Like most mystery writers who aren’t Scott Turow or Michael Connelly, Gar Anthony Haywood has had trouble finding and keeping a decent publisher. But in an ending straight out of a Frank Capra film, Haywood was signed last year by a British-based publisher called Severn House, which sells mostly to libraries and is obviously widening its horizons.
Haywood, who in the past has written two strong series--the Aaron Gunner private eye books and the more humor-laced Joe and Dottie Loudermilk series--must have knocked the socks off of the Severn House folk with Cemetery Road.
Said Publishers Weekly: “Reverberations from a crime committed in their youth follow three grown men with the tenacity and inevitability of Greek tragedy in Haywood’s beautifully crafted novel of unintended consequences.” Meanwhile, Booklist remarked: “As in the Gunner series, Haywood exhibits a remarkable eye for detail, both in describing the landscape of poverty (‘the bathroom had a toilet that only flushed when it was willing’) and in exposing the nuances of character. It has been too long between books for a writer who has always belonged in the upper echelon of American crime fiction.”
This novel’s events concern a trio of young Los Angeles men who are petty thieves. Twenty-six years later, one of them is killed--a crime that has reverberations in both the past and the present. Cemetery Road is a tremendous read, as much for its razor-sharp writing as for its exciting and tragic story. “R.J., by comparison, was not nearly so complex," Haywood says about one of his three main characters. “If any of us was predisposed to a life of crime, it was him. R.J. was short and lean and forever on the lookout for any sign of disrespect, and there was no fight or challenge he would not take on with the zeal of a man possessed ...”
Not only has Severn House added Haywood to its stable of writers, but in another act of taste and wisdom, it also signed John Shannon to write more of his terrific Jack Liffey mysteries. The first will be On the Nickel, to be published in July.
Good on you, Brits.