A greater cozy gathering and lots of wise questions...that's how I'll remember my visits to the Bookshop. Low key and casual allows an author the opportunity to think and listen, a greatly appreciated setting. Hope to be back!
Thanks to Buster Hightower, protagonist of the above novel, I feel as if I've Climbed Out Of The Literary Coffin. I've sold any number of short stories and travel articles in the past dozen years, but no long stuff. Buster has only just begun to, uh, whatever, as ZILLIONAIRE, second in the series is due out in August 2011.
Thanks much to the gang at Seattle Mystery Bookshop for having Buster and I in for a signing! You've always been great!
Stories are told in many ways. In paint, in sculpture, in movement, in music and in words. Some people are born with the ability to tell a story well, with detail and emotion and it seems to simply flow from them. Others struggle with it. Some can do it from the cradle whereas it takes others decades to perfect their talent.
Chandler had been an executive with a California oil company when he started writing. He first began to write short stories to see how it was done. He then moved on to the longer form of novels but, at first, he apparently lacked the confidence of his craft and he cannibalized his earlier stories to get facets for the novels. He was 45 when his first short story was published. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published when he was was 51.
Gauguin was a stockbroker when he turned to painting full time at 37. Mozart was a child prodigy.
Whenever they reach their maturity, what any of these people can do is 'draw you a picture', to tell you what they see and allow you to feel what they've felt. And when they're gone, their unique vision goes with them. Someone else may try to paint a Rothko or write a Nero Wolfe novel but they're never really exactly the same.
There are those who say that the world changed a bit for the worse when people stopped getting their entertainment from the radio. Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" panicked a population because it was a story told so well, so true. One of the reasons I like National Public Radio is that they're often able to show you a story though it is only drawn with sounds.
One place where you can still find audio paintings is by listening to baseball on the radio. If you're blessed with having a brilliant announcer, you get to 'see' what he sees even if you're nowhere near the ball park.
Dave Niehaus died last night. He was 75. He'd been with the Mariners since they began playing 34 years ago. He was 41. He'd been a professional announcer all of his adult life but he wasn't really "Dave Niehaus" until he became the Mariners' announcer.
He was such an artist. He sketched in the colors of the day, the feel of the breeze on your skin, the sunlight on your shoulders, told you the crispness of the play, the fun of the game, the joy in the win and the disappointment in the loss. Like a great jazzman, he did it without a script, without knowing where the game would take him or us. He played off his teammates, whether they were on the diamond or in the booth next to him. He brought to the microphone the depth and breadth of his life and knowledge and it all came out through your radio. He was good as a TV announcer but his art was on radio.
I moved to Seattle in 1984. He was the only consistant thing - besides my mate Gretchen - in all that time. Mayors came and went, coaches, managers, players, jobs and dogs all changed - even the climate has changed - but Dave was always there, starting each Spring and lasting into Fall. I tried to make a point of listening to him call the opening each year of the first Mariner spring training game. It felt as if Spring couldn't really start until Dave said hello. As a buddy once said, his best memory of baseball was Niehaus saying "The sky is blue, the grass is green, strike one."
Permit me my sadness today, to step sideways from mysteries but to stay near storytelling. A great storyteller died last night.
I say change the name of the stadium where the Mariners play. Dump Safeco Field and rename it The Niehaus.
One day I woke up and discovered I had beome a mystery writer. Up to then I had been a humor writer. I didn't know what to do. So then I decided to combine humor with mystery. It is very hard to make murder seem funny, so I wasn't able to accomplish that. Still, the people involved in murder and the solving of it can be quite funny. I must admit that I worried the readers might be put off by that, but it turns out the readers can be quite amused by murder, as long as it is a pretty straight-forward murder and not something ghastly. I try very hard to avoid ghastly. Most of my murders are quite tidy.
Thank you, Seattle Mysery Bookshop, for giving me the opportunity to come see your beautiful city. I could have just as easily placed Hayden Glass in Seattle as in San Francisco, where his journey continues in BEAT. I love cities as a background, as a character, to compliment my characters' adventures. In BOULEVARD, LAPD homicide detective Hayden Glass slides through the slippery streets of Los Angeles and the city itself seems to be an accomplice to his actions. The city is like an old, heroin addict leading him to the darker side of his own sexual addiction. In BEAT, San Francisco plays the role of seductress, leading Hayden on, then slapping him back, beating him into submission. What would Seattle hold for Hayden? The city has a unique character of its own. Metropolitan, yet not. Grungy, cold and wet, but beautiful in its architecture, vibrant with music and art, gritty and fast. Maybe Hayden will end up here someday.
We'll find out tonight, I suppose, as I troll the clubs of this wonderful little town. We'll see what I can uncover....
There was a session at Bouchercon with two fabulous authors, John Connolly and Declan Hughes, and it was funny and interesting and entertaining and thought-provoking. Generally they don't like the contents of this panel published, but they gave us special permission, so THANK YOU, Declan and John!
And dead sexy because they're both Irish, and let's face it, they could have been reading laundry lists and it would have sounded great. Let me tell you now, if you EVER get a chance to see this panel -- and they do it now and again -- jump at the chance! It is far, far, far too cool to miss!
Anyway they were talking about the top 10 mystery novels you should read. Here's the problem, though. That was more than a few days ago and I didn't have anything to write with or on at the time, so I'm positive about the authors, but not necessarily about the order of 6, 7 and 8, and I don't remember the books, exactly. But still, the authors are a reasonable place to start, I believe.
Anyway, here goes:
1. Dashiell Hammett. I remember this one was The Glass Key, although Red Harvest was up there.
2. Raymond Chandler. I think it was The Long Good-bye, but I can't swear to it.
3. Ross MacDonald. Sleeping Beauty, I think, but maybe not.
4. George V. Higgins. The Friends of Eddie Coyle. That I remember for certain.
5. James Lee Burke. Black Cherry Blues or Tin Roof Blowdown, but honestly any of them.
6. Ed McBain. I don't know that they chose only one. It's a phenomenal series.
7. Thomas Harris. There was some dissent on this one, but Red Dragon was agreed upon.
8. Patricia Highsmith. Not necessarily the Ripleys, but yeah, Highsmith.
9. Charles Willeford. No idea which one.
10. Agatha Christie. I know, big surprise. But The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is unique.
Declan and John actually made it a baker's dozen, but time was running out so they threw the last names out quickly, and the room was so packed that we were sharing a single molecule of air, so I missed them.
It's a great list, and as I say, if you ever get a chance to see these guys in action talking about it, get a front-row seat. They're entertaining, funny and very, very smart!