Thursday, January 1, 2009

Stuff

A bunch of stuff to reflect on.

Usually I try to keep this blog nonpolitical, but have to give my editorial view of the biggest ripoff any of us have ever seen. In 2008 a bunch of greedy SOBs betting on mortgage defaults helped drive the economy into a deep recession and the stock market into free fall, resulting in millions of lost jobs, and millions having their retirement funds cut in half or worse. The bailout plan, which seemed to make sense--buy out bad mortgages so the banks can start lending again, was badly bungled with the plan changing into giving billions to banks without any oversight or accountability. These SOBs should be going to jail over what happened, but they won't. The one glimmer of hope we have is that soon Bush will be out and Obama in. Can't happen fast enough.

2008 was also a year of major contractions and changes in the publishing industry, none of which bodes well for authors. We've heard a lot of reasons why this happening: the bad economy, more people playing video games or spending their reading time on the Internet, people with less free time in general, less readers, the effect of the Internet in creating a massive flea market/used bookstore which is cutting deeply into new book sales, the decline of brick & mortar bookstores. All of these may or may not be real factors. I don't know. My gut tells me that society is better off with brick & mortar bookstores run by people who care about books, and that these stores need to be supported. I also think publishers would do better if they trusted their readers more and tried to publish good books as opposed to what they think are the most "commercially viable". Editors need to be making decisions instead of marketing boards. Somehow publishers need to once again look at books as books as opposed to a commercial packages. Until they do I don't think things are going to get better for these publishers.

I read some really good books in 2008. 4 of Derek Raymond's fantastic factory series books. Crimini, an anthology of noir stories by Italian authors. Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman, as well as the finished draft of very dark but excellent Gold Medal-type book that Ed recently completed, Cottonwood by Scott Phillips, Dirty Money by Richard Stark, Somebody Owes Me Money by Stark's alter ego, Donald Westlake. And quite a few others.

2008 was also my year of living dangerously (and what a year to choose to do this!). I quit my job at the end of 2007 to write full time, more on how I expected Pariah to do than Small Crimes. I always felt readers would like Small Crimes if they knew about it, but it's such a crapshoot putting books out, more and more these days with less newspaper review space than ever before. A lot of good books get published that just never get the attention they deserve. I got lucky, though, with Small Crimes. Good London reviews, great starred review from Publisher's Weekly, some great web reviews, as well as readers who were excited enough by the book to blog about it, and a big thanks to all readers who did this-as well as to all reviewers for taking the time to read my book! I especially owe a huge thanks to Ed Gorman--this was a book he believed in early on, and he's been doing everything he can to get people to pay attention to it, including interviewing me recently for Mystery Scene. Still, even with all that going on it was looking like except for an early review from the Lansing State Journal I was going to be shut out of the US newspapers, but then an extraordinary review in the Washington Post by Maureen Corrigan, then her picking the book for NPR's best crime and mystery novels of 2008 seemed to turn the corner for Small Crimes.

Some Small Crime mentions. I was honored to see Small Crimes top Bruce Grossman's impressive "books that were great in 2008" list on Bookgasm. Also making Juri Nummelin's Best list on his Pulpetti blog, Vince Keenan's Best Books of 2008, C.T. Henry's top 10 reads of 2008 on his Mystery Bookshelf, and a really nice mention on DaRK PaRTY ReVIEW's favorites of 2008.

My writing goals for 2008 were to write 3 books. I slacked off and only wrote 2 1/2. I did end 2008 on a high note when I was approached to write an introduction for Seymour Shubin's next book, The Hunch. For those of you out there unfamiliar with Shubin, his 1953 "Anyone's My Name" is a noir masterpiece, every bit as great as Jim Thompson's "Killer Inside Me" (which was written the same year). Seymour Shubin has written some terrific crime novels--the Edgar-nominated "The Captain", Hardcase Crime's "Witness to Myself", "The Man From Yesterday", just to mention a few. "The Hunch" is a worthy addition to these excellent books, and it was an honor for me to write the introduction for it.

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