Say what you will about me, but I’m slow and steady — mostly slow.
Or maybe lazy is a more accurate term.
Sure, I can knock out some speed if needed, do a book in a couple of months. But then I’ll sit around not doing much for a few years afterwards.
However, as I’ve said elsewhere, at least I started young and plugged away from time to time, so I’ve managed to pile up a few credits despite my natural inclinations.
And I just realized the other day that I have been knocking out reviews for Publishers Weekly now for fifteen years — the first couple cracked those pages in December 2000. My current count is 173 items, which averages out to a little less than one a month. In actual time, I was doing almost one a week when I started out fresh, but lately do perhaps seven or eight a year, just to keep my hand in.
I think the main reason I have the list of titles that I keep on scrap paper is to make sure I got paid for each one as we went along. Cheque. And check.
I might not have noticed, except Tenderloin Terry Zobeck picked up a reviewing gig recently and I dug out a huge file of my reviews to show him, give him a sense of what it is like. And realized, hey, wait a minute here. . . .
Early on, I kept track of which issue a review appeared in. Now I don’t bother. The reviews mostly don’t have bylines, and can be changed up by any editor somewhere along the line. I think it took me reviews of three or four Civil War mysteries in one series, each set in or around a different battleground, to break through with my original line “a whowunnit with every whodunit.” For that series — for a mystery — I thought that was a great line. So I kept sticking it in until it squeaked by.
But overall, the reviews are contract work, lost along the way. If you want a taste of the action from those fifteen years, however, I did do a boxed bylined review of the recent Hammett collection and I noticed that PW put online a little set of interviews I got in on.
For awhile they did occasional short interviews to go along with reviews of new books. I think the interviewer usually also reviewed the book, but not always. I did the duties on everything except for the Dennis McMillan collection Measures of Poison — no idea who did the review itself, but it wasn’t me, since I had a story in that one. But they brought me in to conduct the interview.
I also got to do chats with James Crumley and James Sallis and Czar of Noir Eddie Muller, back when Eddie was doing novels. In a way my big one was the talk with the prolific P.C. Doherty, since I had to call him up in England.
Last Sunday I did a tour by appointment with a group, with rain hanging around the edges of the walk. The guy who made the arrangements went on the tour many years back, and was telling me how he’d gotten into mysteries again more recently. Mentioned a series he was reading set in ancient Ægypt. . . . “Oh,” I said, “by Doherty, no doubt. I interviewed him once.”
Yep, he started with Doherty, now is seeking out other series, in other lands and other times.