Good To The Last Kiss is a tougher, darker book than I ever intended to write. Before putting what I'd learned in my own words I read all I could on the subject of serial killers, listened to tapes of interviews with those who had committed such horrific crimes and read medical and psychological research.
The time I spent immersed in this kind of insanity was one of the most depressing periods of my life. What struck me was not only the deep pain and suffering such crimes caused the victims, but the collateral damage as well. Without being dismissive of the crime, how could we come close to understanding why someone would engage in such nightmarish behavior? Having questions like that is one reason people write — to discover, to try to understand. Seek and maybe you’ll find. I wrote the book quite some time ago. I sent the manuscript to legendary editor Ruth Cavin who, at the time was with St. Martin’s Press. She had published the first four of my Shanahan series books and an out-of-series book called Eclipse of the Heart.
Ruth wrote back a scathing rejection. In short, she found it offensive. On one hand I understood. Even the group of readers whom I had asked to read and comment on my drafts before submitting them to an editor fell quiet. Most had nothing to say other than pointing out a typo or an inconsistency. Quiet, in this case, was not a ringing endorsement. On the other hand, I believed I had written something other than a potboiler with a serial killer at the heart of the suspense. I attempted to write an atypical book about serial killers, investigating the subject in some depth and putting these thoughts in a work of fiction, where plot is important, but where thoughtful story and in-depth characters preside.
My publisher, and more importantly, my highly respected editor went thumbs down as had most of my very bright friends. This is where a writer faces a moment of truth. Are we writers just fooling ourselves in cases like these? Should we put the manuscripts way back on the shelf (there are two sitting back there now) and move on, or do we persist?
I dodged the question. Instead I wrote a fifth Shanahan and sent it off to Ruth. We corresponded several times. She loved the book, but there was a hitch in the approval process. In the end, after saying it was the best in the series, she (St. Martins) declined. I’m not sure the rejection was related to the serial killer book she hated. I think it was the bookselling environment that emerged at the time. Many of the midlist writers, a description I flatter myself with, were being tossed aside as they are again, now.
Meanwhile, the fifth Shanahan, Nickel-Plated Soul was a hit — not a best seller, but a hit nonetheless — with my new publisher. It was as light and as fun-filled as Good To The Last Kiss was dark and depressing. I wrote more in the Shanahan series for Severn House, but also sent a couple of manuscripts not in the series, one of them Good To The Last Kiss, which I still considered my best book. I guessed they would choose the other, the one I thought more mainstream. They didn’t, and Good To The Last Kiss was suddenly printed, bound and ready to be delivered. Then I waited. And waited. I had come to expect that The New York Times would ignore my books. But Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist usually came through.
Nothing. Deathly quiet. I asked my publisher, Severn House, why all the usual reviewers were silent. The publisher said, “Perhaps they are being kind to you.”
After a while, Kirkus published a review. Here is a snippet:
Tierney (Bullet Beach, 2011, etc.) serves up a dark, twisty little gem in which a pair of embittered detectives and a not-quite-dead victim combine irresistibly… Every year the genre has its Goliaths, bigger and better ballyhooed than this modest entry. Come Edgar time, however, Tierney's well-written, tidily plotted, character-driven David of a book deserves to be remembered. — Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2011 (starred)
Needless to say, though I’ll say it anyway, I cherish those words.
I bring all this up now because I noticed the e-book version is available at an extremely low price, and I never really give up on anything I believe in.