Lost Author Found

I always wondered what became of thriller writer Bob Reiss…he just seemed to have disappeared. The mystery was solved in a tiny item in this week’s issue of Publishers Weekly, which revealed that Reiss has been writing as Ethan Black and sold his newest novel to Paramount for big bucks.  The item got me wondering about some other disappearances… like James Colbert, Brad Soloman, Zachary Klein, Jerome Doolittle, A.W. Mykel, Robert Sims Reid, Tom Eidson, Doug Swanson, Robert Ward, Gaylord Dold, Jim Cirni, Edwin Shrake, and Michael Stone. 

I know some tidbits. Colbert went into comics for awhile. There are rumors that Jerome Doolittle is K.C. Constantine. One of Eidson’s novels became the western THE MISSING, but how long has it been since his last novel? And I see Robert Ward showing up at signings and events (like Terrell Lee Lankford’s publication party), but his last novel was quite a few years ago.

Anybody know the stories on the others?

A Quinn Martin Production

Does anybody know who the "announcer" was for all those great ’70s Quinn Martin detective shows?
I can hear him now…

"Barnaby Jones, a Quinn Martin Production. Starring Buddy Ebsen, Also starring Lee Meriweather, Mark Shera. With guest stars Peter Haskell, Burr DeBenning, Joanne Linville, Andrew Duggan,  and with special guest star, Trisha Noble.  Tonight’s episode ‘Mother of Mercy, Child of Death”"

UPDATE:  The mystery is solved. The announcer was Hank Simms aka Henry Fry Simms. Where is his statue at the TV Academy?

Andrew Coburn

I just finished reading OFF DUTY by Andrew Coburn, which was strongly recommended to me by Ed Gorman….and for good reason. It’s a great book.

I’d never heard of the guy, and I like to think of myself as fairly plugged in to the mystery/thriller scene.  It turns out that Coburn has written several well-reviewed thrillers and was even nominated for an Edgar a few years back…and yet, he’s  virtually unknown. As far as I know, he doesn’t have any books that are still in print and hasn’t had a new title out in several years.  Which is a damn shame, because he’s as good, or better, than many of the bestselling authors working today.

All of which got me thinking about the shadow class of mystery/thriller writers… solid pros who’ve written fantastic stuff  and yet toil in almost complete obscurity… if they are lucky enough to still be writing, and having their work published, at all.  Robert Sims Reid, Robert Reiss, Gary Disher, James Colbert, Tom Kakonis, William Hoffman, Gaylord Dold, Robert Ray and Clay Reynolds are other authors who come to mind (you might know a few, too).  I would have put Kent Harrington on that list… but, thankfully, his new book has been getting enough attention that he might finally step out into the light. 

So why is it that some authors never show up on the public or critical radar despite writing top-notch mysteries and thrillers?  Are they not marketing themselves enough? Are they victims of poor distribution and promotion? Or are they writing stuff that’s too narrow in appeal?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts… and learning about any authors you’d add to the list of the shadow class…

Robert Sims Reid

Whatever happened to author Robert Sims Reid? He wrote a bunch of cop novels set in Montana but I don’t think he’s had a new book out in nearly  a decade…

I read his book RED CORVETTE a few years ago, liked it so much that I picked up everything Reid ever wrote, and then for some reason didn’t get back to him until last week, when something made me pack BIG SKY BLUES among the paperbacks to read in Hawaii.  I’m glad I did. James Crumley, in a cover blurb, called the book

"Perhaps the finest police novel I’ve ever read. I absolutely loved it. Wonderful writing, fine characters, and a great story.  Reid has taken the police novel out of the genre and into literature."

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Crumley, but I thought it was a great book. For all the hoo-hah about THE GUARDS, I thought BIG SKY BLUES was better. At least I enjoyed it a lot more. Although it was published back in ’88, it seems so much fresher than the cop novels I’ve read the last few years. For one thing, the hero isn’t an alcoholic loner on a path of self-destruction who’s hated by his bosses and inexplicably desired by women. The hero of BIG SKY BLUES is married with a teenage daughter and isn’t addicted to anything. And yet, he’s still a deeply troubled, complex character whose life is falling apart around him, particularly his relationships with his wife and his partner.

When I get home, I’m going to catch up on Reid’s other books…