  One of my favorite locations is the Seal Rock Inn at 545 Point Lobos Avenue at Land’s End.  The Seal Rock Inn is still there and still welcoming guests, but for a long time, it was the residence of author and journalist, Hunter S. Thomson.  Thomson wrote Hell’s Angels (1967), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1972).  Those last books were written in Room 204, a room with a breathtaking view of Land’s End.  Thomson’s lines conjure up the setting: 

“Dawn is coming up in San Francisco now: 6:09 a.m. . . . at the Seal Rock Inn . . . out here at the far end of Geary Street: this is the end of the line, for buses and everything else, the western edge of America.”

He also wrote that listening to the 200 seals (actually sea lions) on the rocks at Lands End was a lot like spending the night in a dog pound. 

But my all-time favorite San Francisco author is Dashiell Hammett, who lived in several different apartments while he wrote The Maltese Falcon, The Continental Op, The Glass Key and other books.  Hammett lived at 620 Eddy Street in the early 1920’s.  He suffered from the Spanish Flu (his generation’s pandemic) and tuberculosis.  He was so worried about his wife and young baby, that he moved to 891 Post Street, Apartment 401 where he wrote Red Harvest, The Dain Curse and The Maltese Falcon, and finished The Maltese Falcon while living at 1155 Leavenworth, Apartment 2. 

If you’re interested in the works of Dashiell Hammett, check out Up and Down These Mean Streets, the website of Don Herron, a San Francisco mystery and thriller (particularly Hammett) enthusiast and expert.  And if you’re ever in the city, don’t miss his famous walking tours!

Hammett used the apartment at 891 Post Street for Spade’s residence in The Maltese Falcon.  And 20 Monroe Street is now re-named 20 Dashiell Hammett in his honor. 

Just before the Stockton Tunnel overpass is a well-known plaque that reads: 


My sleuth, San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti, lives at 366 30th Avenue, just a few blocks from the Seal Rock Inn.  I won’t reveal why I chose that address for Julia, but I can tell you she loves living close to the ocean and hearing the sound of the fog horns day and night! 


Julia Bonatti, my crime-solving astrological sleuth in the Zodiac Mysteries, writes an advice column, AskZodia, for her hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle.  Julia’s column stretches reality quite a bit because how many big city newspapers would have space for a ‘Dear Abby’ type of feature? 

Julia enjoys the work, but sometimes really struggles with some of the letters to Zodia.  Some are sad, some are heartbreaking and some are just plain worrying.  And Julia worries a lot about what she’s sending out into the universe in her column.  Here’s one example: 

Dear Zodia ~
My birthday is September 13, 1974 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  I’ve been married for 26 years.  I’m very unhappy and confused.  I care about my husband, he’s a good person, but to be honest, I’m bored.  Bored with him and with married life.  I’ve been thinking about telling him I want a divorce, but I’m really afraid what this will do to him.  Please tell me what to do.
                ~ Growing Older

Dear Growing Older ~
Your sign off name says a lot.  You’re afraid life is passing you by and soon it will be too late for adventure.  What you’re not telling me, and I know because Neptune is opposing your Sun sign, and over the last year or so, opposed your Venus, is that you are attracted to someone else.  Here’s the thing about Neptune transits: they can lend a great aura of mystery or fantasy.  Much if not most of this is not real.  Think very carefully about your choices because in time, you may regret leaving your marriage. 
Wishing you well ~
                ~ Zodia

And here’s another:

Dear Zodia ~
I’m at my wit’s end.  My mother’s new boyfriend is a complete creep.  He makes me very uncomfortable whenever he’s in our house.  I don’t want to be alone with him, and so far I haven’t been, but I’m afraid to be in the same room with him when my mother’s not there.  I’ve tried to talk to her about this, but she thinks I’m imagining things and trying to make her life difficult.  I don’t know what to do.  What should I do?  My birthday is May 6, 2004 in Berkeley at 3:20 p.m.
                ~ Creeped Out

Dear Creeped Out ~
Trust your instincts, no matter what anyone says.  Unfortunately, there are bad people in the world, predators, and some of them date women with young children for that very reason.  By all means, speak out about your concerns.  Your transits show a Pluto aspect to your Moon, this may indicate the difficulties between you and your mother right now, but no matter what astrology can tell you, always trust your instincts.
                ~ Zodia

But the really strange thing — I never wondered if there was a real AskZodia.  I no longer live in San Francisco but manage to visit a few times a year, so I don’t often get to read the Chronicle.  But one day at a street fair, I glanced at a newspaper and spotted the Chronicle’s astro column.  I was stunned!  Why hadn’t I discovered this before?  There is a REAL AskZodia!  His name is Christopher Renstrom, not Julia Bonatti, and he’s a famous astrologer, a real one, unlike Julia! 

I’d be willing to bet Christopher would have no problem responding to AskZodia questions.  After all he has a terrific new book out — The Cosmic Calendar: Using Astrology to Get in Sync with Your Best LifeSo I’m sure he’d offer some great advice and solve all of these AskZodia problems. 

If you’d like some real life astrology, check out Christopher’s website, follow him on Facebook and Twitter @rulingplanets.  You won’t regret it! 

And if you’d like to enjoy a good astrological murder mystery, don’t miss Julia’s first adventure in The Madness of Mercury