Monday, September 3, 2012

Opinion — Self Analysis, Self Promotion and Background for Death in the Haight

Most of the readers who know my work probably follow the Indianapolis-based Deets Shanahan series. It’s been around awhile and it’s been popular in the libraries. The newer series is set in San Francisco and features an eclectic group of investigators in an office South of Market Street. 

There are 10 Shanahans. The last six have been published by the UK’s Severn House, a quality publisher for many high-quality writers.  Severn House also introduced the first two in the Carly Paladino/Noah Lang San Francisco mysteries at a time when the publishing industry was in the first throes of horrendous disruption.  I say first throes because there appears to be continuing throes or, at least a bunch of after shocks of the e-book explosion.  So, not inappropriately considering San Francisco’s familiarity with quaking disruptions and eruptions as well as finding a way to survive them, the San Francisco series adapted to the changing environment. The series is still alive and delivering fresh stories.  But let’s start at the beginning.

Death in Pacific Heights — This double-barreled mystery wasn’t my first book outside the Shanahan series.  But it is the first of a second series.  I wanted to use my 20 years in San Francisco as a backdrop for some new stories and new characters. Private eyes Carly Paladino and Noah Lang meet for the first time and have to relate to each other’s very different approaches to the investigation business.  Carly is from a prestige security firm and Noah picked up his knowledge from life on the streets.  In this book there are two different murders, two different P.I.s, two different stories — yet somehow the two main characters must learn to get along.  This is a full-length novel that takes place in the wealthiest San Francisco neighborhoods.  It was published as a hardback to good reviews.  The trade paperback version sold out quickly.  Unfortunately, e-book versions aren’t available at this time. This first in the series was published by Severn House in 2009 and is currently available in hardback.

Death in North Beach — This was Carly’s and Noah’s second adventure.  It’s a little quirky.  My attempt at a light-hearted homage to the kind of ending that gathered all the suspects in the parlor was meant to be fun. While a number of reviewers liked the book, some found the end unsatisfying.  I was also chastised by a fellow panelist at a national mystery conference in front of hundreds of attendees because Carly slept with a gigolo. The public takedown wasn’t as good as being banned in Boston, but it was interesting just the same. The panel discussion was about the place of women protagonists in mysteries.  Are there different standards for male detectives and women detectives? How tough can a woman P.I. be?  How many womanizing heroes are there in the P.I. genre?  How many “manizing” women?  Much like all the books in the series, there is a strong sense of place. In this case, the legendary North Beach is a prominent character. Readers who only know the standard tourist spots in the City by the Bay will learn a little more about this exciting world destination. Death in North Beach was published by Severn House in 2010 and is available in hardback, paperback and ebook.

Mascara, Death in the Tenderloin — This was actually the first book I’d written featuring Noah Lang.  Because it was released later, it acts as a prequel.  Tenderloin goes back a few years. This is Noah’s story. It’s also about how he met his good friend Thanh and made an enemy of a tough San Francisco homicide inspector.  Long out of work, the P.I. gets two cases at the same time, both life threatening. The setting is one of the toughest neighborhoods in San Francisco, but moves throughout the city. Because few publishing houses wanted mysteries in novella-length forms at the time and because I had always wanted to be a publisher I took advantage of the new, relatively inexpensive technology and my background in communications to publish it myself.  I formed a small publishing company, worked with talented designers and used this as the first book of five, so far, from Life Death & Fog Books. Death in the Tenderloin was published late last year.  It is available in trade paperback at $13.99 and in ebook formats at $3.99.  Even though this book came out third, if I were choosing a first book to sink my teeth into, this would be the one.

Death in the Haight — The edge can be taken off the thrill of self-publishing when one discovers that marketing your own work is a challenge.  There are many benefits of having a publisher where there is a full staff of talented people to support your efforts. Because my brush with the mystery novella was exhilarating even if I had to do it myself, I was thrilled to learn that the novella was born again among traditional publishers. They see the need to be flexible and some of the old firms are indeed limbering up.  Penguin Group announced they were reviving Dutton’s Guilt Edged Mysteries — a fine, vintage label from the ‘40s and ‘50s — and that they were looking for short stories and novellas in particular. I sent them Death in the Haight and they wanted it as the third book under their new imprint.  This is also a Noah Lang mystery. I hope to follow up with a novella focusing on Carly next time around. Meanwhile, Death in the Haight has just been released (2012) in all ebook formats at $2.99. 

If you like San Francisco and private-eye novels, take a look at one of these.  Start small, if you like.  Small is good.

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