Dear TCL Readers,
As 2018 draws to a close, I can make one promise for 2019: I’ll be sending more newsletters, and at a reasonably regular (if still occasional) pace, than I did this year. It did get a little busy: The Real Lolita, its publication and book tour, occupied most of my waking moments. And truth be told, it was a lot easier, and lazier, to tweet or post photos on Instagram than get into a regular posting rhythm here. But not only will it be less sporadic, I’m cooking up some original content that would be newsletter-exclusive, which means The Crime Lady’s going paid (sometimes.) I’ll have more details on how that will work after the New Year.
Summing up things since the last newsletter:
Harlan Coben recommended The Real Lolita on the TODAY Show, an honor I will never get over, and Esi Edugyan recommended it in the New York Times, another honor I won’t get over. The book also featured on best-of lists from the Washington Post, NPR, Vulture, the National Post (which counted it among the 10 best of the year), BuzzFeed, CBC Books, and CrimeReads.
BuzzFeed also asked me to pick my own favorite crime books of 2018, and I obliged.
Published a few more pieces, including an essay on Tana French’s new novel, The Witch Elm, for Bookforum; a review of Stephen L. Carter’s Invisible for the New York Times Book Review; my most recent Crimereads column, on the life and work of Merriam Modell, who wrote as Evelyn Piper; and an essay on Rosemary Ridgewell, the “Showgirl Who Discovered Lolita”, for Literary Hub.
I appeared at book festivals in Austin, Chicago (here’s video!), Portland OR, and Miami, that last one in a delightful conversation with Washington Post critic Ron Charles. I also read at an all-nonfiction/true crime Noir at the Bar at Kew & Willow Books, along with the likes of Bob Kolker, Carolyn Murnick, Piper Weiss, Jonathan Santlofer, and Cutter Wood. And I was on a couple of podcasts: Gangrey, to talk about my book and career; and Says Who, hosted by Maureen Johnson and Dan Sinker, to get silly about the political situation.
And two major events that are related: I sold the next book to Ecco and Knopf Canada, and left Publishers Marketplace after eight years to pursue the full-time writing life.
So first, that new book project, officially announced right after Thanksgiving. The working title is The Convict and the Conservative, and it’s about a time, five or so decades ago, when William F. Buckley so believed in the innocence of New Jersey Death Row inmate Edgar Smith, incarcerated for the 1957 murder of a teenage girl named Vickie Zielinski, that he not only helped free him, but helped launch Smith as something of a literary celebrity. This, shall we say, did not end up being a good idea.
There are so many strands to knit together — true crime, American history of the late 1950s through mid-1970s, neoconservative politics, book publishing, the human capacity to believe and to be manipulated, then duped — that it’s going to be a challenge, but a challenge I cannot wait to spend the next few years of my life meeting. I’ve already spent about four years on the story, off and on, which did turn out to be a very good idea. Unlike The Real Lolita, where I had to fill in gaps when the historical record grew sparse, The Convict and the Conservative is rich in archival material, court documents, media coverage, and (thankfully) living sources, though a few of them need to be tracked down sooner rather than later…
I actually sold the proposal for this book over the summer, but delayed announcing it until promotion for The Real Lolita was mostly complete. Over those intervening months, I realized that I could no longer split my time between a day job and a book, and that it was time to take the calculated risk of full-time writing.
Working at Publishers Marketplace was, without a doubt, the best job I ever had, and Michael Cader is the best boss I ever worked for. I’m going to miss it, and the day-to-day hum of book trade news and gossip, very much. But I’m so ready to commit to this book project, and future ones. I’m a book writer now. This is what I do. And it’s good to take risks, something I want to do much more of in the future.
That’s it for 2018, a banner year for me, a hard one for America and for the planet. Here’s to 2019 being wonderful for us all and less terrible for the world.
Until then, I remain,
The Crime Lady