IDOL TALK: 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…

IDOL TALK: Column Begins

My first monthly CrimeReads column on Lee Child appeared today in the online magazine. 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.

IDOL TALK: Randy Wayne White’s Gift Keeps Giving

I was sitting in Doc Ford’s restaurant on Sanibel Island talking to the man himself, well, his alter ego: NYT bestselling novelist Randy Wayne White. Randy is best known for his Doc Ford series about a marine biologist and former government agent who lives on Sanibel and always seems to find trouble, or it finds him. Think of Indiana Jones, but on the bays and backwaters of Florida, the Caribbean and South America.

Interviewing Randy in his own restaurant is a feat in and of its own. For two hours we were repeatedly interrupted by loving fans seeking autographed copies of his books, which his restaurants (there are three, soon to be four), are more than happy to sell. And Randy, a true gentleman who admits to a sailor’s vocabulary (although I never heard it) was more than willing to oblige his fans.

There’s a lot more to Randy Wayne White than books and fans, like the work he’s done to help kids and refugees in Cuba. He’s a big man with a big heart. Read more about him in my future column on in the coming months. In the meantime, check out this documentary, “Gift of the Game,” about Randy’s effort to help Cuban children play baseball and to meet Ernest Hemingway’s original boy’s team on the island.