Monday, October 12, 2009

Stuart Kaminsky Too

by Barbara D'Amato

I want to talk about Stuart Kaminsky. Sara’s fine post Saturday brought up many memories, and as far as I’m concerned we could post about Stu from now to the end of the year and not go overboard.

Stu’s productiveness was amazing enough, fifty-five novels by my count and eleven non-fiction works. But more--the range of his talent was astonishing. There was the funny, wry Toby Peters series—named for two of his sons. There were his darker books—Rostnikov, Lew Fonesca, and Lieberman. And standalone thrillers like WHEN THE DARK MAN CALLS [1983]. I don’t know of anyone who mastered so many genres.

But I want to talk about his generosity.

When my first novel came out, a paperback, and was receiving zero attention and of course no reviews, my husband called Stuart, whom he knew slightly since they both taught at Northwestern. Stuart gave him many suggestions, including to join Mystery Writers of America, which I did not even know existed. MWA has given me help and camaraderie over the years.

When Mary Shura Craig came up with the idea for Of Dark and Stormy Nights, the first ever mystery writing workshop, a completely unprecedented venture, it was Stuart who got us the venue, the Annie Mae Swift building at Northwestern. Because he was teaching at Northwestern, we didn’t have to pay for Swift. We could never have risked taking on the workshop otherwise.

Stuart was keynote speaker for Dark and Stormy at least twice. Over and over again I saw him buttonholed by aspiring writers. He took the time to listen seriously to them and to respond at length. He was very serious about explaining that there was no magic he could give them, just the directive to work. And to READ.

He could easily be regarded as the father of MWA Midwest.

Stuart served as general awards chair for MWA national, chair for many of the individual awards, and as MWA president. He attended the banquets, encouraged nervous nominees, and celebrated the winners. He was nominated six times himself, won once and was named Grandmaster in 2006.

And yet he was always quiet, humble, and accessible.

What a guy!


Libby Fischer said...

So nicely said, Barb. I think we should all remember him by buying one of his books to(re)-read.

Sara Paretsky said...

Great idea, Libby. And, Barb, he taught a course at the Northwestern extension called, "writing detective fiction for publication." I had written 70 pages of my first novel and felt stupid and hopeless about being able to write a whole book when I saw the class. Stu gave me the encouragement and advice I needed to finish, so I feel that I owe my career to him.

Nikki said...

Read your neat post about Stuart on The Outfit. Funny how you retain really clear visual memories of some things years later. The first year I did Dark and Stormy Stuart had said a student group was using the building for a party the night before but they had promised to clean up afterward. When I went over there at the crack of dawn making my way through the early morning fog with all the stuff, the first thing I saw on walking through the door was Stuart with a totally disgusted look on his face picking at a huge mess of plates, glasses, napkins, pizza boxes, etc. The party had obviously been better than the promise to clean up. It was a challenge to get somebody from the University over there for garbage detail that early on a Saturday but we made it in time. Dark and Stormy went on as scheduled!..Betty Nicholas

Barbara D'Amato said...

Good memories. Thanks.