Stuff & Nonsense 013: Go West

What a week, huh?

It was a much-needed dose of good, history-making news. This story warmed my heart the most. Maybe there's hope for us after all.

***

I've known Jon and Ruth Jordan for a very long time - first as press contacts when I'd first started at DC Comics as a publicist, then as press contacts who also liked talking about crime novels (just like I did!) and, rather quickly, as good friends. Jon and Ruth live and breathe books. Unabashed geeks and cheerleaders for the crime and mystery world. They love reading, they love authors and they love their friends. When I was first considering writing a crime novel, around 2006, the first person I spoke to was Jon. I felt sheepish. Who'd want to read a book from me? All I had was an urge, a stack of George Pelecanos novels and a character in my head who wouldn't leave me alone. Jon responded immediately: "Let me read it when you're done and I'll tell you what I think. Then we can review it." He didn't express doubt, or qualify his statement. It was a done deal. I was going to write a book. Jon and Ruth treated me like an author before I felt like one. It was a huge boost and one I'll never forget.

I'm one of many such stories that are part of The Legend of Jon and Ruth. Not only do they run the must-read Crimespree Magazine, but they also curate the Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee annual crime event and have had a hand in too many Bouchercons to list. Bottom line, they're great people, and I'm lucky to have the chance to interview them both today. Twice as lucky to call them friends.


I don't think Pete - Silent City, etc. - would exist without your help. This is the truth. Jon read Silent City in its earliest form, Ruth - you and Jon let me sit at the Crimespree table as an author before I even had a book out (that was also where I met Sara Gran, who's still a dear friend and another friend, author Meg Gardiner!). I'm not the only person who thinks of you and Crimespree in this way. How important is it for you to foster younger authors and newer voices?

Jon: I think it's vital to show support early for up and coming authors and fans. Mentoring is a thing we've seen since becoming part of the community and there were people out there who supported us so we pass it on.

What are you guys reading, watching and enjoying now?

Jon: Just rewatched Miami Vice. Loving Blacklist with James Spader. Just read and loved the new Clive Barker Scarlet Letters and Reba While Williams Bloody Royal Prints.

Ruth: Reading Michael Harvey’s The Governor's Wife and finished up Chercover’s The Devil's Game (too much fun). We just powered through the last season of Justified. I’m going to miss that show. Finally saw The Kingsmen. Great movie fun!

For those that haven't heard and for those that love hearing this story anytime it's shared, please tell the story of how you guys met and became The Jordans.

Jon: Bouchercon 1999, Saturday night, walking down a hallway and I said a couple words to Ruth, Ian Rankin came running by and asked if we were going to the bar. We both said yeas and he introduced us. We hung out with Ian, Charles Todd and Val McDermid all night and the rest is history.

Ruth: That’s pretty much it. I should add I gave Jon my e-mail and he never did e-mail me. Here we are though so it must have been meant to be.

Talk to me about the Raven Award experience. How did it feel to finally be recognized in this way? How special was the moment?

Jon: It was really amazing. We do what we do because we love this stuff, but to have and organization like MWA say thank you like this is mind blowing. Especially know the people who got a Raven before us.

Ruth: There aren’t words. It was so special to be in a room with so much love and Reed’s intro made me teary.

Crimespree is a treat for me each time I get a new issue. I know it's a labor of love for you and the team. What's in store for the magazine?

Jon: We hope to keep plugging away. There are times when finances get a little hairy but we still get enough ads and subscriptions to keep paying for the magazine. As long as we can do that we'll keep going.

Ruth: Crimespree Forever!

I've had the honor, pleasure and joy of being part of two Murder and Mayhem events - most recently at the inaugural Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee party last year. What's in store this year? How has the response been so far?

Jon: Registrations started coming in as soon as we announced and we're hoping to see a 20% increase in attendance. Out line up is almost set and on the website. (MurderMayhemMilwaukee.com)

Ruth: There will be beef at the Friday night dinner. It’s an adventure recreating MMM but so much fun with Erica and Penny helping us make it what it will be.

You both have such a wonderful extended family of not only authors, but reviewers, reporters and FRIENDS. Care to give them a shout-out here?

Jon: Well I hope these folks all know we love them and trying to name everyone one of them means risking forgetting a name or two..... so....I will say my born into and married into family has been awesome in their support.

Ruth: Special love going out to Beth Tindall, Andi Schecter and Karen Laubestein, three of the strongest femmes I know. But really I find all the people in our lives fabulous. You’ve all added something to mine!

I love having long chats with Jon on the phone - and hearing Ruth say hi in the background - mainly because we usually just end up talking about books and people we like. It never feels like press-speak or business. I can tell the work you guys do comes from a place of love and admiration for the medium and genre. Can you share a few "Wow, this is my life" moments that have happened over the years? I'll warm you up - Bouchercon St Louis. I just got my badge and joined Jon for a cigarette. Well, I watched Jon smoke, I should say. A tall, lanky older gent joined us and we got to chatting. Midway through the conversation Jon says, "Oh, I forgot to introduce you - Lee, Alex. Alex, Lee. Lee - Alex is a great writer. Alex, you know Lee Child, right?" I almost melted into a puddle right there. Insert your cliche. It happened. Anyway. I want to hear your stories that fall into that space.

Jon: I always end up having these moments at every convention. Last year at C2E2 I got to meet in person Simon R. Green who I've been reading for years. We had emailed and done interviews but never really met. It took a little to warm up and talk like a normal person. At heart I will always be a fanboy.

Ruth: There are so many moments. Flying to Houston to meet Matt Reilly was awesome. I’ve met Marcia Mueller twice now and both times couldn’t get beyond “I really like your books.” On the day she launched The Most Dangerous Thing, my friend Laura Lippman took me on a hike of the neighborhood in Dickeyville where the book was set. That was a mind blowing fan/friend afternoon. I’m pretty sure nothing can ever usurp that as “the one thing.”

You're both huge and unabashed lovers of all things geek. Like LEGO and comics. I'm not a LEGO expert, but I do know comics. What titles are you reading and enjoying now?

Jon: I just read 15 trade collections in a row of Spider-Man by Dan Slott. Awesome stuff. Loving Sabrina by Archie Comics and I really really love Gotham Academy from DC.

Ruth: I finally read She Hulk (great) and have Gotham Academy on the TBR pile. I also have the goal of reading some of the classic X-Men this year. I have a lot of catching up to do in comics.

Did I miss anything? Care to share anything I didn't cover?

Jon: I really like pizza and donuts.

Ruth: But he’s finally over the Cinnabon thing. Can you believe Jon never had Cinnabon until 3 years ago? I would recommend the new Prince C.D. to all, kind of a vintage Sign of the Times/Emancipation vibe to it. If you’re a Matthew Reilly fan he has a new book, The Great Zoo of China. Think Jurassic Park with Dragons, it’s epic! Also, thanks SCOTUS for one hell of a week!

What a week indeed! Thanks, Jon and Ruth. Is it bad to admit I've never had Cinnabon?

***

We announced the latest Dark Circle Comics title - THE WEB, written by Dave White with art by Szymon Kudranski. Dave's a friend and fellow Polis Books writer, so this has been a lot of fun to work on. Hope you all enjoy. Hitting early next year.

I give some pointers on how to break into comics for my crime and mystery author friends.

Catriona McPherson has some fun with six cliched characters at MWA NY.

Val McDermid talks about her new book on forensics at NPR.

I'm looking forward to checking out the new Nina Simone documentary on Netflix. You should read Alfred and Austin's thoughts if you can.

James W. Hall discusses what's next for him and his series character, Thorn.

Lori Rader-Day on making use of envy at Femmes Fatales.

I finished Sarah Hepola's amazing Blackout memoir, and it's nice to see I'm not the only one who loved it.

Before The New Tropic, there was Tropic Magazine. Flashback Miami has a nice compilation of covers from the seminal Miami Herald culture magazine.

Patti Abbott goes "behind the book" on her debut novel, Concrete Angel.

Kim Deal interviews Courtney Barnett.

The Life Sentence looks at The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Hey, writers - take care of yourselves.

Sean Chercover lists the top 10 conspiracy novels you've never read.

This episode of the great Death, Sex & Money was exceptional. A great episode from one of my favorite podcasts.

I'm still enjoying True Detective - despite the chorus of "This is not as good as last season!" It's different! It has flaws, yes. But interesting enough. Though my friend Sean doesn't agree with me, per se, his recaps tend to be the best-written and most thoughtful. Check them out at Rolling Stone.

CNET on Amazon's new customer review system.

You've signed up for Sarah Weinman's TinyLetter, The Crime Lady, right? It's excellent. This link, basically an author talking about lunch with Robert Durst weeks before his arrest, is a perfect example of the kind of stuff you'll get.

***



Don Winslow's The Cartel is a revelation of a book. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Epic in scope, featuring nuanced and deadly characters with clear goals and motivations and a ton of fun plot twists that also feature some real world commentary...it's pretty much all I've ever wanted from a crime novel. I can't recommend this book enough. You won't regret buying and reading it. Also worth checking out: Winslow's essay calling for the legalization of drugs at The Daily Beast and an interview at Crimespree.

Something that cracked me up as I was reading The Cartel earlier this week: There's a character named Segura in the book, who, unlike yours truly, is a complete badass. He has a grenade on his necklace!

***

Happy birthday, Debbie Harry.



PSA: I'll be in San Diego next week for Comic-Con, so we'll be taking a week off. See you later this month!