Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ed Thomas

In Michael Connelly's 2004 book The Narrows, Harry Bosch talks about a clue involving a character named Ed Thomas who owns a bookstore called Book Carnival:

I was sadden to read in The Rap Sheet that the real Ed Thomas who owned the real Book Carnival died recently.

When my first novel, The Immortal Game, came out from a tiny press, I called around to independent mystery bookstores to encourage them to stock it. In the beginning, only a very few were willing to take it on and Ed was one of them. He ordered and hand sold a dozen first editions in the space of a couple weeks. That was big news to me as a debut author in 1999.

He stocked all of my subsequent books, and although I never met him in person until I came down to the Book Carnival to sign Runoff, I spoke to him on the phone a number of times.

Ed Thomas

After the signing, we spent what must have been an extra hour or so chatting. I was curious about Michael Connelly's early days, and the experience of being a character in one of his books. Ed was happy to oblige. He first told me about Connelly's meeting with President Clinton (Clinton is a big fan of Connelly's)--and then he produced photos Connelly had sent him of the two shaking hands!

He also told me how Connelly had called him one day out of the blue to ask if he was going to be at the store for a couple of hours. Ed said sure, and Connelly showed up with two boxes of unread first editions of Connelly's debut novel, The Black Echo. Connelly told Ed that there was no point in his hording them and Ed should have them. This was well after Connelly had hit it big and the books were worth quite a bit--and of course still are.

As for being a character in The Narrows, Connelly asked him early on if it would be okay if he used his name, but he had no clue until the book was published how extensive a role he and his store had in the plot.

Connelly's generosity is only one manifestation of the debt many writers felt to Ed. As the Orange County Register obit linked above describes, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury and T. Jefferson Parker all appreciated the support he gave them. Count me in their number.

Gallery Opening

The juried show, "Photography: Impact of a Medium," opened last night at 2nd City Council Art Gallery in Long Beach, CA. The turnout was very good:

My photograph in the show, Factory Blower, got its fair share of attention:

And rock musician Jessie Deluxe helped to entertain the crowd:

Monday, February 22, 2010

On CrimeWAV

William P. Arney, the voice of Noir City reads the first chapter of my latest novel The Big Wake-Up from Dashiell Hammett's apartment on Seth Harwood's crime-fiction podcast,!

Check it out here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Photography: Impact of a Medium

I'm pleased to report I had a photograph accepted in the juried show "Photography: Impact of a Medium," which opens at the 2nd City Council Art Gallery in Long Beach, CA on February 27. Robbert Flick, noted photographer and Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, was the juror.

And here's the picture in question:

It was taken at the Gladding McBean pottery factory in Lincoln, California with a Sinar Norma view camera. This was the same camera I used to take all the photos in the first edition of my debut novel, The Immortal Game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hey, I'm Not the Police Reporter

Blogging for Mystery Scene Magazine, Oline H. Cogdill recently reported that Laura Lippman has optioned her Tess Monaghan series to TV production company Ostar Enterprises, which is owned by Bill Haber.

While we wait for the series to make it to prime time, we shouldn't forget that Lippman herself had a cameo role in the first episode of the fifth season of The Wire, the ground-breaking HBO series produced by her husband David Simon.

She plays a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and is featured in a scene with Clark Johnson who plays editor Augustus "Gus" Hayne. Gus notices Laura's character and another reporter in a conference room, staring at a column of smoke from a burning building. He goes to investigate.

Here's a rough transcript of the dialog that follows:

Something's burning.

You, ah, you wonder what it might be?

Hey, I'm not the police reporter.

But you called [him], though, right?

At this point the other reporter moves to the phone and Laura grimaces in acknowledgment of their failure to alert their colleague to the story.

Turns out the plot line may well have been drawn from Lippman's own experiences as a reporter on the Sun. To quote from an essay, "Gone, Baby, Gone" on her website:
My last day at The Sun was on Sept. 30th [2001], although I didn't know it at the time. No one did. I worked the Sunday cop-shift, part of a weekend rotation shared by most of The Sun's metro reporters. It was a busy-if-inglorious shift. There was ... a three-alarm blaze in West Baltimore that had left a homeless man dead and created three new homeless people - an elderly woman and her two tenants...

It wasn't a big story, I'm sorry to say. The death of a nameless homeless man seldom is in the pages of the Baltimore Sun. But there were holes, some confusion about what had happened. I knew the night editor, the incomparable David Michael Ettlin, would razz me (justifiably) if I didn't at least make every effort to answer those questions. And while Dick Irwin, the regular night cop reporter, is used to batting clean-up for the Sunday rotation, I didn't want to dump my undone work on him.
So you see, the only difference from real life and the scene in The Wire is that Lippman did follow up on the story of the fire herself.

Another interesting point is the theme of homeless deaths is key to the entire fifth (and concluding) season of The Wire.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tomás Eloy Martínez

Argentine writer Tomás Eloy Martínez died in Buenos Aires a week ago Sunday from a brain tumor. His name may not be familiar to most Americans, but his writing--in particular his book Santa Evita--was very familiar to me because the information he provided in it about the "afterlife" of Eva Perón was key background for my latest novel, The Big Wake-Up.

As his New York Times obituary notes:
Perhaps nowhere more than in Mr. Martínez’s novel “Santa Evita” did fact and fancy conspire to capture the slippery reality of Argentina. The book follows the bizarre but true wanderings of Eva Perón’s embalmed corpse after her death from cancer in 1952.

After General Perón was overthrown, the new government took pains to hide Eva’s body, which they feared might be used by the opposition to rally support. Over the next two decades, the corpse was spirited around Argentina, off to Rome and eventually to Madrid, where it reposed in splendor in General Perón’s home, before making its way back to Argentina.

At the same time (this part is also true), several decoy corpses, fashioned from wax, fiberglass and other materials and said to look remarkably like the real thing, were making contrapuntal journeys.
Read more about the "story behind the story" of The Big Wake-Up in the post I did on the topic for The Rap Sheet. Read more about Mr. Martínez in his obit from The Independent.

I feel compelled to offer a morbid postscript: this is the second writer whom I quoted in The Big Wake-Up who has died in the few months since the book was published in November. The first was J.D. Salinger, whose quote from Catcher in the Rye I used as an epigraph:
Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something.
Martínez is quoted by my character Chris Duckworth outside the crypt where Duckworth and private investigator August Riordan discover Evita's body. Duckworth notes that Martínez has described Evita as:
the Robin Hood of the 20th century … the Cinderella of the tango and the Sleeping Beauty of Latin America.
And as he knocks on the crypt door, he declares it's time for her "big wake-up."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Author Photo

Check out British crime writer Peter Lovesey's updated home page. You'll see a certain photo taken by me at last year's Bouchercon.