Oline Cogdill


John Grisham is one of those authors who is indeed a household name. Beginning with The Firm, Grisham gave the legal thriller a much needed vitamin shot. And while not all of his novels have kept those high standards, he is indeed a most readable author.

Grisham's first baseball novel Calico Jack is now No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

Grisham also is high on another list—he's No. 8 on Forbes’s annual ranking of the world’s top-earning authors. His estimated earnings are $18 million. The list comes out each April.

But Grisham's $18 million pales next to the No. 1 author, James Patterson at $84 million. No. 2 is Danielle Steel at $35 million. No. 3: Stephen King, $28 million. No. 4: Janet Evanovich, $25 million. No. 5: Stephanie Meyer, $21 million. No. 6: Rick Riordan, $21 million. No. 7: Dean Koontz, $19 million. No. 8: Grisham. No. 9: Jeff Kinney, $17 million. No. 10: Nicholas Sparks, $16 million. No. 11: Ken Follett, $14 million. No. 12: Suzanne Collins, $10 million. No. 13: JK Rowling, $5 million.

I find it interesting that mystery/thriller writers dominate the list. Patterson, Grisham, Evanovich, King, Koontz and Follett are mainstays in the genre. We can even count Rick Riordan in the mix because he started out writing superb private detective novels before switching to the most lucrative Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles novels for young adults.

Grisham and Patterson also write novels for both adults and young adults.

Naturally, each of these authors spent years taking small advances and, during those years, the closest they would come to a bestsellers list is reading one in the newspaper.

That certainly happened to John Grisham, which he discussed in a recent Newsweek interview titled "My Favorite Mistake."

Back in the 1980s, Grisham was trying to sell his first novel, A Time to Kill. Only 5,000 first-editon copies of the novel had been printed and Grisham had 1,500 copies that he stored in his small law office in Southaven, Mississippi.

That's a lot of books. So why does Grisham call this his "favorite mistake?"

Here's why:

“We stacked them in the reception area, around my secretary’s desk, in the hallways, in my office. We couldn’t move but for all the copies of A Time to Kill,” Grisham said in the Newsweek interview.

“The boxes were everywhere, and I would just give them away. If one of my clients wanted a book, I’d try to sell it. If not, I’d give it away. I’d sell them for 10 bucks, 5 bucks. I used them for doorstops. I couldn’t get rid of these books.”

Today, on the used-book website, a signed first edition of A Time to Kill might fetch as much as $4,000, according to Newsweek.

“That’s about $6 million, the way I do the math,” Grisham told Newsweek. “We had no way of knowing then, but I sure wish I had some of those books back. I blew it.”

Lawrence Blcok


Before I close this saga of my days at The Scott Meredith Literary Agency, I need to offer a correction. Some months ago I attributed "Rattlesnake Cave," the error-ridden story created as a test for job applicants at Scott Meredith, to the late science fiction writer Lester Del Rey. The byline, transparent enough it would seem, was "Ray D. Lester," and it was common knowledge in the office that Del Rey, an agency client and former employee, had written the piece.

Kate Stine was good enough to point me to an interview Ed Gorman had done with Stephen Marlowe, shortly before Marlowe's death; in it, Marlowe claimed authorship of "Rattlesnake Cave." Did I want to amend my column accordingly?

No, I said. I was sure it was Del Rey, everyone had always known it was Del Rey, and I'd had enough experience with people misremembering the remote past to believe Marlowe had done just that.

Stephen MarloweSo the piece stayed as I wrote it, and when it appeared my friend Barry Malzberg (who knows more about the workings and history of that agency than anyone else ever did, not excepting Scott) put me straight. Steve Marlowe did indeed write it, and the byline was his way of giving Del Rey one in the eye.

I stand corrected. And it may seem a small point, but the damn story has been read by thousands upon thousands of people, including many leading lights of the publishing world. Might as well get it right!

-- excerpted from "The Murders in Memory Lane: Those Scott Meredith Days, Part III," in Mystery Scene 2012 Winter Issue #123.

Oline Cogdill
altFor personal reasons, I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between fathers and daughters. Sure, expand it to fathers and sons and even to parents and their children. For the record, I was lucky in that I was close to both of my parents and not a
day goes by that I don't miss them both and wish I could share what is going on in our lives.
But right now, I am thinking about fathers and daughters because that is what this blog is about.
In their latest novels, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane not only deliver enthralling plots but also their individual look at fathers and daughters add a richness to the subtext of their novels. I've gone on record before as praising both Connelly and Lehane, whose novels both often land high on my best of lists. And both maintain their high standards with Connelly's The Reversal and Lehane's Moonlight Mile.
titleIn The Reversal, Connelly's series hero Harry Bosch is dealing with the daily challenges of fatherhood for the first time. And to make the "challenge" even harder, Bosch's daughter is a young teenager. During the course of The Reversal, Bosch tries to find evidence that will prove a convicted murderer who was recently exonerated truly is guilty.
That plot alone would be enough challenge but Bosch also is learning how to be a father because he has only recently taken custody of his 14-year-old daughter, as well as learning how to be part of an extended family. Neither will come easy.
Lehane returns to his career-making series about Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro in Moonlight Mile. Patrick and Angie, now married and the parents of a 4-year-old daughter, are pulled back into the case of Amanda McCready who was 4 years old when she was kidnapped in Gone Baby Gone (1998). Now 16 years old, Amanda has gone missing again. It's not lost on Patrick that his own child is the same age that Amanda was when she was kidnapped more than a dozen years ago.
(For a more in-depth look at Lehane, check out the profile of him in the Winter issue of Mystery Scene.)
Rather than take away from the gritty plots, each author makes their hero's homelife a vital part of the story, showing the humanity in each detective. Harry and Patrick have more to lose now that they are fathers and each has to think about their child's safety,
wrestle with child care issues and how to show affection when their jobs often require stoicism.
It's especially interesting to see the stages of fatherhood that both Connelly and Lehane depict. Connelly and Lehane are both fathers and the age of their own daughters are close to that of their characters' daughters. Connelly nails the push-pull relationship of a teenager with her father, the need for independence and the need for supervision.
Lehane's scenes with Patrick and his daughter show goofiness that dads can be with their little ones and yet in several scenes Patrick acknowledges that fatherhood isn't easy.
Never once do Connelly or Lehane allow these scenes to become overly sentimental or maudlin. The scenes fit well in the course of the novel and add to each novel's richness. One time, decades ago, readers never had an inkling about a detective's private life because they didn't have one. Thank goodness times have changed.
In these two terrific novels, both Connelly and Lehane have each offered a tribute of sorts to fathers and daughters. I know I thought about my own late father as I read each.
Dennis Lehane will be one of the guests of honor during Sleuthfest March 3-6, 2011, in Fort Lauderdale. Registration is now open.
Oline Cogdill

Get your motors running Saturday, July 9, in Sharon, Connecticut, with Darren Winston Bookseller, Lime Rock Park racetrack, and Mystery Scene for a reading and signing to celebrate the launch of Tammy Kaehler's Dead Man's Switch, the first in a new American Le Mans Mystery series set at Connecticut's real Lime Rock Park raceway.

Readers can pick up an advance copy of this debut mystery due out later this August from Poisoned Pen Press, which features the competitive female Corvette racer Kate Reilly who takes pole position on a list of murder suspects when she gets a dead driver's place in the big race. The first 100 visitors will also receive gift bags including a free issue of Mystery Scene's Summer #120 Issue just out.

"I tell people I'm genetically predisposed to be a sports fan (thanks, dad)," says Kaehler on her site. "By marriage, I'm disposed to like cars. And then I fell into the racing world because I was interested in learning something new. Then I met a woman who used to race cars. It all clicked."

Mystery Scene publishers Kate Stine and Brian Skupin will be on hand, as will Skip Barber, the owner of Lime Rock Park, along with several Corvettes, which will be parked up and down Sharon's Main Street.

See you at the races!

darrenwinstonbooksDead Man's Switch Official Book Launch
5:30-7:30 pm, Saturday, July 9, 2011
Darren Winston Bookseller
81 Main Street
Sharon, Connecticut 06069
Tel: 860-364-1890 | MAP


Dead Man's Switch
by Tammy Kaehler
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2011, $22.95

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Oline Cogdill
titleAs I have written about countless times, I love finding those inside jokes in mysteries. It never fails to make me smile to read about a character reading another author's work. It's a nice homage from one author to another.
Bruce DeSilva's debut novel Rogue Island is loaded with these references. DeSilva's hero is old-school newspaperman Liam Mulligan, who covers Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in the area and knows every inch of his hometown as well as being
on a first-name basis with mobsters, bookies, cops, fire fighters, attorneys and strippers – mainly from his childhood.
Liam also is an avid reader. During the course of Rogue Island, Liam shows his good taste in novels with references to Dennis Lehane, Robert Parker, Ken Bruen and Tim Dorsey.
But tough-guy Liam draws the line at poetry. When a friend begins to read a slim volume of poetry by Boston poet Patricia Smith, Liam calls her "some lame poet." In the next scene balks when his lady friend wants to read aloud some of Smith's work.
But when he hears the poem -- which DeSilva includes -- he quickly changes his mind about poetry. Liam also wants to see the poet's photo and calls Smith "hot."
I doubt that Smith's husband would object to Liam calling her "hot" because she is married to DeSilva. And I am sure that by now Smith has forgiven Liam for calling her lame, because she is anything but. This reference is an amusing way for DeSilva to pay homage to his wife's work and it also fits nicely in the story.
Patricia Smith is an award-winning poet and performance artist and a four-time national individual champion of the notorious Poetry National Slam.
In his debut, DeSilva, former Associated Press reporter, delivers a strong, well-plotted
mystery. Rogue Island looks at organized crime, political conspiracies and the newspaper industry. And a bit of poetry, too.
PHOTO: Patricia Smith and Bruce DeSilva in San Francisco