I am always amused when mystery authors reference others’ works in a novel. It’s kind of a wink to readers. It also shows that authors and readers are all part of a community.
So here are some recent authors who mention other writers in their novels.
Skyjack by K.J. Howe (Quercus) Howe has her niche in the women’s adventure genre with her action-packed series about kidnap and rescue expert Thea Paris. Thea’s intelligence as well as her mad skills in fighting, flying a plane, shooting or just about anything required of her. Thea also is a reader and a fan of British mystery writer Martina Cole, who’s been called “the queen of crime.” And Thea is most interested in Cole’s appearance at a local bookstore. Cole’s novels include The Good Life, Betrayal and Damaged.
The Way I Die by Derek Haas (Pegasus) The assassin Copeland has a different kind of assignment—protecting a software designer and his sons. Copeland’s grief over his wife’s death fuels his actions. Copeland’s fond memories of his wife include her enthusiasm for reading, especially with her “nose buried in a Jeff Abbott thriller.”
City of Sharks by Kelli Stanley (Minotaur) The reading tastes of Miranda Corbie, the heroine of Kelli Stanley’s excellent series set during WWII in San Francisco, are very much a part of her time. So she often loses track of time delving into The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and The Thin Man.
Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates (Picador) This story about a horrific crime committed in childhood and how it affects the lives of the three people as they become adults features a crime reporter. Her favorite book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, fitting as she wants to write a book just like that. She also is a big fan of David Simon's HBO series The Wire.
White Bodies by Jane Robins (Touchstone) A bookstore is a central part of this story about twin sisters, one of whom seems to have a wonderful marriage and the other may be jealous, or concerned about her sister’s seemingly perfect husband. In the course of the novel, one character enthusiastically mentions Harlan Coben, and Scandinavian authors Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg, and Jo Nesbo.
(Mystery Scene continues its ongoing series in which authors discuss their works, or their lives.)
Tom Pitts is the author of two novellas, Piggyback and Knuckleball, and several short fiction pieces. Pitts is also an acquisitions editor at Gutter Books and Out of the Gutter Online. His first novel, Hustle, came out in 2014. His latest novel is American Static (Down & Out Books), which takes place in San Francisco, Oakland, and California wine country and features bottom-feeding criminals, corrupt cops, and death-dealing gangsters.
But here, Tom talks about a more personal plot involving a milestone he didn’t see coming.
Life’s real milestones
By Tom Pitts
The other day I received yet another application for an AARP membership.
A laughable milestone many of us go through when we hit the top of the hill, but it got me thinking about milestones. The ones that you expect and the ones you deserve.
When you’re young, you expect the trail of life to be littered with big moments. And life is. But those moments never come when you expect them, and they certainly don’t unfold like you want them.
Anticlimax was definitely a watchword in my nihilistic youth. You soon learn counting on life’s big moments doesn’t really buy you anything.
So you start to look toward life’s smaller moments to mark your passage through time. Life’s real milestones. Looking back it wasn’t graduations and weddings and big contracts. More like rehabs, arrests, and broken bones.
Recently I had a tooth pulled. I’m 50 years old and I’d been lucky enough to have never lost one till now. I mentioned this to my dad—who’s 85—and he chuckled. “Never? There’s a first time for everything!”
Of course, this is coming from a guy who still has every single one of his teeth. I remember lying in the chair as four dental school kids yanked and wrenched on my sad molar, thinking about my station in life, my expectations versus life’s actual payout. It hurt more than the extraction.
As a writer you think the big markers will be the first novel published, the first time you’re asked to sit at the big table with writers you’ve read and respected, the first royalty check you cash, the first time you get the call from Hollywood telling you they want to make your book into a series….
And although all these things have happened, the outcome (or the high) is never as you’d hoped.
I think the most exciting writing milestone for me—the one that most made me feel like a six year-old on Christmas morning—was getting that first story published.
When asked what it was like to pitch in the World Series I once heard Orel Hershiser quoted as saying it was no different that pitching in Little League, that the excitement, the thrill, was no greater than when he was a kid on the mound.
And I believe him.
I’ll do well to remember life’s real milestones: the loss of a parent, losing a tooth, colon cancer screenings, IRS audits, and all the magic moments you watch your kids go through. Knowing they may not be milestones, but they’re magic just the same.