Today my publishers at Poisoned Pen Press sent me some great news. Kirkus Reviews, the toughest book reviewing agency in the country, just released their list of the Best Mysteries of 2011. Right there on the page, along with Stephen King’s 11/22/63, and C.J. Box’s Back of Beyond, is my book, The Rock Hole.
The sight of that cover so close to those guys raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Old Man would have said a possum ran over my grave. I never expected such an honor, especially when I was writing the manuscript.
The book seemed to flow off my fingertips as I wrote it. When my wife read the first ten pages, she pronounced it the best stuff she’d ever written. The whole thing came together as down home story that told itself. After I finished, I put it up for a while and did what I do best.
I read a lot of my favorite authors. McMurtry, King, Morrell, Parker, Bryson, Grisham, and a lot of others you may never have heard of, Gipson, Capstick, Humphrey, Westlake, McManus and Hunter. Their new books always prompt me to go back and read at least one earlier work, so by the time I got back to editing The Rock Hole, I’d been keeping company with some pretty big boys.
My work read like crap.
So I edited even more. My agent liked what she saw, and urged more changes. I have a thick skin, and any advice or suggestion made pretty good sense to me…if it made sense.
Then the folks at Poisoned Pen picked it up and my editor suggested even more changes. I learned long ago to listen to my English teachers, right Miss Adams? So I took my editor’s advice and attacked the manuscript again. By the time I sent it in for the final time, the bones were still there, along with the flavor, but all the fat was gone.
I still didn’t like what I’d written, but I figured, “oh well, it’s a first book.”
When the manuscript came back in an ARC (advanced reading copy) the dang thing almost resembled a book. I liked it. We made a few final minute tweaks and sent it back.
When the novel was released, it read pretty doggone well. It was then I realized I’d actually written a mystery, but I didn’t expect to receive such a good review from Kirkus back in the summer. Today, when I found out where The Rock Hole was listed on their Best Fiction page, I finally felt like a writer.
Ain’t that somethin’?