a newbie question about menus

I’ve been playing around with Drupal 7 for a few days now and have seen the learning curve first hand. 🙂 The issue I have is that I want to use a menu to open a node with a menu and use that menu to possibly open another menu. The example in my case is that I have a large catalog of Authors, Subjects, Titles, Characters, etc. When I click on a menu item I would like a menu to open directly underneath that has alphabetical tabs |A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z|. Possibly another set of tabs under that to further subdivide the listing. The listings would be located below that. I would also like to be able to change the menu to tab by popularity

This idea is to allow the user to quickly thumb through the listings. The problem is I don’t really know where I begin to look for information on how to do this. I would like to stick with 7 for now if possible because some of the modules I would like to use are not available for 8 yet.

Drupal version: 

Source: https://www.drupal.org/taxonomy/term/22/feed