Monday, September 13, 2010

You Still At It?

You can't talk about Chicago crime fiction authors without including David Walker. David has published ten mystery/suspense novels. His first novel, FIXED IN HIS FOLLY, was nominated for an Edgar award, and he's just releasing the 5th entry in his "Wild Onion, Ltd" Series. TOO MANY CLIENTS features a husband and wife investigative team not unlike Nick and Nora Charles. Walker is a life-long Chicagoan. He has been a parish priest in Chicago, an investigator with the Chicago Police Department, and an attorney. He's also the anchor of a writing group, to which both Michael Dymmoch and I belong.

So there I am, ready to launch my tenth novel in the last fifteen years, and bragging to Carl, this friend I run into every few years. “It’s called Too Many Clients,” I say, “the latest in my Wild Onion, Ltd. series.” He stares at me over a forkful of pasta. “You remember,” I say, “the series with Kirsten, a Chicago private eye, and her lawyer husband.” He washes the pasta down with a gulp of Chianti and grins. “Jeez,” he says, “you still at it? That’s great. I think I got both your other books.”

Some things don’t change.

And some do. In fifteen years the publishing world, the crime fiction scene, even sweet home Chicago…they’ve all changed dramatically. But on a personal level…

In 1994, as a kid, literarily speaking, I’d attend MWA meetings at Binyon’s in the Loop with forty or so other crime writers, post- and pre-published, and hear Hugh Holton (cop, author, everyone’s hero; gone too soon) announce the “news”— who got an agent, who got a contract, who’s doing signings, who won an award. These days our news flashes to a hundred times the people…without the drinks, the turtle soup, and the handshakes.

Back then I knew “hardware” from “software,” but wasn’t personally acquainted with either. Still, I managed to finish a manuscript. I queried thirty (yes! I went back and counted) publishing houses, and twenty-two agents. Remember driving to the post office? Waiting for mail delivery? Of your SASE?

I made the Holton news with a contract, and in 1995 with a real book. I had a great launch party, then spent the year speaking and signing in every venue—bookstore, library, barroom, church hall—that would have me, hoping to fill at least one row of those chairs…usually the back row. In 1996, while drying the dishes, I got word of my Edgar nomination. Remember that phone thing, hanging on the kitchen wall?

Off to New York, sans tux; home again, sans Edgar. But with book number two on its way. In fact, six books in six years, then four in the next nine. That’s me, leaving the day job and taking twice as long to get a book out. Did I mention a tough market, with… what?…five major publishers?

But yeah, I’m still at it. And the mantra I’m chanting? Not better, not worse; different.

Oh, and those two books Carl mentioned? Ten years ago I found one I’d inscribed to him, and bought it back…at the church rummage sale.

What about you? Seen any changes? Got any mantras to recommend?

David J. Walker will be signing Too Many Clients on October 2nd at 2:30 pm, at The Bookstall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka,
followed by a reception in the courtyard at Avli Estiatorio, 566 Chestnut, Winnetka.


Barbara D'Amato said...

Those were good times, Dave. A lot of the people I consider my best friends to this day I met at MWA meetings. Where else was anybody willing to listen to your complaints about your new book cover?

Vince said...

One of the first signings I attended was a mystery writers panel at the Oak Brook Borders. David was there promoting his debut as was Hugh Holton and a few others. I had a great conversation with Dave and had him sign a copy of "Fixed In His Folly" for me. I've been a mystery fan and book signing junkie ever since.

David Ellis said...

A great lawyer, a great guy, and a great novelist. Really enjoyed the post, Dave!

Ricky Bush said...

Kind of reminds me of my love for Chicago Blues. The more it changes the more it stays the same--and it is still alive and kicking, even though the innovators (Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Elmore James, etc...) have passed on. The ones that love it, keep it alive. Same for the crime novel. By the way, I visited ChiTown for the first time last March and fell in love with the City and everything about it.

David J. Walker said...

Barb & Vince, I was going to respond and say those were "halcyon" days, but then I looked the word up. Not quite! Dave Ellis, thanks, but were you trapped in a house of mirrors when you posted that comment? And Ricky Bush? Any man who loves Chicago and lists Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" as among his favorite novels is someone to be reckoned with.