Thursday, March 27, 2008


I'm often asked about the influences on my work. Well, here's a big one. I know I'm not alone in saying Dutch Leonard showed me a way to combine bad guys and bad girls, thrills, violence, humor, a little veiled social commentary, and have a good time doing it.

More on influences later.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Broward Library, Maltese Falcon

Here's a short pan around the auditorium at the Broward Library in Ft. Lauderdale. This was the next to the last event on my Hell's Bay book tour.

On the panel alongside me were Les Standiford (author of the Deal novels and recently The Last Train to Paradise and other wonderful historical works) and the ever smart and fiesty Barbara Parker (author of 13 legal mysteries set in south Florida, many with Suspicion in the title) and Oline Cogdill, the fantastic mystery reviewer of the Sun-Sentinel who acted as our moderator. That's Tara Zimmerman at the mike making the closing remarks.

We had a very interesting discussion about Hammett and Sam Spade and noir and lots of tangential issues. An attentive and engaged turnout.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Final Event

My final event is coming up this week.

The book tour that started on February 5th is coming to a close.

It was a great month with so many highlights I can't begin to recount them. The turnouts were wonderful, and the feedback I've gotten on Hell's Bay both from official reviewers and regular readers has been extremely positive.

One thing I learned is that there are lots of people who like Thorn. And though I've been ambivalent about the character over the years, struggling to break free of him at times, I've come to peace with all that.

The next one will include Thorn and Sugarman again. Another new shock is about to befall Thorn and will change his life and, of course, it will also threaten his life. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I can say with some certainty that it'll be unlike any of the other Thorn novels. As in Hell's Bay, Sugarman plays a larger role.

Getting out on the road, meeting fans, staying in hotels and driving and flying from place to place, takes its toll, of course. But I'm grateful for the chance to do this part of the business, and meeting so many great folks and spending a few minutes with them has been a real pleasure for me.

After the Virginia event (above) I'm sneaking back in my cave, rolling the rock back in front of the door, and getting back to work. But thanks to everyone who took the time to come out to my events, sometimes in terrible weather, almost always in difficult traffic (especially in Florida). You've got me energized and ready to dig into the new one.

Now back to work.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

A little bit from Genesis on this Easter:

"And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day."

And a little bit from the Washington Post.

I admit, I might be missing something here, but I have a question.

When and why did conservatives stop being conservationists?

If we leave it for the animals to sort it out, ie. survival of the fittest, then hey, we're going to be left with only the big bad mean stuff:

And our old buddy Mothra:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Independent Bookstores

Here's another reason why I love independent bookstores. They make cakes.

This is from Inkwood Books in Tampa--a great one. Thanks to Carla and Leslie.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Heavyweight Review of Hell's Bay

Very cool to be a heavyweight.

Federer, Not

I've been playing this game, or trying to, for fifty years. I started on a tar-covered court in Kentucky, the only tennis court in town, and learned the game from studying still photos in the one tennis magazine I managed to acquire. The game was not broadcast on TV back then, and I had no local players to watch or learn from.

A friend of mine, Bryan Lesieur, and I worked for many hours every day to learn the rules and some basic shots. In the winter we sometimes swept the snow off the court so we could practice and in the summer we played shirtless for hours on that steamy court. (still paying for all that sun...)

The game has changed radically in the last couple of decades. The rackets are lighter, quicker, more powerful and require that the strokes be looser and the racket head speed be faster, and all that requires footwork be quicker. The techniques of striking the ball are so different from the days when I was watching Laver and Rosewall and Pancho Gonzalez.

My father took Bryan and me to Nashville, to watch Laver and some other pros of that era play an exhibition match on an indoor court at Vanderbilt. They stretched a green tarp with a tennis court drawn on it across the basketball floor. I was in heaven that night. I remember Laver broke several rackets from mishits that shattered the old wood frame of his Dulop Maxply. Most of those broken rackets came off his incredibly powerful backhand service return.

These days there's the Tennis Channel for 24 hour a day coverage of all things tennis. And all of the grand slam tournaments are shown from the early rounds to the finals and lots of other out of the way tournaments are on the tube too. It's a great time to be a tennis fan.

But the game is even more of a challenge. I'm still tinkering, still trying to get my feet to move faster, still trying to hit my serve with a bit more kick. Maybe next week I'll finally get that forehand sharp-angled crosscourt I've been working on for the last fifty years.

This first clip is a service return then an approach to hit a backhand volley. My opponent, Fred Begeman, has a great "buggy-whip" crosscourt forehand. I think this one went wide.

And this one shows my first and second serve, and backhand and forehand. I see I've got to stay more nimble through both strokes. Go forward, hit through the ball. Man, this game is tough.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Maltese Falcon

Broward County is participating in The Big Read, a national program to promote reading. Read more here.

And also here.
Les Standiford and Barbara Parker and I will be speaking on a panel next Tuesday (the 25th of March) at 7PM in the Broward Library downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

Read the book, then come. Or just come, and then go read the book. Or even watch the movie. Should be fun:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Third of Your Life

Pillows, pillows, pillows. After reading this article in the Post this morning, I'm ready to head off to the pillow store.

A lot of hunching at the computer has made me a lot more focused on pillows. And being on the road lately for the book tour, sleeping on all those, ugh, so-called pillows, with various creatures roaming all over them...double ugh...

For instance, here's our friend the dust mite:

Here's a gathering of the little buggers:

And here they are in motion:

Might be about time to toss the old fungus ridden, drool drenched, mite infested neck and shoulder distorter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Client #9 and Creative Writing

Here's a great piece in the Post today about Spitzer and novel writing.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Literary Feasts

Whew! Spent a couple of days in Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate the Night of the Literary Feasts. A wonderful event sponsored by the Broward County Libraries and Nova Southeastern University.

Here's a photo and then a short clip of the audience at Nova's beautiful performing arts center where my panel spoke, with Stephen Hunter, Tasha Alexander and Chauncey Mabe (Sun-Sentinel Book Editor and moderator of our panel).

More on all this a bit later.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I'm getting close to the end of the book tour for Hell's Bay. Seems like it's been going on for five years, not five weeks. But yesterday in Estero (which is south of Ft. Myers and north of Naples, in an area that is booming), I was the luncheon speaker for a library fund raiser. Another wonderful crowd. And I met some very interesting librarians and friends of the library.

One librarian was kind enough to let me know that she supplies large quantities of my books to local jails and prisons. Apparently I've got a sizable audience in the penal institutions. This is something I've known for a while, but I'm still trying to uncover the reason why. Any ideas?

Here's a short clip of the nice room where our luncheon was held. The Club at Grandeeza.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Plantation Friends

Well, we had raffles, we had Chinese raffles, we had modeling of various outfits, and more modeling and more modeling and more raffles. And a very good lunch, and two very good speakers, one of whom was yours truly, and the other was the vivacious Nora Charles (Death Rides the Surf, and others). Raising money for libraries (this one operated by the City of Plantation) is one of my favorite activities.

There was a great crowd, some of whom were rowdy in a pleasant, good-natured way.

It all took place on a beautiful afternoon (a cold front had just come through) and was held at the Fort Lauderdale Country Club, as seen below:

Did I mention the raffles?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lake Park

I'd never been to Lake Park before last night. It's tucked in next to Riviera Beach which I remember was once the home and hangout for Frederick Exley who wrote A Fan's Notes, one of the great all time memoirs of a drunk and loser.

But Lake Park is a pretty little town in Palm Beach County and a nice crowd ventured out during a massive thunderstorm with lightning and sheets of rain to hear my talk, and eat cookies and help support the Lake Park Library. A hardy bunch.

The talk was held in a gorgeous old building used as the Town Hall. The clip below shows a little of that gracious architecture.

The fine folks from Classic Bookshop sold books. Classic is the first rate independent store in downtown Palm Beach. A fine place. Visit it next time you're shopping for furs on Worth Avenue.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse...

It was only a few years ago that I could go fishing in the back mangrove channels of Blackwater Sound or Tarpon Basin or Trout Creek and look up to see the sky turn pink when a flock of spoonbills flew over. They also congregated in pools along the narrow overseas highway (The Stretch)and slowed traffic as people pulled off to watch them frolic.

No more. The Stretch is being turned into a straight shot expressway from Florida City to Key Largo. The multi-million dollar project has wiped out all the pretty beaches along the way, and all the pools where spoonbills used to gather. All so the tourists and impatient south Floridians can get to the Keys a little faster.

But when they arrive, the spoonbills won't be there.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Please Turn off all Wireless Devices

As if we needed one more reason not to fly:

And then there's this damn computer:

I'm pretty busy this week, reading an MFA thesis for a defense on Friday, trying to catch up bills and infrastructure stuff. So pardon me while I get back to work.

Orchid Show at Fairchild Gardens--Miami

Rode our bikes about a mile to Fairchild Gardens on a beautiful Sunday. No book discussions, no book talks, no book sales. Just orchids.

Even the Botero sculptures were laid back. Being chunky never looked so good.

A beautiful place on a beautiful day.
Doesn't get much better than this.
(Still doing that six word thing.)

Discovered Florida, Love at First Sight

One of my students mentioned this book and then I started reading about it everywhere. Six words. Man, you can say a lot. I keep thinking of different ones, like:

Met Evelyn, happy day, happy day.

Turning out better than I imagined.

Say It All in Six Words
by Lizzie Widdicombe February 25, 2008

Brevity: a good thing in writing. Exploited by texters, gossip columnists, haikuists. Not associated with the biography genre. But then—why shouldn’t it be? Life expectancies rise; attention spans shrink. Six words can tell a story. That’s a new book’s premise, anyway. “Not Quite What I Was Planning.” A compilation of teeny tiny memoirs. The forebear, it’s assumed, is Hemingway. (Legend: he wrote a miniature masterpiece. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Slightly sappy, but a decent sixer.)

The book’s originator: SMITH online magazine. It started as a reader contest: Your life story in six words. The magazine was flooded with entries. Five hundred-plus submissions per day. That’s two, three words a minute. “We almost crashed,” an editor said. Memoirs from plumbers and a dominatrix (“Fix a toilet, get paid crap”; “Woman Seeks Men—High Pain Threshold”). The editors have culled the best. And, happily, spliced in celebrity autobiographies: “Canada freezing. Gotham beckons. Hello, Si!” “Well, I thought it was funny.” “Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs.” (Graydon Carter, Stephen Colbert, Aimee Mann.) Mario Batali makes a memorable appearance: “Brought it to a boil, often.” So does Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia: “Yes, you can edit this biography.”

Still, there are not nearly enough. Where’s Eli Manning, and Katie Couric? (“Little brother; big game; last laugh”? “Morning girl goes serious at night”?) And what of the Presidential candidates? (“From Ill.; met Bill; iron will.”) Something from Obama would be nice: “Hope is stronger than dope, kids!”

A Canadian minister has done Jesus’: “God called; Mother listened; I responded.” Quieter lives can be condensed, too. The editors offer a few guidelines. “Try not to think too hard.” That’s from SMITH’s editor, Larry Smith. It’s impossible, of course, to follow. There’s the temptation to be ironic: “Born in California. Then nothing happened.”

Or to blurt out something angry: “Everyone who loved me is dead.” “Try to use specifics,” Smith added. (“After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.”) That doesn’t rule out dazzling nonsense. “Eat mutate aura amateur auteur true” (Jonathan Lethem’s nesting-doll-like memoir). Wistful recollections work; so does repetition: “Canoe guide, only got lost once.” “Birth, childhood, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence . . .” You could spend a lifetime brainstorming.

Read the rest of this wonderful article here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Scenes from Books and Books

Here's a few clips from a wonderful night at Books and Books. Nice crowd, including a bunch of newcomers. Great introduction from Les Standiford.

Here's early:

Here's a little later, zooming in on lovely Evelyn at the end.

And then, after a lot of laughs and a short reading:

A still view from the podium.

During the stand-up part of the reading: (that's lovely Evelyn and lovely Laura in the center)

A little bit of the signing afterwards (thanks to Kimberly Standiford):