Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A MYSTERY


This August, Judy and I were invited to attend and participate at the Killer Nashville Convention (August 22 to 25), which brings together Southeastern mystery aficionados. It’s one of the three largest regional mystery conventions, the other two being Left Coast Crime (covering west of the Rockies and the West Coast) and the New England Crime Bake. The super daddy, of course, is the Bouchercon Conference, bringing together mystery people from around the country at differing locations each year.

I was first invited to Killer Nashville back in 2011, but this year it will be an even more special event for us as we’ll get to finally meet and spend time with Connie Dial (DEAD WRONG), David Freed (FANGS OUT), Gwen Florio (MONTANA), and Baron Birtcher (RAIN DOGS). Chris Knopf, (a good friend since we first started publishing him eight years ago, and whose consistency and inventiveness have elevated him to the top tier of mystery writers) will also be attending with CRIES OF THE LOST. All are masterful story-tellers and each of their latest mysteries are represented on our 2013 list.

Our pleasure is somewhat akin to on-line dating: one corresponds with a host of people, winnows some out and then begins to know those writers we take on through emails to start, then phone conversations, eventually leading to kinship and falling in love. Finally, we go out on a date together. How grand is that? As good as the last episode of The Bachelor!

Two other authors we’re publishing this year are Len Rosen (THE TENTH WITNESS) and Howard Owen (THE PHILADELPHIA QUARRY). Each had other commitments, but both will be attending Bouchercon along with several of the folks joining us at Killer Nashville.

We’ve never discriminated against mysteries. Judy and I are just looking to find excellent novelists, regardless of category. From a handful of mysteries every year, 2012 changed the balance: eight of our 16 releases were mysteries, and in 2013, eight of our 14 releases are mysteries. These were simply among the best of the 5,000 queries and submissions we received in those years. I can only speculate how this came about, attributing it to the collective impact our mystery writers have had. As each of them have gathered readers, reviews, and honors, new mystery writers, and their agents, submit more quality fiction to us.

Among the seven Chris Knopf mysteries we’ve published two were finalists for the Connecticut Book Award, and his 2012 release, DEAD ANYWAY, was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the 12 Best Mystery/Thrillers of 2012 . It was also listed as one of the Top 100 Novels by Kirkus (along with Connie Dial’s FALLEN ANGELS). David Freed, working as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, was an Individual Pulitzer Finalist and shared a Pulitzer Prize with the Times itself for coverage of the Rodney King riots. He also received excellent reviews for FLAT SPIN in 2012 and FANGS OUT this year. Howard Owen’s OREGON HILL, published last year, is a finalist for the Hammett Award this year, as well as a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s 16th Annual Award for Virginia writers. Like David Freed, Howard is also a journalist.

Then there is Gwen Florio and MONTANA. Gwen is another journalist who has been nominated for three Pulitzer Prizes, from the Missoulian this year (investigating an alleged rape of two young women by the University of Montana’s football team), and from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1997, and the Denver Post in 2001 for feature stories from locations as various as the American West, the Navajo Nation and Afghanistan. In 2012 Len Rosen won the Macavity Award for ALL CRY CHAOS, was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and also for the Anthony Award, and was a Chautauqua Prize finalist as well.

Journalists who work hard at their craft seem to make extraordinary mystery writers, as they get a first-hand look at life in all its down and dirty places. Connie Dial, was never a journalist, but having been the Commander of the Hollywood Division of the LAPD she shared that same first-hand familiarity. Mix in Pulitzer prizes and awards by ones peers and it’s easy to see why we take great pride in our writers and believe we have as good a cadre of mystery writers as any publisher, large or small, in America. Most mysteries are like most movies—they are published and filmed for the widest audience, which means lots of action, car chases, thrills, skin-deep characters, and over the top violence. Are there other good mystery writers who are published elsewhere? Of course there are. There are also many overly praised ones from “name brand” authors well covered in the national media. But when you have a core group like Len Rosen, David Freed, Connie Dial, Howard Owen, and Jaden Terrell, who wrote two outstanding mysteries last year (RACING THE DEVIL and A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT)—along with newcomers—it’s my contention that 100% of our mystery writers are exceptional.

So how we got to where we are is, perhaps, not such a mystery after all: it’s a result of fine writers coming to us and carrying the weight of  our overall success as publishers.

Judy and I are indebted to one and all.

I invite your comments and also hope you will check out the latest Newsletter on The Permanent Press website.

Marty

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