Thursday, December 31, 2009


Confining end-of-year discussions/reminisces to just those things associated with the printed page, it’s been, comparatively, a quiet year, at least here in the states. (Well, there was that little dust-up regarding the State of Ohio’s head-shaking library funding crisis…)

The book-a-year schedule continued apace (Art in the Blood in 2006, Head Games in 2007, Toros & Torsos in 2008) with the publication of Rogue Males, my second collection of author interviews that appeared in May of this year from Bleak House Books.

In France, Head Games (retitled The Head of Pancho Villa) was published by Belfond to extremely enthusiastic reviews. Toros & Torsos will appear in translation in France in fall of 2010, and Print the Legend, it appears, may be published the following spring by Belfond.

Despite promises to the contrary (I swore in several interviews I gave that Rogue Males represented my last venture into author interviewing), I came out of retirement several times this year: Once to interview Megan Abbott for Mystery News; a three-handed interview with Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman and Allan Guthrie that appears in the ARC of the Bruen/Coleman collaboration Tower, and a fourth interview with James Ellroy regarding his new novel Blood’s A Rover — an interview that appeared in Mystery Scene’s autumn edition.

I closed out the year with two, last, rather unusual interviews — the first with actor Tom Stechschulte who does such a superb job dramatizing my novels for Recorded Books.

The second was a bit still more unusual: at the invitation of Keith Rawson, Charlie Stella and me interviewed one another regarding our respective 2010 releases for the revived version of Crime Factory — a piece that will appear sometime early next year.

This waning year was also the one where more people seemed to catch up with Toros & Torsos, the second novel in the Hector Lassiter series, than caught it during its release cycle in late ’08, actually putting it on a few 2009 “Best of Lists” including that of Woody Haut, who also penned a very insightful review of Toros late in the year.

For my part, I delved into more crime novels this year (hundreds, really) than I have in quite a few years. There were a few gems, but the two that seemed to stick with me the most strongly were nonfiction books: Richard Rayner’s A Bright and Guilty Place, and John Buntin’s L.A. Noir, both highly recommended.

It was a year, really, that also seemed to find me on the road a good deal more than previous years. We went some new places and made some new friends.

At a book event on the outskirts of Cleveland earlier this year, I met the great Jen Forbus for the first time. We caught up again a bit later in the year in Indianapolis at Bouchercon where I got a first-hand look at her amazing collection of Six-Word Memoirs.

In the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, I participated in an April book event that featured Harlan Coben and Lisa Scottoline — the entire town of Martinsburg read Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Lisa and Harlan were charming, funny…inspiring.

At Chicago’s Printer’s Row Festival, I got to hang out with a number of fine crime writers including 2009 Anthony and Barry winner Julie Hyzy at the Mystery Writers of America tent, signing some books and watching MWA’s Margery Flax exhibit superhuman self-control in not slaying a would-be musician peddling CDs. The CDs appeared to be of a three-song repertoire pouring out of speakers aimed directly at the MWA tent. I also learned that Chicago, in June, can be exceptionally cold and rainy.

While in the Windy City, I spent some quality time with Judy Bobalik who introduced me to what may be the world’s smallest public elevator. It was at Printer’s Row where I also first met the wonderful Helen Simpson of Big Sleep Books.

Next it was a run west on I-70 to Indy and Bouchercon. There I met or renewed acquaintances with a host of fine fans, booksellers and authors…finally got to meet the great Gary Phillips and shared a memorable walk with Gary to the Lee Child party across town. We shared more great times with Judy Bobalik and I finally got to meet Anthony Neil Smith, who is, in some ways, the godfather of Hector Lassiter (the character was created in answer to a call for submissions for a “High Pulp” edition of the Mississippi Review that ANS was guest-editing some years back).

After interviewing him several times, I finally got to meet Michael Connelly in person, as well as the great Shannon Byrne.

I spoke to a group of fiction enthusiasts in Mount Sterling, Ohio and I rounded out the year speaking at the Ohio Writers Association annual conference in Mansfield, Ohio.

About that same time, we at last secured the official artist for the graphic novel of Head Games to be published by First Second (tentative date: autumn 2011); I’m bowled over by the early art I’ve seen and crazy to see more.

Late fall also led to a crossing of paths with the sublime Tom Russell, to whom I dedicated my first novel, Head Games. Tom, a Rogue Males interview subject, gave a wonderful, funny monologue about Head Games and Rogue Males in the midst of a stellar set spotlighting songs from his must-hear new album, Blood and Candle Smoke.

So, as 2009 winds down, attention turns to novel number three, Print the Legend, a historical literary thriller that explores the death of Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho in July 1961.

Print the Legend finds crime novelist Hector Lassiter — “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives”… “the last man standing of the Lost Generation” — traveling to Idaho in 1965 to investigate his best friend’s death. The novel comes very directly off the end of Toros & Torsos and introduces a young woman close-eyed readers will remember first being name-checked in Head Games a couple of times.

The novel has already received a number of very gratifying write-ups from the trades (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Booklist) as well as from a number of online reviewers. (Here, here, here and here).

Print the Legend will debut on Feb. 16, 2010 but is available for pre-order at all the usual venues.

I’ll also be appearing in some places here and there in the coming year to talk about the new novel. Confirmed so far are appearances at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX (Saturday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.); and at BookPeople in Austin, TX (Sunday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m.). We’ll also be making a run to Poisoned Pen in Arizona (date and time pending); other venues will be announced soon at my web site.

We’re now readying Hector number four for publication in winter 2011: a novel about Hector’s World War II experiences titled, Roll the Credits. With some luck, that same fall will at last bring the Head Games graphic novel.

After a short break for the holidays, we’re resuming the Print the Legend contest. Simply sign up for my newsletter (no worries, we won’t bury you in posts), for a chance to win signed copies of various of my books.

Finally, and most importantly, a heartfelt thank-you to all the readers, reviewers, critics and librarians who have enjoyed the books, taken the time to write about them, or to hand-sell/recommend them to customers and patrons. It’s a damned harsh environment out here now for writers of any type, and the terrain seems to be getting still-rockier.

Every writer owes you a debt beyond the possibility of repayment. You make what we do possible.

Here’s to an even better, brighter 2010!