Monthly Archives: August 2009

I have joined the Murderati!

I am ecstatic to report that I have joined the talented group of writers blogging collectively at Murderati: Pari Noskin Taichert, Tess Gerritsen, Louise Ure, Robert Gregory Browne, J.D. Rhoades, Brett Battles, Zoe Sharp, J.T. Ellison, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Alexandra Sokoloff, Cornelia Read, Toni McGee Causey, Allison Brennan, and now…moi.

I will be blogging every other Monday at Murderati starting TODAY! So the other Murderati bloggers don’t regret letting me into the club, please check out my first post: How the Internet Completed Me. Hint: My online pals (you!) are mentioned.

The Power of a Presidential Plug

This week the White House released President Obama’s reading list for his family vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and it includes fellow crime writer and friend George Pelecanos‘s “The Way Home,” a fabulous book. The inclusion of a crime novel on the President’s list reminded me of the influence then-President Bill Clinton had on the career of Michael Connelly when he was photographed leaving Washington DC’s MysteryBooks with an advanced copy of Connelly’s Concrete Blonde.

Out of curiosity, and always seeking online procrastination, I checked out The Way Home’s Amazon rank in the hope Pelecanos got a similar bump: #400 after three months in print. Not too shabby. My father’s “Rain Gods” got a nice spike in sales last week after Bill O’Reilly plugged it on his show. My cousin Andre Dubus III got a super-ball-sized bounce when House of Sand and Fog made Oprah’s book club.

Given the power of a president’s or pundit’s plug, why are the backs of novels still filled with blurbs from fellow writers? Should publishers pursue praise from politicians and personalities instead? Sorry, I got carried away with the alliteration there, but I think I’m on to something.

People who aren’t in the business of books might be harder to lock in, and of course there’s no reason to think they know more about novels than respected authors, but if these are the blurbs that will bring books to readers, why aren’t publishers doing more of this? Especially when publishers increasingly share corporate links to the broader news, entertainment, and political worlds?

If you see some unexpected blurbs on the back of my next book, 212, you’ll know I took this little idea and ran with it. Do you think Dick Cheney might like my books?

In the meantime, did I ever tell you about the time Bill Clinton called me about my first novel? The man’s an avid mystery reader and apparently enjoyed Judgment Calls. Now only if I’d taken a picture….
If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Also, mark your calendars: Monday, August 31, will bring my first post as a blogger for Murderati.

Best One-Star Reviews

Every once in a while, you read a bad review that reveals more about the reviewer than the work being reviewed. Now Johnny Dee of the Guardian has gathered some of those gems from Amazon.com. The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper should be mixed with Snoop or 50 Cent. The Graduate is like a Simpsons episode. Citizen Kane needs color.

Read the full list of hilarious one-star reviews here. Send to your favorite author the next time he or she gets a less than glowing review.

In other news, Professor Burke starts teaching Criminal Law next week at Fordham Law School, where I’ll be visiting in the fall before heading back to Hofstra in the spring. I’m also going to start blogging at the end of the month with Murderati. More to come in a week or so.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

JLB on Morning Edition


For those of you who are James Lee Burke fans, he will be interviewed on Thursday, August 6, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Check your local NPR schedule for times, but it will be on Morning Edition.

Potato, Potahto: What’s in a Title?

With my fifth novel, I joined for the first time the list of authors who have published an identical novel under two different titles. The Ellie Hatcher novel published as Angel’s Tip was published in the UK as City of Fear.

Until then, I had been completely unaware of the double-title phenomenon. I asked my UK editor at Avon why she was suggesting a different title. I thought Angel’s Tip was perfect. In the opening scene of the novel, Indiana college student Chelsea Hart is still getting her party on at a hot Manhattan club when her friends decide it’s time to crash back at the hotel. Chelsea opts to stay out on her own for one last drink. The name of that drink? An Angel’s Tip. The title also alludes to a tip that comes in later to NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher from the father of a previous murder victim. Decent title, right?

Well, little did I know that in the UK, “tip” is sometimes slang for dirt or a mess. Angel Detritus was not what I was after. City of Fear had a nice ring to it, highlighting both the Manhattan setting and the stalking tone of some of the chapters. And the title wasn’t the only change. I had to cut back on a light scene in which Ellie and her partner, JJ Rogan, sing the theme song to The Jeffersons during a stakeout. Apparently George and Weezy weren’t on constant syndication on the other side of the pond.

It turns out I’ve gone and done it again. The next Ellie Hatcher novel will be published as 212 in the United States this spring, but UK readers should look for City of Lies. I know I’m not the only author who’s gone through this. Lee Child had “Running Blind” and “The Visitor.” Karin Slaughter currently has “Undone” and “Genesis.” Nevertheless, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

I suppose it’s similar to having a child you call Miguel in Spain and Mike in the US, but do parents really do that? My guess is they don’t, because a name conveys something unique about the thing that it names. The fact that I go by my given name, Alafair, instead of the more convenient Ally, says something about me — nothing concrete, to be sure, but something. It’s because names matter that companies pay market researchers big bucks to come up with brands like Accenture and Apple.

What do you think? How much does the title of the book affect your reading of it? Or the jacket art for that matter, which also varies in different countries? Will readers of “212” and “City of Lies” have identical experiences if the insides of the books are the same, when the outsides are different? Or do the title and the jacket frame the book from the outset, not just physically but psychologically? And what other double-title books are out there?