Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I’m Talking the Fifth

It was five years ago this month that I debuted as the lead crime-fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. Not long before that, Molly Brown, then the publication’s Web and features editor, had called me up out of the blue to offer me the job, based on favorable recommendations she’d received from other sources. It seemed like an excellent opportunity, especially since working for Kirkus meant, in theory, that I could cut back on other freelancing obligations; so I didn’t take long before saying “yes.”

Some aspects of the job Brown described were never realized. For instance, she told me, as she did other bloggers Kirkus hired back then to cover different genres of fiction, that I’d be expected to do my own posting to the Web site, and would need to contribute several pieces each week of varying lengths—all written in a “conversational,” “consumer-friendly” style. She also mentioned how advertising dollars brought in by these new blogs would be shared among the writers, and how we’d be paid for our work at a generous per-word rate. In the end, a flat per-column fee was negotiated (quite below what I’d earned previously), and there was no more talk of ad-generated bonuses. Rather than posting frequently, I was restricted to a single column per week, and subsequently to fortnightly contributions.

Despite all of that, the Kirkus gig has been a generally satisfying one. I have the leeway to write about whatever subjects I wish, just so long as they relate in some manner to crime, mystery, and thriller works available in U.S. bookstores. Although I’ve gone through several editors (with the most recent one—and one of my favorites—Chelsea Langford, leaving the company just last Friday), they have all been accommodating and respectful, if rather quiet. I am pretty much left alone to do my work, which demonstrates trust in my abilities but also leaves me feeling distant from the business of publishing, a business I have loved for so long. Then again, as my beloved maternal grandfather used to say, “it could be worse.”

To celebrate this fifth anniversary, my new Kirkus column is devoted to what I think are alternately amusing and revealing top-five lists representing my experience with this genre. They range from “5 Crime and Mystery Novelists Best Represented on My Shelves” and “5 Classic Authors Whose Work I Should Have Read, But Have Not” to “5 Mysteries I Wish I’d Written.” I’d be very pleased if others among the Rap Sheet audience were to submit their own picks in those same categories, either in the Comments section at the end of my Kirkus piece, or as a comment at the end of this particular post.

2016 is turning out to be a big anniversary year for me. January brought the fifth birthday of my book-design blog, Killer Covers. Now we’re commemorating my half-decade association with Kirkus Reviews. And The Rap Sheet’s 10th anniversary is coming right up in mid-May. It’s a good thing I like champagne toasts!

READ MORE:Take Fives,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).


michael said...

My favorite choice for mystery detective that should have a TV series but never has in America or England is a guy called Sam Spade created by someone named Dashiell Hammett.

Watched the 2007 attempt to modernize Marlowe (which I reviewed over at Mystery*File blog) and read about the 2013 attempt by the guy who created CASTLE and I kept wondering why not Spade. Can you name a old school PI that is a better fit for the current TV style?

Ronald Tierney said...

In keeping with your request, I’ve read many books by the same author — John Burdett, Michael Connelly Terence Hallinan, James Lee Burke; but after a few moves as well as loans to and from friends, I don’t have that many books by the same author. However I have made it a point to collect and preserve some. Most of the books from the following authors have at least some criminal aspect to them.

Georges Simenon’s novellas (non-Maigret)

Paul Bowles

James Purdy

Alec Garland (I would have at least five if he wrote that many.)

And I won’t embarrass myself by telling anyone how many classic authors I haven’t read. I’d be drummed out of the corps if I’d ever been drummed in.

Todd Mason said...

I'm trying to think of classic writers, aside from some the more obscure 19th Century writers...and all I can think of are rather popular writers I know I haven't read yet at all, or so I think (the list of those I've barely read is vast and encompasses nations):
Jonathan Kellerman
Stieg Larsson (I'm waiting for competent translation)
James Patterson
Alexander McCall Smith (might've read one short story so far, but I suspect not)
Donna Leon (as with Smith, I've seen some of the adaptations of her Brunetti stories)