Mystery Writer Awesome
by Dave White
March, Sarah Weinman and I were strolling through New York City on our way to a
Laura Lippman signing. Another Thing to Fall had just been
released and Sarah and I were talking about how much Laura’s career had changed
in the past year. It was the first time
I’d seen her since she’d hit “The List” and I was excited to see if anything
had changed. (For the record, it hadn’t…
in a good way.)
As Sarah and
I talked, we became more and more aware of a certain level of celebrity in the
Mystery writer world. Let’s call it
reaching the level of “Mystery Writer Awesome.” What that is, specifically, is being a writer that your mystery writer colleagues’
love, but you haven’t broken out, haven’t hit the list. You haven’t become a household name.
It kind of
became a fun game to name names. Duane
Swierczynski, my mentor and favorite writer is Mystery Writer Awesome. My agent Al Guthrie is Mystery Writer
Awesome. I think Ken Bruen is Mystery
Writer Awesome. Jason Pinter is Mystery
Writer Awesome. Sarah said… and I quote,
“William Kent Krueger is a fan favorite, multiple
winner and nominee of Anthony Awards (including this year) but is almost
totally unknown outside of the Midwest mystery community.”
guys are fantastic writers. Their
stories are compelling as hell, page turners, and a ton of fun to read. And they’re willing to help out the mystery
community. They answer emails, are
willing to read your own work, and do anything they can to get you to be a
better writer as well. And if you’re a
fan, you have a secret. You’ve found a
fantastic writer and no one else knows about them. They’re yours. And yeah, you’ll tell your friends and family
about them, but you know you were a fan
of them first.
are, however, Mystery Writer Awesome Alumni like Laura. Writers who’ve since backed out of the
internet Mystery Community a bit. (Laura
still blogs, but her blog mentions her break-up with the internet.) Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, great writers
who’ve also hit it big. They’re not as
accessible, not always there to answer emails and serve up advice. Their books are great, but they are not there
for the reader anymore.
Writer Awesome writers are writers who most of us who follow the blogs love and
love to push on the blogs. But, let’s
face it, the blogs only push writers to other writers (and the few die hard
fans who actually follow the blogs). They don’t reach as much of a mainstream community of readers. And I think we as bloggers know this. By blogging, we’re only talking to a small
community. It’s almost incestuous.
happens when one of our Mystery Writer Awesome writers does break out? Do we get happy for them? (Of course, you say.) Or do we somehow become jealous and
Kind of like
when Metallica hit it big with the black album. The writers we love are no longer ours. They’ve sold out, they’re not as accessible anymore. They’re not ours. They’re everyone’s.
I hope Al,
Duane, Jason, Kent, and Ken break out and hit the Times list. Each one of them
have had some huge successes already, from other bestseller lists, to award
nominations, to comic book writing, and movie options. But they’re still accessible. They still blog and are still out there. They still feel accessible.
if they go away? All of a sudden, they
break out. What happens if your favorite
author becomes just a book and no longer a real person?
I, for one,
think I’ll still follow them. I’ll
probably still email and get less responses. And I won’t know all the cool writer details that are going on in their
lives as their careers go. But I’ll
still read them and anxiously and enjoy every word.
there be that little tinge of “I found them first.” And, part of me for sure, will still wish
they were Mystery Writer Awesome.
admit it. You will too.
So, what do
you think? Can you name anyone else who
is “Mystery Writer Awesome?” Or any
WHITE, born in 1979, is among the youngest winners of the Derringer Award. He
has contributed to many anthologies and collections, including The Adventure of the Missing Detective
and Damn Near Dead. His first novel, When One Man Dies, was published in
2007. His second, The Evil That Men Do will be released on June 17. Dave lives in New Jersey, where he teaches
couldn’t be with us today, but asked that we mention that Max was the winner of
last week’s contest. Max, Toni will be in touch.
Middle school English???? Yike!!!! Now THAT’S awesome.
So great to have you here, Dave, and what a fun post. You’ve named some of the people I would have named, but also David Corbett springs instantly to mind. I also think Margaret Maron, while huge in certain parts of the mystery community, is another who should really be a household word. I will undoubtedly be able to think of more when I have had more coffee.
I remember being absolutely shocked when I met Laura and found out she hadn’t yet been on the NYT list. How could this be? How could everybody not know about these great books? I was overjoyed when the big Karmic Wheel gradually rolled around and she hit the bestseller lists. Success is always a joy to see when it’s so richly deserved.
Now as to my own MWA (heh) list…
Well, of course, JT Ellison, Pari Noskin Taichert, Louise Ure, Robert Gregory Browne, Brett Battles, Zoe Sharp, Alex Sokoloff, and Toni McGee Causey.
Also: Cornelia Read, Tasha Alexander, Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey, James O. Born, David Terrenoire, Bob Morris, Anthony Neil Smith, Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler, Julia Spencer Fleming…it’s a long, long list, and I know as soon as I hit “send” I’ll be whacking myself in the head and going “I forgot [insert name here]!”
All of them write stuff that knocks my socks off, stuff I shove into people’s hands and go “you gotta read this!”
Here’s hoping they all get dirty, filthy stinking rich. And then invite me to their parties.
Barry Eisler = Awesome! He’s still accessible, at least on MySpace.
I’ve started a new blog: http://thegriffinreviews.blogspot.com.
It’s strictly for book reviews I’ve written – a way of giving back to published authors who deserve recognition.
I can’t promise I’ll be an active personal blogger if I ever hit it big – but I always hope to be an active reviewer.
Bah with all of this mystery writer awesome stuff, let’s talk about who’s mystery writer dorky. Who are the punching bags of the mystery community. My vote is for Dave White. And of course John Rickards. Maybe Jeff Shelby .
Seriously though, I second the vote for Kent Krueger, but Steve Hamilton strikes me as someone who should be bigger. And Michael Koryta is on his way up but still accessible.
On the way up is still Mystery Writer Awesome, not Mystery Writer Awesome Alumni.
Dave,It’s great to have you here!!!
Here’s a MWA that is hitting it very big but is still absolutely, wonderfully accessible: Charlaine Harris. You won’t find a nicer person around.
And Dusty, you’re a MWA if there ever was one (as are all our Murderati folks) . . .
I agree — there’s a huge group of writers who are Mystery Writer Awesome, and most have already been mentioned. A non-Murderti is Julia Spencer-Fleming is definitely on that list
It’s an interesting phenomenon though. I totally understand, the bigger you get, the harder it is to work on anything but your own work. I think the King of MWA, though, is Lee Child. I know he probably counts as an alumni, but he’s still accessible, open to new writers, and an incredibly kind and generous writer.
Too many names to list so let’s say the mystery/thriller community as a whole is pretty damn awesome.
The fact that established authors take time to help out the masses of us struggling writers is incredible. Can you think of another industry as competitive as publishing where something like that happens? I can’t.
So a pat on the back to all the MWA out there. You’re all winners!!! (Anyone get the Seinfeld reference there? No? I am such a dork.)
How about Jason Starr? His books are great.
I’ll do the big ditto for Jason Starr, also the two big Charlie’s of crime fiction, Stella and Huston. Both are not only great writers, but also great guys who love hearing from fans and other writers alike
Oh my, how very true! An excellent post, and the names that are on it are legion, aren’t they?
JD listed a whole lot of names I soundly agree with, and right now I want to be at work, looking at my “Fran Recommends” book case because there are so many!
Like Lisa Lutz, Nicola Griffith, David Skibbins, Lori Armstrong, Mary Anna Evans, Kat Richardson, Mike Lawson, Carolyn Hart. . .my mind just went blank. Grrrr.