(A lot of) IDOL TALK: Dugoni, Lee, Dionne on top. Spend Two Nights In Lisbon with Pavone. Oxford Comma fights back.

You won’t find a Bob Dugoni novel in your local bookstore, or just about any other bookstore for that matter. That’s because his publisher is Thomas & Mercer, which is the mystery/thriller imprint for Amazon Publishing, and independent bookstores despise Amazon. Amazon is to bookstores what Walmart is to small businesses in rural communities—poison. Their market clout makes it nearly impossible to survive in such a David and Goliath battle. But obviously, a lot of bookstores have survived, if not thrived. Then there are the specialty ones around the country, especially those dealing with crime, mysteries, and thrillers, that do quite well. (Think Barbara Peters’ The Poison Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Otto Penzler’s The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City.)

Dugoni’s books appear in many of these and he’s friends with many of the owners. It says a lot about his craftsmanship and the quality of his work that he is not only a New York Times bestselling author, but he’s sold millions of books around the world. It’s also testament to Amazon and Thomas & Mercer, whose marketing expertise is unsurpassed.

Then there is the prejudice in the media. Years ago, after one of Dugoni’s novels appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, his publisher was so ecstatic, he called the Times to thank them. Big mistake. Times editors thought Dugoni was still with his old New York big-five publisher. When they realized he had just made their list with an Amazon imprint, they immediately pulled the book.  So much for truth and fairness. Not only do bookstores discriminate against his work, so too does The New York Times (a newspaper I admire greatly and subscribe to). Over the years, many have criticized the Times for its secrecy surrounding its bestseller list, which frequently doesn’t match other lists out there. It’s a dispute that will never be settled.

Dugoni has a wonderful story he’s told often about the moment he decided to become a writer. I recommend you read my story about his awakening in CrimeReads.com. He is a force that will not be stopped by booksellers who are only hurting themselves by not carrying Amazon imprint books and by the prejudice of the best newspaper in the world. But then we all have our faults.

Did you know Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King’s Daughter, walked the walk and talked the talk when creating her NYT bestselling novel? Sorry for the cliché, but she lived off-the-land (with her infant daughter and husband) just as her bestselling novelist’s protagonist did. That’s what makes the book so realistic.

Rambo’s David Morrell read her manuscript prior to publication and thought it was brilliant, except for her last forty pages. So, she went back and rewrote that portion and Rambo’s Dad said it could still be better. She rewrote it again and the rest is history. (Oops, there’s another cliché. Shame on me.) A writer of environmental fiction who had struggled with a niche audience, was suddenly widely published in more than a dozen languages around the world.

“I’m the poster child for it can happen to anybody,” she says. CrimeReads is scheduled to publish my story about her later this month.

Have you ever read Tosca Lee? She is a genre buster, writing suspense novels about Christian figures such as Judas, Mary, and Eve. She has both the praise and scorn of the religious press. I will be writing more about her massive success in the future. She currently has a cable series in the works. Keep your eyes glued on this space.

Finally, if you haven’t read Chris Pavone’s new thriller, Two Nights in Lisbon, well, just don’t miss it. Read more about it here.

Well, that was almost finally. I lied. Please note the Oxford comma has returned in my writing. My Word editor insists on it. My Associated Press Style Book and I are conflicted.

And finally, finally…I’ve completed the manuscript for my next novel. Another journalist from the famed (well, famed to me) newspaper, The Washington Post-Examiner, runs into a buzzsaw when her world collapses. All three of my thrillers, Naked Ambition, Naked Truth and The Apprentice, involve journalists working at the same newspaper but with decidedly difference story arcs. The titles are decidedly descriptive  of some of the characters, if you know what I mean.

And I’m agent hunting. (I won’t say “finally” this time. It doesn’t seem to work for me.) I departed ways with my former agent for many reasons, none of which I will make public (he’s a genuinely nice guy). Sometimes marriages just don’t work. So, I’m looking for a new arranged marriage, which will delay my latest manuscript from being published. A year from now, I look forward to my first anniversary gift from my new agent: paper, isn’t it? Now that’s appropriate.

Please excuse any typos. The editor, like the author, is often in solitary working on his next manuscript. Please forward this newsletter on to friends if you think they are interested in the latest prattle and idol talk about your favorite mystery, thriller, and crime novelists. Don’t miss anything. Subscribe here. I promise to never overload your mailbox, but maybe your imagination.


Idol Talk: Heads Up

Mark May 24 on your calendar. That’s the day MCD, a new division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, publishes one of the best thrillers I’ve ever come across. I haven’t read something this good since Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, and that was 35 years ago. Turow’s novel is near and dear to my heart because it motivated me to finally start writing fiction, albeit 25 years later. (I was an investigative reporter and got accused by my subjects of writing fiction more than once.)

This amazing new novel is written by Chris Pavone and titled, Two Nights in Lisbon. I received an advance reader copy and will be interviewing Chris in the coming weeks. My story will appear in the May 1 issue of The Big Thrill online magazine—the official publication of International Thriller Writers.

I’ve never written a rave review before. I’m not sure I know how, but Pavone has forced my hand. If you’re not a subscriber to The Big Thrill, you can still read it for free.

In the meantime, here’s my story about Ben Mezrich, the Indiana Jones of thriller writers. My story about his thriller, The Midnight Ride, appears in the March issue of The Big Thrill. He has had an amazing literary life with movie deals and unsavory sources.  He writes both fiction and non-fiction.

IDOL TALK: Anonymous Calls in the Middle of the Night Are Ben Mezrich’s Life

Bestselling author and novelist Ben Mezrich has had a rich life, both financially and in the art of discovery. People come out of the woodwork and anonymously call him, urging him to write their wild stories. In many cases, he does.

This is not unusual when you’re an investigative reporter. Years ago, I was receiving these phone calls on a regular basis. One tip, which I’m ashamed to admit I sat on for a few days to complete less important work, resulted in my uncovering a Pentagon munitions scandal involving a crooked contractor that reached from Yugoslavia to El Salvador. (Lesson learned there.)

The result: the contractor enjoyed a Club Fed vacation.

While most investigative reporting is mundane research, from time to time, there are the made-for-movie moments like the time an anonymous source left me a packet of information in the bushes under a large shopping center sign. The sun had just set when he told me, “and by the way, I’ll be in my car watching you from the parking lot.”

That sent chills up my spin.

These stories make great cocktail party conversation even when they don’t turn up useful information. (That one did.) Most investigative reporting involves inner-nerd skills like reading volumes of government files, audits and reports, and having the oral stamina for countless phone calls urging sources to talk on the record. Then there’s the shoe leather dues that every investigator pays. Ben has paid that price. In fact, he says, for him it’s the most enjoyable part of writing.

The beautiful thing about most people you contact, they want to tell the truth, unless they’re a high-ranking government or corporate official. Then of course, they want to cover up.

And then there’s Ben Mezrich’s sources. He’s dealt with the scary Russian oligarchs who put Vladimir Putin in office, college math whizzes who took on Las Vegas, and he uncovered from a middle-of-the-night phone caller who was the mastermind behind the biggest unsolved art heist in world history. Ben Mezrich has had a full life of discovery and he’s not even old yet! I think you’ll find his story fascinating. I did. You can read more about Ben, his writing path and his latest novel about the great unsolved art heist, right here.

If you like this newsletter, please share with a friend and urge them to subscribe. Lot’s of insider gossip and titillation about your favorite authors coming soon.