Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The literary universe took a hit today.

Author, screenwriter Elmore Leonard passed away.  He died from complications of a stroke he suffered a few weeks ago.  At age 87, he of course was working on his 46th novel.
A legend

He began his illustrious career in the early 1950s with a slew of successful westerns.  Working for an advertising agency in Detroit, Leonard would rise to write from 5AM-7AM before heading off to his copy editing duties at Campbell-Ewald.  He wrote every day, and once he quit advertising, it accelerated to 10AM to 6PM without a break.

What resulted from his relentless dedication was a writing career that most of us frankly can't even dream about.  "Get Shorty" "3:10 To Yuma" "Out Of Sight" and "Hombre" are just a few of the titles he penned.

I interviewed Leonard on TV a number of occasions.  He was a quiet, always seemingly pleased with his station in life kind of guy.  I recall one time poking fun at him for the car he drove to the station.  If memory serves me right, it was a vintage Volkswagen hatchback.  He laughed and in typical Leonard fashion, responded by saying it was "practical" and "not over the top."  It got him to where he needed to go.

I felt like a member of the club when Leonard told me to simply call him "Dutch."  Growing up I read a few of his westerns and became even a bigger fan when the likes of "Hombre" "Valdez Is Coming" and "3:10 To Yuma" made it to the big screen.  Then came crime fiction for which he either wrote the book or the screenplay.  There were no limits to Dutch's talent.  He had a playful, special relationship with words.

Now that I'm a published author, one of the blurbs that appears on Sandstorm is from Dutch.  It was one of the most nervous calls I've ever made, asking him would he do it.  After all, Dutch only knew me as a TV news anchor.  I also realized he didn't do it very often.  Dutch made me laugh when he said, "I'll look at your manuscript.  Now if I don't like it, I won't give you a blurb."

I told I'm I'd expect nothing less than the truth and that I'd understand if he decided not to offer a blurb.  A few weeks later, my editor at Forge called and said they'd received an endorsement from Elmore Leonard.  It wasn't my birthday, but it sure as hell was quite a present.

Born in New Orleans, Dutch made Metro Detroit his official home.  Once he got a taste, he was a lifer.  He picked up the area's mood, its heart, its dialogue, and often transported it onto the written page.

While those of us who write genre fiction open ourselves to criticism because we aren't perfect, Elmore Leonard was a talent to be taken seriously.  He was a student of the written word.  His prose was a force field.

If you've never read a Leonard novel, or strive to be a novelist, do yourself a favor and find the time to reward yourself with one of his many titles.

One thing is for certain.

His light will never fade.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


My debut espionage thriller SANDSTORM managed to give me something back today that was totally unexpected.  It wasn't a call from my agent or publisher saying it had made the New York Times bestsellers list (though come on, that would be pretty damn sweet). 

No, what I got today was a Facebook message from Tyler Donoghue.  I've never met him, and before that message, had no idea who he was.

I quickly discovered that we share a deep appreciation for my departed friend Vince Flynn and through that association, Tyler had found SANDSTORM.

Here is the message he sent me:

"I'm a die hard Vince Flynn fan. In fact I'm the guy you see in
the hospital on Vince's website for email of the month.  I bought Sandstorm and let me tell you:  It's one of my favorite books EVER!  It was amazing.  I tell everyone about it! Incredible.  With Vince's unfortunate sad death I am glad I found a new author to love!  Thank you!  Are you going to write another book?  Please say yes!!  I look forward to it and look forward to hopefully getting a response from you. Take care!"

Now I've gotten a fair share of email messages and reviews from a number of people who thankfully, have enjoyed SANDSTORM and like Tyler, have been nice enough to inquire about a second book.  But upon investigating, I discovered that for Tyler to take the time to reach out to me, makes SANDSTORM a very worthwhile endeavor.  Even if he was the only person to buy a copy, I'd be touched.

On Vince Flynn's website I learned Tyler, now 27 years old, was nearly killed in a car crash in 2010 that left him disabled.  A fighter for sure, he welcomed the birth of his son this past May.  (You can read his story and become a fan as I have here).

I was extremely humbled and honored for him to give SANDSTORM such lofty praise.  I write about characters who face incredible odds and somehow manage to survive.  They pale in comparison to Tyler's strength and courage.

I'm uplifted that he got in touch and thrilled to have a fan of his magnitude.  Tyler, you better believe I'm working on another book!