With 2008 coming to a close, I want to thank each and every one of you--whether you read my books, frequent this blog, or have in any way contributed to my life--for helping to make this a memorable year. Many great things happened in 2008, but this year also made me a stronger person. There were several illnesses in my family, and I had to deal with my own spinal surgery. Thankfully everyone has made a full recovery, and I'm currently on the mend. Plus I turn 30 in 2009, but let's not talk about that.
And now, a little BSP (I mean, it is my blog). Here are just a few of the events that took place during this calendar year, many of which occurred thanks to the incredible support of readers:
--THE GUILTY and THE STOLEN were both published to terrific reviews. --THE MARK was optioned to be a major motion picture,with internationally renowned, award-winning director Paddy Breathnach attached to direct. --THE MARK was nominated for three awards (it went 0-for-3, but who's counting). --My books were published all around the world in numerous languages. Including, but not limited to: Australia, England, Ireland, South Africa, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Estonia and Norway. More countries are being added frequently, and in case you're curious all of my foreign covers are posted at jasonpinter.com. --KILLER YEAR: A Criminal Anthology was published in the U.S., UK and Australia, receiving glowing praise from readers and critics and even publishing legend Otto Penzler. I'm so proud of this collection, and every conference I go there are always lots of people with copies to sign. The Killer Year crew is not only an incredible collection of talented crime writers, but also people who've become my friends over the last few years. I'll see you all at the bar.
Yet as good as 2008 has been, 2009 is shaping up to be even better. And since good things come to those who wait, multiply that good thing by two. Because in October, the first part of my two-book Henry Parker epic will hit stores. Tentatively titled THE FURY, this book raises the stakes to a whole new level. Because Henry Parker will uncover the most devastating secret yet--his own.
But then in November, just when you think the story is closed, THE DARKESS will hit shelves, as a deadly enemy prepares to descend upon New York City, a plague so vicious that lives will be changed forever...and I promise you that not everyone is going to make it out alive. What frightens me is that I conceived of the idea for this book months ago, yet as every day passes it becomes all the more timely, and the chances of the events in THE DARKNESS actually happening seem far too real.
I'm so excited to share these books with you, and I can't wait to hear your feedback. I think they're the best yet in the series, and I hope you agree.
Have a very happy new year, and I'll see you in '09.
Here is Wired's list of the 10 most incredible animal videos of 2008. Including this one, of a gibbon acting like your little sister annoying you in the backseat of a car during a long family trip. Not that I've ever experienced anything like that.
A long time ago, two shoe salesmen were sent to a small village to hawk their wares. The first shoe salesman said, "There is no market here. Nobody wears shoes." The second shoe salesman said, "The market is unlimited here! Nobody wears shoes!"
I just saw this article by Chris Goldberg on the Huffington Post and felt it was worth linking to. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "Men Don't Read" in an editorial/marketing/publicity meeting, I could have retired already. I hate this notion that men don't read, and hate even more the fact that it seems to be accepted by most people. I can't tell you how many times I saw books either rejected or given the short end of the stick because people didn't think it would appeal to women.
A while back, I wrote a post about how there have been so many imprints specifically geared towards women, yet none geared towards men. I can never understand this. Men, especially young men, are massive consumers of pop culture and entertainment, spend as much if not more money than women on movies and video games (perhaps even music), and yet for the most part they are roundly ignored when it comes to publishing. There is such a massive, untapped market here, and it boggles my mind at just how uninterested people seem to be to publish books that appeal to it, or unmotivated they are to find out how to market to it.
Right now, publishing has the attitude of the first shoe salesman. Anyway, check out the article. It's worth a read. Even if you're a man.
Saw "The Wrestler" this weekend with my dad. Terrific movie, the kind that sits in the pit of your stomach once it end and keeps you thinking about it. Plus I've listened to that Bruce Springsteen song about 150,000 times the past two days (Bruce wrote the title track specifically for the film, and if he loses the "Best Original Song" Oscar to Randy Newman or something silly I might set fire to the Academy). Anyway, a few thoughts:
SPOILERS ABOUND. REPEAT: SPOILERS. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.
--Just a wonderful, sad, lived-in performance by Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, the kind of performance that's so convincing it doesn't feel like he's acting. And as a washed up 80's has-been trying to make a comeback playing a washed-up 80's has been trying to make a comeback, maybe he isn't. After The Ram's speech before the final match, about his missed opportunities and wasted life, my dad said, "That speech sounded like it could have been about Mickey Rourke."
--The performances other than Rourke--Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood--feel authentic because there's no extraneous dialogue, no needless exposition. These characters have lived their lives and don't need to explain anything. Even though Evan Rachel Wood (as Rourke's alienated daughter) spends relatively little time with him, the anguish in her eyes, even more wrenching in their final scene together lets you know just what a kind of father Rourke's Randy was. And Tomei's Cassidey--like Rourke's Robinson--does what she does simply because she doesn't know anything else.
--As someone who became a bit of a wrestling fan late in life (I was a pretty ardent follower from about 2001 until the awful Chris Benoit double murder/suicide last year), I was impressed with how authentic the wrestling scenes were. From the crowd chants to the moves to the weapons, this was an authentic a "sport" movie as I've ever seen. Nice to know Darren Aronofsky went the extra mile to get the details right.
--Definitely a tough movie to watch at times, both physically and emotionally. The violence in some of the matches is hard to bear, even more so knowing that these guys put their bodies through this in real life. Wrestlers do cut their foreheads with razor blades to draw blood. They do end some matches with dozens of thumbtacks sticking out of their bodies. They are mangled by barbed wire and they do fall off of ladders through tables. As hard as those scenes are to watch, the emotional ones are just as difficult. Deep down we seem to know that Randy "The Ram" will never redeem himself, so in some way we feel like his daughter when he comes to her in the middle of the night. We're sad, we might shed tears for him, but we've also moved on. This is the man he is, and thinking he could be anything different would be lying to him and to ourselves.
--The ending is staged beautifully, and as it sinks in as to what Randy is planning to do we watch not in horror, but with some sense of relief, because it feels like things are going to end the way they should.
I could write endlessly about wrestling and how authentically this movie deals with the sad reality of broken down wrestlers who end up penniless, incapacitated and alienated from society, but instead I'll direct you to this terrific piece by ESPN's Bill Simmons. Chris Benoit was legitimately my favorite wrestler while I followed the 'sport', and it hit me pretty hard when news broke of his death. Since then I have not been able to look at wrestling the same way, and though the WWE (basically the only mainstream wrestling organization) has instituted more stringent drug testing, the list of wrestlers who die before their time grows every year.
While "The Wrestler" is a harrowing portrait of what happens when the only thing you're good at in your life is taken away from you, it is also a frighteningly realistic portrait of what the cameras don't show. These men, once blessed with seven figure incomes, bodies like Greek Gods and hordes of admiring (and often lustful) fans, are often reduced to taking Polaroids for $8 a pop, scars covering their bodies that have been ravaged from far too many painkillers, enhancers, and injuries that the adrenaline masks until it's too late. This movie shows what happens once the fireworks die down, what happens once the curtains close behind you for the final time. For many of these men (and some women), once the applause dies down, silence is the only crowd that waits.
Starting today, my second Henry Parker novel, THE GUILTY, hits shelves all across the UK. THE MARK was a huge success across the pond, spending several weeks on the Bookseller's Heatseeker bestseller list and receiving terrific reviews. THE GUILTY is available from Amazon UK, Waterstones, Tesco, and many other fine stores.
UK praise for THE MARK
“Thriller fans, we have a hot new name on the block to shout about! Jason Pinter’s high octane, confident debut marks his card as ‘one to watch.” —The Daily Record
“The Mark has the kind of explosive writing that will put Jason Pinter up there amongst the top names, with its go-for-broke thematic attitude and foreboding atmosphere makes it a big reason why the book stands out amongst the crowd.” —ShotsMag
"A cracking debut." --The Daily Mirror
“At once chilling and shot through with humour, it boasts two very appealing protagonists. Pinter knows how to ramp up the tension so the reader is in that pleasurable zone of suspense, wanting to turn pages and yet not get to the end too soon. ” —The Sunday Tribune
“All the elements are there, plus that something extra special that makes this book a publishing phenomenon that’s definitely not to be missed. Go on, I dare you not to finish it in one sitting!” —CrimeSquad UK
“Pinter makes the most of it…an unpredictable ending with, along the way, fun and terror in a highly proficient debut.” –The Scotsman
Here's a list of some of the things that made me happy, cranky and/or thankful in 2008:
Kyle Smith: Film critic for the New York Postand king of the hatchet job movie review. Smith's reviews are often more enjoyable than the films he skewers, and he always has at least one great one-liner (i.e. from his review of Punisher: War Zone: "Castle, a k a the Punisher, has no superpowers - unless you count an ability to be dull."). When Smith reviews a bad movie, he himself is sublime.
The New York Giants: No matter how many games they win, no matter how easily they steamrolled the NFC East, they keep you on your toes by seemingly being able to put up a stinker on any given Sunday.
Theresa Schwegel: With her flat-out brilliant trio of novels OFFICER DOWN, PROBABLE CAUSE and PERSON OF INTEREST, Schwegel is on my short list of authors whose books I'll buy the day they hit stores. A lot of people can write authentic police novels, but not with the authenticity of character she does. There is more heart in her novels that any dozen you can pick off the shelf at random.
Michael Wolff: For being a smarmy and smug hanger on--cough--journalist who does the unthinkable by being more repulsive than frequest target Judith Regan. Just look at his author photo. Is he trying to look like Howie Mandel? Wolff is the kind of guy who, at a party, will spend the entire time regailing you with stories of all the famous people he's met, criticize your fashion sense, steal your silverware, then write an article about how no famous people were at your party. He's basically paparazzi with a better wardrobe, itching to catch rich people with their pants down. I mean, he apparently said this to Regan. Doesn't that sound a lot like a TMZ cameraman saying, "Hey, I'm going to zoom in on your crotch when you get out of the car anyway, so you might as well talk to me to try and get something positive out of it."
The Dark Knight and Wall-E: My two favorite movies of the year (which I reviewed here and here), and in my opinion two of the best films of the last decade. If these films are not serious Oscar contenders (especially over underwhelming entries like Frost/Nixon) then the whole process is rigged. And if Ron Howard gets an Oscar nomination over Christopher Nolan, I might have to officially renounce "Arrested Development." (ok, maybe not, but I'll be pissed)
Beer commercials: Because apparently you can't enjoy a beer unless you a) have an IQ under 40, b) would gladly trade your loving wife or girlfriend for a single can, c) are incredibly annoying/unctuous, d) use nonsense words like "drinkability" in normal conversation, or e) pretty much hate women and think of them as nothing more than unnecessary harpies who should cook you dinner and bear your children and then never be seen or heard from again.
The Shield: Along with "The Wire," one of the best crime dramas ever came to an end this year. Though the shows couldn't have been more different in approach, they both delivered emotional punches to the gut with regularity. Vic Mackey took his place as one of the most iconic characters in television history, and gave us an ending that was both devastating and anti-climactic at the same time. Because it had to be.
Bill Simmons: ESPN's The Sports Guy, one of the first sports columnists who had the knowledge of an insider but wrote with the detached amusement (and enjoyment) of a hardcore fan. For too long I've felt book publishing needed someone like that, a critic who could be smart and funny but didn't owe anybody anything, didn't care about celebrity or lack thereof, didn't give a rats ass about publishing parties and what books were "hip," took pre-pub hype with a massive grain of salt, didn't try too hard and didn't care about "sounding" smart, and, most importantly, wrote for the average guy/girl reading in their armchair.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores: Yes, online stores might have better selection. Yes, the Kindle might get the book to you faster. But there's nothing that replicates the pure joy of walking around a bookstore without time being an object (or the awkward stares from employees whose eyes seem to say, "That guy is still here?").
Online retailers: Because sometimes you just need a copy of an out-of-print book on colonial child-rearing, a DVD of "Shark Attack 3" and a case of kettle cooked popcorn to arrive in one shipment.
NFL pregame shows: There is no greater form of unintentional comedy than watching five overweight middle-aged men--most of whom have never played competitive sports--going through slow motion plays on a tiny putting surface of a football field while wearing two thousand dollar suits and enough makeup to tide the cast of "Desperate Houswives" over until 2013.
Publishers Marketplace: Though I haven't worked in editorial in over a year, I still check it on an almost daily basis, still love seeing when an author I love or know gets a new deal or an editor buys something that I can't wait to have on my shelf.
Publishers Lunch: Reading Pub Lunch the last few weeks has been like reading a weekly analysis of the Detroit Lions season. Just depressing in so many ways.
The New York Times/New York Observer: Two newspapers whose book coverage seems to exist in some sort of vacuum where there's no such thing as genre fiction and merely uttering the words Roberto Bolano cause their staff an Andy Samberg-esque spurt of, um, ecstasy.
Sean Avery/The Dallas Stars/The NHL: I don't care one bit about hockey, but I'm thrilled that the NHL suspended Avery and his team cut him loose after his staged press conference where he crudely dissed his ex-girlfriends. About time somebody gets the clue that acting like an ass isn't cool.
Kristen Wiig: The best SNL performer since Will Ferrell.
Rick Riordan's THE LIGHTNING THIEF: Reminded me of why I loved fantasy novels when I was a kid, and how the best YA can be enjoyed by all ages.
I'm back at home, mending slowly, feeling quite useless since I can't move my neck, eat solid food or lift anything heavier than five pounds for the next month. The worst is hopefully over, and now it's just rest and recovery. Thanks to everyone who sent over well wishes, and a special thanks to my wonderful family and ever patient wife who have made the last few days far more comfortable than they've had any right to be (especially my wife who concocted the recipe for the perfect fruit smoothie). My sister had the foresight to get me a trial membership to NetFlix for my birthday, and if you don't think that sucker is going to be abused you're crazy. First up: 3:10 to Yuma and American Gangster. After that I think I'll check out the first seasons of Lost and Heroes. Plus I bought a few books before the surgery:
Early tomorrow morning I'll be going under the knife, so please excuse a (hopefully short) absence. I'll be undergoing a double Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion, which basically means I have two herniated discs in my neck that are pressing on my spinal cord. The good doctors at Beth Israel will be removing the discs from my spine and replacing them with a bone graft, then rigging the whole thing together with a metal plate and some screws.
Knock wood the procedure will go well and I'll be back on my feet in about 4-6 weeks. Hopefully minus the numbness and weakness in my hands and legs which have not been a whole lot of fun to live with over the last few months. Thankfully I have a very supportive family, and I'll keep myself busy with plenty of movies and books--and a nifty new booklight--to help out with the recovery (the booklight makes a great gift, by the way).
And if there's one good good thing to come out of this, it's that I'll be the only crime writer I know who has bones from an actual cadaver implanted in his body. It's the little things in life, you know.
"Maybe writing books will become just the hobby of rich people, or people who can live very cheaply." --from today's Galleycat
About seven years ago, I was looking for work as an editorial assistant. I knew barely anybody in the industry, had no job leads and few contacts. What I did was literally look at the acknowledgments section in books I'd enjoyed, dig up the editor's email address and ask if I could pick their brains about the job and the industry. That way, I figured, if and when a job did open up I'd be more prepared to hit the ground running.
To my surprise, nearly every editor I contacted agreed to meet with me. I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of the publishing industry. These editors selflessly offered their time and advice (and often armfuls of galleys) to meet with a confused 22-year old who just wanted to work with books. As my career as an editor progressed, and even after I left to write full time, I would happy to offer advice to friends and strangers who asked the same thing of me. Yesterday, I learned that one of the editors who was kind enough to meet with me all those years ago, a woman who acquired and edited some wonderful books, was just laid off.
For most of my adult life, I wanted nothing more than to work with books. Either as an author, editor, or a brief mental flirtation with being an agent. When I was finally offered a job as an editorial assistant, I knew I would be getting paid very little. My starting salary was $30,000. My very first year, the company canceled its holiday party due to budget constraints and salaries were frozen. My pay did not cross that magic 30k threshold until I'd been in the workforce nearly two full years (though it was thankfully augmented by overtime pay). But you know what? It didn't matter. I loved books, I loved publishing, and I was happy to work at the bottom end of the salary totem pole for a chance to do what I loved. I never wanted to be the kind of person who worked soul-deadening hours in a job I hated just for the chance to watch their bank account grow. I always believed that if you were good at something and worked hard at it, eventually the money would come. Most editorial assistants were in the same boat. My cubicle mate and I could never chat about television shows because she couldn't afford cable. Didn't matter. We loved it. Nobody gets into publishing for the money. Yes, as your career progresses you can make a good living. But that's a long slog, especially if you want to live in New York and literally pay the price that comes with it.
The same thing goes with authors. Nobody writes their first novel for the money. Spending hundreds of hours hunched over a keyboard on the slight chance somebody might be willing to pay you (likely a modest sum that equates to about two or three bucks an hour) for your work is hardly a path to riches. And with the layoffs, restructuring and freezes many companies are facing, chances are it will be even harder for authors to break through and get their first deal.
But there's one group of people who are, if anything, even more valuable in this economic climate, and who will find that there's plenty of money to go around: celebrities. Yes, celebrity books, in a way, are the great barometer of the publishing industry. Few editors like publishing celebrity books. They do it because publishing a celebrity is the easiest thing in the world, at least from a marketing standpoint (dealing with agents, managers, publicists and healthy egos is another thing entirely). Celebrity books are hugely hit or miss prospects. You hit on someone at the right time (Valerie Bertinelli) it's a monster. You catch someone on the cooling down/frozen period (Taylor Hicks) you take a massive hit. When you publish a celebrity book, you can just hold up the cover and say to the world, "Look, you know him! Did you know he was a meth/sex addict? Read all about it!" And people do. When you publish a first time novelist, if you hold that book up and say, "Hey, you know her!" people will look at you with confusion. And unless you can spend a lot of time, effort and often money to convince them to take a chance, they'll move on to a book by someone they have heard of.
It's all about recognition. The more recognizable a person is, the easier it is to convince people to plunk down their hard-earned money to read their stories. And with budgets being slashed everywhere, with fewer chances on unknown quantities being taken, name recognition is worth its weight in gold. Just look at the people who've gotten book deals recently:
Jerry Seinfeld (allegedly)
Michael Phelps (is there anything his name isn't on these days?)
And we all know it's only a matter of time before, sigh, Eliot Spitzer's hooker has trees slaughtered in her name.
Check out this video of authors telling people why they should buy books. Notice anything? That's a lot of celebrities!
When you think of literature, do you really think of Kathie Lee Gifford? I don't know about you, but I think of sweatshops, awkward laughing, and plastic surgery. But that's just me. And look who opens the video...Elmo. Martha Stewart. Jon Stewart. Barbara Walters. Big names, yes, but books are not the first thing you think about when you see these people. Let's continue. We have noted thesp Bill O'Reilly. Jack Donaghy/Alec Baldwin. Cesar Millan. Jim Cramer. Rachael Ray. Hey, wait, is that Dan Brown? Where the heck has he been? And we end with...John Lithgow. Was Tila Tequila not available? Listen, I just saw John Lithgow on Broadway in "All My Sons." Great show. And I didn't see it because I enjoyed his books, I saw it because he's a great actor.
Look, I know celebrity is a vague term. I loved Jon Stewart's AMERICA, and some celebrities (like Barbara Walters) have led fascinating lives deserving of book treatment. But you're fooling yourself if you don't think that Mike Piazza's book is going to be a padded 256 pages, with at least two 16-page photo inserts, containing such insight as, "When Roger Clemens threw that bat at me, it made me upset."
I'm not taking the high road. As an editor, I acquired a few books that were heavily based on personality. The issue I have is that I believe the above quote is becoming more and more painfully true with each layoff and each salary freeze. I worry that the shelves are going to stock fewer passion projects and more D-list celebrities. Celebrities are easy. You can get them on television, have them featured in People and on "Access Hollywood." They're better on camera than that shy debut novelist. I mean, book review sections are being slashed anyway, so the passion project so dependent on good reviews and word of mouth already has two strikes out of the gate. But why depend on a book review when you're guaranteed a mention in Page Six? I worry that the rich, literally, are only going to get richer, while the people who love books--the true authors, the passionate editors, the dedicated publishers, even some creative agents--are the ones who'll be trimmed out of the budget.
In celebration of all the corporate gibberish being bandied about this holiday season, I'm running a contest. The rules are simple:
--Come up with the best (i.e. most corporately gibberish) job title for the executive responsible for turning human words into corporate gibberish. Then either post your entry on this blog, or email it to me at email@example.com.
Some examples of such corporate gibberish are:
“HP committed to reinvesting integration savings into its workforce to ensure it has the global footprint it needs, sending an important message to customers concerned about how the reduction will affect their HP/EDS contracts." (Hewlett Packard)
"We are evaluating spans of control and layers of management to ensure that our front-line Associates are empowered; instituting more discipline and controls around expense management; identifying overlapping functions that can be combined to drive efficiency; outsourcing functions where appropriate; and eliminating entire pieces of non-value added work." (Circuit City)
The contest will end at midnight on Sunday, December 7th. The winner will receive signed copies of all three released Henry Parker novels (THE MARK, THE GUILTY and THE STOLEN). There must be somebody at these companies whose job it is to write this gibberish. Come up with the best job title for this employee, then post it here or email it to me, and win!
In this week's New York Magazine, readers will find a variety of "Best Of" lists in regards to great independent NYC stores across many spectrums, one of which is literature. For whatever reason, the article neglected to include two fantastic mystery bookstores in Manhattan (I'm saddened to not be able to include the Black Orchid on this list). Ignoring them is ignoring the wonderful diversity of New York bookstores.
If you live in New York, are traveling to New York, or are in need of a good recommendation from booksellers who know crime literature better than you know the back of your hand, please visit them in person or on the web. Both have massive selections of new releases, backlist titles, foreign editions and rare first editions, and you can place special orders with both. Do the book lover on your shopping list a favor and give these stores a ring:
The Mark by Jason Pinter (Mira, £6.99) is one long chase in which an ambitious young journalist finds himself dragged into a pursuit in which, if he fails to attain the objective, he will die. It may be the FBI or the Mafia which kills him, but he will be dead all the same. Indeed, the opening paragraph has him at the point of death. The book is all about the chase, not the objective, which is what Alfred Hitchcock would have called a McGuffin, a device of no importance simply there to trigger the pursuit. But Pinter makes the most of it, from the killing of a cop at the start to an unpredictable ending, with, along the way, fun and terror in a highly proficient debut.