Most of you reading this know him, or know of him.
One of the myriad of Killer Year authors, which I guess needs to be known as "Killer Year 2007" because apparently, it’s a franchise now and there’s going to be a Killer Year gaggle every year.
Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that. I want to talk about Marcus Sakey. And I really hope this gets read by people who don’t know about him. If you’re already aware of Sakey, please forward this permalink to someone who doesn’t know about him.
So… Marcus Sakey. You’re probably thinking he’s my buddy, right? Because the only thing more common in the mystery community than a book with a dead body is pimping one’s friends.
But guess what? I’ve never met Marcus Sakey.
And I doubt he has any idea who I am, nor does he care. The first time I ever heard of him was at Thriller Fest last July. He was part of a panel that I was taking in. I’ve never even read his book THE BLADE ITSELF. Well, all of it, anyway. Let me explain.
I saw Sakey on this panel and I knew that he was a good writer. Very, very good. Just by listening to him. By hearing the way he talked about writing. See, the people who get it – who truly get writing, they talk about it differently than the rest of us, who are simply trying to convince people we know what we’re doing.
Afterward, I was mentioning my impression of Sakay to someone and one-thing-led-to-another and suddenly I had an ARC of THE BLADE ITSELF in my hand. At least I think it was an ARC. It was loaned to me. "Here, read it and give it back," the person told me.
I went to the Biltmore lobby and started reading. At page forty-seven, the person walked up and said, "I need that back. I’m not supposed to show it to anyone." So I never finished. Never even got to page forty-eight. And those that have been lucky enough to read the book, you know that page forty-seven is NOT where you want to stop reading!
After that, I checked out Sakey’s web site, read some Q&A’s with him, read his thoughts on writing, read a couple of excerpts from the book. And after all that and those forty-seven freaking pages, I knew that Sakey wasn’t just a great writer…
He has the combo platter.
See, there are great writers. And there are great storytellers. And every once in a very rare while, God looks down and hands the combo platter to someone. A great writer AND a great storyteller. You may think there’s a lot of them out there, but guess what – you’re wrong. And I know a few of you believe great storytelling is great writing and vice-versa… I used to think that, until I read each without the other.
Now, I love a good story. If it’s written well, or even just decently, I’ll go with it. But I also love reading great writers. Even if the story sucks, I admire the greats and their way with the language, the imagery, setting. The NYTBSL is packed full of great storytellers. And every so often a great writer manages to make the list as well.
But damn, when you come across someone with the combo platter, it is as good as it gets. And to find a new writer with the CP, well, I am just really, really excited.
Some of you might think I’m overstating, but… you’re wrong. You can cruise writer web sites and see how few great writers are out there, even fewer with the combo platter. Actually, most greats have little or no web site content. The writers with pages and pages of fancy 411 on themselves are usually not that great. They’re compensating. Just look at their "advice for aspiring writers" sections. It’s all rehashed bullshit, the same blatherings just reworded. Not that they’re not great people, now, but we’re talking craft. Art, even.
Oh, by the way, I’m including myself in all this. I am not a great writer. I think I’m a pretty decent storyteller, but I have a long way to go to be a great writer. And my stuff for aspiring writers – other than the Hollywood business part of it – is all rehashed bullshit. Hell, it’s pretty much all bullshit.
Anyway, look at some random writer’s advice pages. Then look at Sakey’s. Read some random to-be-published writer’s excerpt of his or her opus, then read Sakey’s. Look at his writing and storytelling – his use of the language, his dialogue, his ability to give vital character and/or story information without one extra word. Notice how visceral his telling of the story is. How he is able to keep his imagery so strong without ever being overpowering or overwrought.
And if you want a nice reality check, do what I did: after all that, look at your own stuff. Chances are huge that you’ll be like me, and realize you’ve got a lot of work to do. Unless you’re some full-of-yourself asshat. Then life is great all the time. Good on ya.
Do I sound a little angry in this post? I don’t mean to be. But maybe I am. I guess I’m a little jealous of Sakey’s talent… but actually, I’m not. I’m excited by it. I’m turned on by it. I’m inspired by it.
What it is, is I’m pissed off at myself. I know a large number of you don’t give a shit about great writing so long as the story works. And a lot of you can’t stand reading amazing prose if there’s no story to grab you. As stated, I can enjoy both. I guess it’s because the combo platter is so rare, that I’m used to settling as a reader. Taking what’s out there. So then, when I do find it – especially in someone without a dozen books under their belt – it makes me look in the mirror and think: perhaps if I had understood earlier, or worked harder, studied more, pushed myself more… maybe I could’ve had the combo platter.
But I doubt it. I think it’s even more rare for it to be learned, as opposed to a God-given gift.
Okay, let’s end this rant. Marcus Sakey. He’s not just another debut author, he’s something special, folks. If you don’t agree, guess what – you’re wrong. He’s got the combo platter, and in the coming years everyone’s going to realize it. I can’t wait for Left Coast Crime so I can buy the book and finish THE BLADE ITSELF. Yes, I know I can order it from Amazon, but I’m really trying to get off my Internet-induced-fat-ass and buy more from independents. Whether you buy from Ammy or an indy, buy THE BLADE ITSELF, and learn while you’re entertained.
Feel free to comment all you want about how great Marcus Sakey is, or what an asshat I am, or anything else specific to this post. But I’m asking you, no, I’m telling you, don’t start listing all the other authors you think have the combo platter. Save that for another post, or another blog. It would be disrespectful to Sakey and this post, and this blog. And I’m pissed off enough that I’ll probably just go in and delete them.
As always, Floyd Landis is innocent. If anyone knows an investigative journalist, please send them here.