If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Love/Hate: When Writers Disappear

by Linda Rodriguez

All my life I’ve been a voracious reader and writers have been important to me. They’ve helped me to grow and mature. They’ve broadened my mind and my outlook. They’ve inspired me to keep going when things looked grim and to aim for ever loftier goals. Sometimes when I’ve been sick or in physical pain or grief-stricken, they have taken me out of my situation for a few hours and given me respite and relief. In so many ways, writers and the books they wrote have been important to me and my life.

Still, I’ve noticed an odd thing—some writers, who may have been hugely successful and famous, disappear from view. Who ever hears or sees the name Edna Ferber now? Yet she was world-famous several decades ago for her large novels telling the stories of states or sections of America, such as Cimarron (Oklahoma), Ice Palace (Alaska), So Big (Chicago), Come and Get It (Wisconsin), Giant (Texas), and Showboat (the deep South). Ferber won major awards for her books, which were always bestsellers. Hollywood made huge, successful movies from many of them, and Showboat was also a hit as a Broadway play, and her movies and plays also often won major awards.

Ahead of her time and with a sure eye for the plight of the underdog, Ferber often dealt with controversial issues in her work, such as racism and miscegenation laws, immigration, political corruption, the treatment of women and minorities, issues that you wouldn’t expect to be at the center of such popular books. Millions have found themselves mesmerized by her portrayals of the people, places, and times she portrays, as I have many times. She did extensive research for each book and was, in my opinion, the unsung precursor of James Michener’s research-heavy tomes about states in the US and hot-spot areas of the world and the better writer. Ferber wrote real characters the reader could care about, rather than mouthpieces for the various aspects of history or area controversies as Michener did.

Kenneth Roberts is another writer whose books have vanished into the out-of-print bins at used bookstores and friends of library sales. His bestselling books, such Northwest Passage, Lydia Bailey, The Lively Lady, Captain Caution, Arundel, Rabble in Arms, and Oliver Wiswell, focus on the periods of American history before and during the American Revolution, and many of them were made into successful films and TV series.

Roberts was famous for his meticulous research into his period, and he told the stories of heroes and mavericks on both sides of that struggle. I think he was the first popular writer to offer the sympathetic portrayals of the Loyalist (usually called Tory) families who had to go into exile once the United States was independent, as well as the families and soldiers who fought for independence. Roberts wrote about the founding fathers and the soldiers who fought for the American Revolution, warts and all, as very real human beings with often conflicting motives and with families and other entanglements that complicated their efforts. When I finish one of his books, I always feel as if I have lived through the period that book covers in a complete immersion experience.

Pearl Buck is one of these once-great and now-forgotten authors who’s getting a new lease on life through the influence of Oprah Winfrey. I know it’s fashionable in literary circles to criticize Oprah, but I believe she provides America, in general, and literary culture, in particular, a real service in encouraging reading and in bringing recognition to forgotten or overlooked works. Look at what happened to Pearl Buck. Even though Buck was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, her bestselling and award-winning books, such as The Good Earth, Sons, A House Divided, Other Gods, China Sky, Dragon Seed, Pavilion of Women, Peony, The Big Wave, and Imperial Woman, had mostly been out of print. The gatekeepers of American literature, professors and critics, had pretty much consigned her books to the ash heap as “not literary enough” until Oprah pointed a spotlight back on her Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, The Good Earth.

I love what Buck said in her Nobel acceptance speech. She pointed out that, in China, “the novelist did not have the task of creating art but of speaking to the people.” “Like the Chinese novelist,” she said, “I have been taught to want to write for these people. If they are reading their magazines by the million, then I want my stories there rather than in magazines read only by a few.” Perhaps this is why her stories of people’s lives, especially women’s, are so enthralling. I know they have helped me through times of great physical and emotional pain.

What authors of the past have been favorites of yours and helped you make it through times of illness or boredom or other difficulty? What writers who are out of fashion now would you like to see back in print and in active circulation?

LINDA RODRIGUEZ’s nonfiction book on writing, Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, is now available for pre-order.   https://www.amazon.com/Plotting-Character-driven-Novel-Linda-Rodriguez/dp/097912915X

Her first novel, Every Last Secret, won the St. Martin’s/ Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her novel, Every Broken Trust, was a Las Comadres National Latino Book Club selection, took 2nd place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlán Literary Award. Her third novel, Every Hidden Fear, was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award.  Visit her Web site at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com


KB Inglee said...

I loved Kenneth Roberts. Read all his works when I was in High School. Boone Island was my favorite. To this day I am fascinated with such situations, the survivors of the Essex (which I learned about around the same time, 1950s) and the Donner Party. Thanks for the memories.

Kait said...

I am surprised to see Pearl Buck on your list. I hadn't realized. Her writing ignited my love of novels set in China. Those novels that were so popular in the seventies and eighties and are now also topics of the past. I wonder if part of it is the length of the works. Michener and Wolk are two others who gave me joy and comfort. Took me on armchair travels to other times and places and now, are rarely read.

There is something to be said for electronic readers. Long after books disappear from the shelves, readers can find them in e-form.

Jim Jackson said...

When I went to read all the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, I was surprised how many were unavailable at a very large library system, and that a few I could only acquire as used books.

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

I'd vote for Weldon Hill. I don't know that he was ever all that popular, but one of my favorite books, which I re-read periodically, is Rafe. It occupies a prominent spot on my bookshelf.

Shari Randall said...

When I worked at the library reference desk, I, too, would notice the gradual disappearance of books many consider classics or of very high literary merit (while shelves were crowded with the latest potboiler by certain high selling authors - but I digress). Public libraries are not archives; they have finite space, and if people don't read a book it goes under consideration for weeding. The bottom lines:
If people don't read or request them, it's hard to make a case to keep a title. Trained librarians will always try to keep the classics, but automated systems target books with low circulation figures. As more machines make decisions instead of people, books disappear. Thank goodness for interlibrary loan, sites like Project Gutenberg (though sometimes their text is wonky) and Oprah! And you, Linda, for bringing this issue to our attention.

Gloria Alden said...

This past year I read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. I have several more on my shelves that I have read in the past, too. I remember reading Edna Ferber, too, but whether or not I still have any of her books, I don't know since my shelves in the house are packed to overflowing, they may be in boxes in my garage. I admire Oprah for her recommendations of books.

Carla Damron said...

I hate to think of fine books ending up in some literary graveyard. This is one area where digitalization can help us.
And congrats, Linda, on new book!

Diane Russom Harrison said...

Who, among us, has the hubris to decide an author's work is "not literary enough"? Could these be the same idiots that think the unreadable James Franzen hung the moon? SMH!

Margaret Turkevich said...

With the resources of the Hamilton County library system and Ohio link to college and universities, I can usually get my hands on most books, even a vintage nineteenth century edition of Mrs. Beeton's book of household management.

Linda Rodriguez said...

KB, I love Kenneth Roberts. Now that's the way historical fiction should be written--based on impeccable, extensive research. Also, have you read his autobiography, I WANTED TO WRITE? One of my favorite books. It's out of print now. Someone stole the library copy I used to check out every year. My son tracked down a used copy for me for Christmas a couple of years ago. it's a writer's treasure if you can find it.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kait, Pearl Buck was completely out of print until Oprah finally brought back The Good Earth. Amazing, isn't it? Our first female Nobel Prize winner.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, yes, I found the same thing once when I was researching Publishers Weekly's year's best books for a century. Amazing, isn't it?

KM, I'm not familiar with Weldon Hill. I'll have to put him on my list to find.

Shari, yes! I check out from the library certain classic books that I own, simply so they'll keep them available for people who can't afford to buy books. Many of those classics were very important to my survival and growth as a young girl in a horrible home situation. I want to keep them there for other bright kids to find.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, Edna Ferber was a woman far ahead of her times. Someday some academic will do a thorough reassessment of her and restore her to her just place. If no one else does, I'll do it myself.

Carla, yes, digitization may well save some of these. But what about people too poor to own ereaders or computers?

Margaret, yes, interlibrary loan is out best friend, isn't it?

Grace Topping said...

I am always saddened to learn that an author whose books I loved died and that there would be no more works by that author. I'm also saddened that old favorites become hard to find. I discovered the books by Jeffrey Farnol and can now only find them in antique stores. I probably could find them online, but then I would miss out on the pleasure of unearthing one at a store.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yes, Grace, that search is lovely, but online is often the only way to find some of these books.