Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke share an agent…

…and John D. MacDonald didn’t have a book published in hardback until his 20th novel, so says Philip Spitzer, agent for both Connelly and Burke.

I talked with Spitzer while reporting  my story about crime novelist Michael Connelly. Connelly is a former journalist (so there’s hope for me yet) who hit the big time with his third Harry Bosch novel. He finally quit his day job at the LA Times and went on to write dozens of bestselling crime thrillers. But he had to begin somewhere and that’s what I write about.

But back to Spitzer. He chatted about  Connelly and about how he never met Connelly until they were about to publish his first novel (Connelly was in LA, Spitzer in NYC and neither had the money at the time for frequently cross-country  travel.)

When Spitzer started out in publishing way back, (’60s and ’70s) mysteries were mostly issued in paperback. They weren’t given the respect they are today (economic, at least). Which is why MacDonald didn’t have a hardcover novel for a long time. Oh, and Spitzer has plenty to say about snotty publishers. More about that in a later post.

It was a different world when Spitzer got into the publishing business in 1961. To make ends meet before he landed some great authors, he drove a cab. One day he drove Katherine Hepburn to the moves. He also moonlighted at a flower shop and delivered a bouquet to Nat King Cole. Today, Spitzer no longer has to worry about money, repping both Connelly and Burke and such books as Andre Dubus’ House of Sand and Fog, which became a major motion picture. Of course everyone knows about Connelly’s Bosch series on Amazon. They are hoping to film the seventh and final season later this summer. (The Coronavirus will be the final determinant on that. )

Spitzer, who is in his 80s, doesn’t go into the office much any more (He has people, after all.). I’ll have a lot more tidbits from him in future blogs.

This month’s column in CrimeReads features Tess Gerritsen, who most people probably know for her Rizzoli and Isles series, which was a television show for seven years. She also wrote a novel that sounds and looks a lot like the movie “Gravity,” but Hollywood doesn’t admit to anything. More on that and more on Tess later…

CrimeReads.com Column Begins

My first monthly CrimeReads column on Lee Child appeared today in the online magazine. CrimeReads.com is the largest website dedicated to reading and writing crime/thriller/mystery novels (up to 900,000 circulation). You might recognize Lee’s story from my website.

Unlike other writers, he had a fairly easy time getting his first book published and since then has had an incredible run writing Jack Reacher novels. He recently announced he’s retiring from the franchise and is turning over the reins to his brother.

Other famous authors who will appear soon in my  CrimeReads column include Michael Connelly, David Morrell and Steve Berry. Watch this space for more first-timer stories.

Author Stephen James as Mentor

I was scheduled this week to be in Seattle for a writers workshop with New York Times bestselling authors Stephen James and Bob Dugoni. Yep. The first epicenter in the US for the Coronavirus. So yeah, it didn’t happen. But the dozen of us in the program had all submitted the first 50 pages of our manuscripts to critique. What to do? Follow through with the critique now remotely or sit on it for six months until the program is rescheduled? Most of us wanting to continue our writing, said do it now. So I was on Zoom with Stephen this week.

The good news is he loved my manuscript. He had a lot of good suggestions for changes–all relatively minor–and showed me a couple of tricks I will use in the future. But early in the conversation, he told me my manuscript was the best he’d read this year. My mouth dropped. I told him he must have been reading some bad stuff. He said no. It really was good. Well if that doesn’t motivate you, what will? So I’m hunkering down and isolating myself in front of my computer. Maybe in a few years you’ll be reading my manuscript in book form. I’ll keep you posted.