Chris Grabenstein: The Dog Finished My Homework

grabenstein.gifChris Grabenstein and I went through the same Book Promotion 101 workshop earlier this year so we’d know what to do when our debut books came out this fall–and, yes, guest blogging’s one of the tips we picked up! Believe me, I’m more than happy to help, because Chris is a fun guy: I like him a lot, and I think you will, too. His novel, Tilt A Whirl, is the first in a series of mysteries set in a coastal New Jersey town with a seedy amusement park, so during the lunch break, I told him, “Dude, you totally have to call the next one Wall of Death.” Turns out the second one will be Mad Mouse, but I’m positive he’s going to come around to my way of thinking eventually… Before he turned to novel writing, Chris worked in advertising—was hired by James Patterson, in fact—and invented Trojan Man.

A lot of writers mention their dogs in their bios. I guess it helps foster a romantic notion of the writer as this dreamy, solitary soul crunching through the leaf-strewn forest with his faithful companion in a perfect L.L. Bean moment of authorial contemplation. I find it corny and swore I’d never mention my dog in my book jacket bio if I ever got published.

Then Buster, my Beagle-mix mutt, came up with the idea for my first murder mystery, Tilt A Whirl.

Well, not the idea—the structure.

He’s the one who first said, “You need a Watson!”


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29 September 2005 | guest authors |

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Sitting Around Reading)*

I packed a lot of reading material for my week away from the blog–finally, a chance to read just for the fun of it! I started light, with Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. Hard Case Crime co-publisher Charles Ardai included a note explaining that the novella-length piece was a change of pace from their usual pulp-y fare, down right “experimental” in some ways; the “arty” flavor drove Orson Scott Card nuts when he reviewed the book for PW, but since I’d been forewarned I was able to appreciate the story not as a puzzle to be solved but as one of King’s luxuriating baths in small-town Maine culture. In that sense, it actually reinforced certain impressions I had of Owen King’s literary heritage.

Then, because a few months ago I had reviewed the Lewis Dabney bio of Edmund Wilson—which James Wood and Colm Toibin have discussed at great length more recently–I decided to finally tackle Memoirs of Hecate County, or “the smut book” as I kept telling Mrs. Beatrice. I liked the front half of the book, up to “The Princess With the Golden Hair,” better than the final stories, and I have to admit that “Ellen Terhune” makes for a good fantasy read, while “Glimpses of Wilbur Flick” helps you see why Wilson admired Dawn Powell so much.

After that, I moved on to And Only to Deceive, a fantastic novel centered around a young widow’s discovery of her late husband’s role in the dubious provenance of certain classical antiquities in the British Museum. Because Tasha Alexander is my college classmate, I’m not in any position to review the book, exactly, but I loved it. I thought she nailed the Victorian setting, she told a riveting yarn, and she made the characters believable. And believe me, it’s not always easy to do all three–after I finished that novel in a single afternoon, I decided I would finally try to read Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons. But because I actually know stuff about the conspiracy elements he weaves into the story, and the characters are such cardboard cutouts, I was quickly underwhelmed, so I moved on to Colm Toibin’s The Master, which Mrs. Beatrice had packed for herself. I’d only had a chance to read the opening sections when I met Toibin last year, but now I’m totally enthralled. I haven’t quite finished yet, but maybe this weekend…

*And, yes, my summer vacation did take place the first week of fall. Heck, it multi-tasked as my honeymoon, five months after the wedding

28 September 2005 | read this |

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