Monday, January 6, 2014


Following up my last blog on  December 11 ( AN OFFER THAT YOU CAN’T REFUSE, I Hope ) I wanted to end any suspense about who will be joining Judy and me as a working partner at The Permanent Press. It’s Chris Knopf, one of the most respected, and award-winning mystery writers in this field, a part-time neighbor, and a friend going back nine years after we read his first manuscript, The Last Refuge. Jim Milliot, broke the story in Publishers Weekly on December 23. We couldn't be happier, for Chris—being 17 years younger than we are—has all the skills to carry on after Father Time and Mother Earth conspire to put us underground.

Another item of significance concerns David Schmahmann’s novel The Double Life of Alfred Buber, which we began giving away in electronic format two weeks ago (and will continue to do so if you email us at Over two dozen people availed themselves of this offer and are passing it out to others they know. But there is now another significant development: in an email addressed to David on December 22, Victoria Alexander, who heads the Dactyl Foundation, wrote that “I am very pleased to inform you that your novel The Double Life of Alfred Buber has been chosen to receive the 2013 Dactyl Foundation Award for Literary Fiction. At Dactyl Foundation we understand that literary fiction is slow-growing and takes time to find its audience. Unfortunately, award competitions favor new books; they do not consider three-year-old novels, and reviewers are not generally interested in what came out last year. To help remedy this situation, Dactyl Foundation created Dactyl Review to provide exposure for and to award undersung works of literary fiction, those books which have not been properly recognized by the existing award / review / publishing system. Your $1,000 prize will be sent to you in care of your publisher. Thank you for accepting this award.

“Charles Holdefer nominated your novel by submitting a very nice review to Dactyl Review, our literary fiction community website. We hope that you will participate in the Dactyl Review community by nominating an author whom you admire by submitting a review.  Our goal at Dactyl Review is to build a community of literary writers who support each others’ work.”

How unusual—and proper, I think—is their take on awards without limiting it to year of publication. I urge any of our novelists(and others as well) to support them by sending in reviews of literary fiction they admire, and ultimately offer your own literary fiction for review. If interested, go to their website and contact Victoria at

Just days ago, Judy and I were wondering how it was that we eventually came to publish novels 95% of the time. My belief is that in any culture, at any age, the vast majority of the great books that are handed down, decade after decade and century after century are fiction. Following  Homer’s The Iliad and his sequel, The Odyssey, came the great novelists of  yesteryear: Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Gogol, Dickens, Chaucer, Jane Austin, Fitzgerald, Boccaccio, Umberto Eco, Dante, Italo Calvino, Rabelais, Hugo, Stendahl, Balzac, Halldor Laxness, Cervantes, Márquez, Kundera, Mark Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Poe…the list is endless. So if one’s interest lies in discovering novelists who have the talent to write exceptional fiction, why not cultivate and publish them and hope some of them will make a contribution to our culture—which surely needs a lift, given the great decline in fiction in general and the astronomical rise in non-fiction, which includes celebrity bios and countless “How-To” books—how to lose weight, make money, find partners, find serenity, find God, evaluate collectables, write screenplays, prevent aging… this list is endless, as well, and unlikely to survive the test of time.

Judy’s take is quite different, and her reading interests more eclectic than mine (she’s currently reading the second volume of Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize series about Lyndon Johnson, each over 600 pages in length), But she sees a decided difference between fiction and non-fiction. Reading non-fiction she is a more detached observer, but when reading a good novel, she “enters” the world of the book and become more emotionally involved with the characters.

Judy suggested that my next blog should list some of our favorite Permanent Press titles published over the past 35 years, and I think that should be a worthwhile challenge.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, in mid-2013, three of our mystery writers received impressive awards: Jaden Terrell’s Racing the Devil was a finalist for the  Shamus Prize, Howard Owen’s Oregon Hill won the Hammett Prize, and Chris Knopf’ s Dead Anyway won the Nero Award. But last year was even more rewarding than that since, as the clock ticked down on 2013, there were several more honors in store for our authors. In addition to the Dactyl Prize for The Double Life of Alfred Buber, Amy Steele, in her blog Entertainment Realm, listed her Top 20 Books for 2013, and three of our novelists were on it: Emma McEvoy’s The Inbetween People; Daniel Klein’s Nothing Serious, and Gwen Florio’s Montana. Hallie Ephron listed Leonard Rosen's The Tenth Witness as one of the Top 8 Mysteries of 2013 in The Boston Globe. This was followed up by Montana being listed among the Great Falls Tribune as among the Top Ten Montana Books (only three of which were novels), and, Library Journal choosing Chris Knopf’s Cries of the Lost as being one of their Five Best Mysteries of 2013.