Monday, December 13, 2010

The Dark Side and the Gray Lady

I love bookshops.
Most readers do.
But authors, particularly mystery authors, have a special place in their hearts for independent mystery bookshops. The folks who work in those places have steered me to some of the best reads in my life, and helped me, time and again, to win converts to my work.
Last year, when Jim Huang was forced to close his beloved bookshop, The Mystery Company, in Carmel, IN, it put me in a bad mood that lasted a week. I’m not kidding. A week.
The people of the Indianapolis area had a treasure in Jim’s shop. It was more than a store. It was a service to the community, run by a guy who loves books. He didn’t deserve to fail.
Other great shops, like Murder by the Book, in Houston, The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, Kingdom Books in Waterford, VT and M is for Murder in San Mateo, CA, have been places where I’ve been received with warmth and enthusiasm, where I’ve had the opportunity to meet my fans, and where I’ve experienced some of the major milestones of my career. I love them all!
I never leave an independent bookshop without buying a book.
It’s the least I can do in the way of payback to people who’ve given me so much.
When I travel, I invariably return to Brazil with bags heavy with books.
I’d order books, by mail, from my friends at U.S. independent bookshops if I could.
But I can’t, because, more often than not, books so ordered don’t arrive, being subject to theft on the way.
Moreover, I’m a voracious reader.
And I always consume more books than I can carry.
Okay, enough of a preamble. I admit it. I have a confession to make.
I’ve gone over to the dark side – and bought myself an e-reader.
It’s a Kindle.
And, I have to tell you, the printed word aside, it is an amazing device.
Particularly for an author who travels a lot, gets asked by other authors to contribute blurbs and reviews, and has a penchant, in addition to mysteries and thrillers, for reading more esoteric stuff in the English language. (And which, until Google Books launched their immense collection of offerings, was pretty hard to find in Brazil.)
And now there’s also Calibre.
You can download it here.
Don’t try to watch the demo video on the website. It’s too slow. But there are other demos on YouTube that will clearly explain to you how Calibre works and what it can do.
One of Calibre’s niftiest features is that it converts virtually any e-publishing format into any other - and automatically sends it to your Kindle.
So if the material is not “protected”, you can take (for example) an e-pub file and turn it into a Kindle file at the push of a button.
I never resisted mobile (cell) phones, computers or GPS receivers.
So why did I, for so long, resist buying an e-reader?
I think it was a deep-seated fear of what the devices might do to my first love – printed books.
But I have now come to believe that it need not be “either/or”.
And I am convinced that printed books are going to be able to live in peace and harmony with my Kindle.
So if you, too, Dear Reader, have been one of the holdouts, and you travel a lot, may I suggest that it’s time for you to re-evaluate?
And, if you, like me, are an author, guess what?
You actually need it.
People send you books to blurb, and send you books with a request to review, right?
And isn’t it true that more and more of those books are arriving in electronic form?
I have four books in my home, at this moment, that I’ve been asked to critique.
And only one of them is printed on paper.
Something else: you’ve got to be able to check the quality of your own e-books.
If you’re not putting those books up on Kindle outside your home country, you’re missing something.
Amazon offers the opportunity to pick and choose your countries. Each book, in each country, gets its own, exclusive URL. The page looks the same as all the others, but the internet address is different.
As of the day-before-yesterday, my second book, Buried Strangers, joined Blood of the Wicked, on Kindle in the UK, and in Brazil, and in Australia, and in New Zealand and throughout Western Europe, and in about a hundred other places where the books weren’t available before. And at prices that are cheaper than they are in the United States.
But my North American publisher, Soho Crime, did me one better.
To celebrate the launch of the fourth book in the series, Every Bitter Thing, they put the Kindle version of the first one, Blood of the Wicked up for free.
If you live in the United States, you can get it simply by going here:
But you can’t get it elsewhere. If you’re our reader in Vanuatu, for example, (yeah, we really do have a reader in Vanuatu) you’re not allowed to download it.
And I don’t think that’s fair.
So, for the next month or so, here’s what I’m going to do:
If you live outside of the U.S. or Canada, and you’d like a free e-book of Blood of the Wicked, you need only drop me a line through my web site.
And I will respond by sending you the book by email. Please specify if you’d like me to attach a Kindle or an Epub version. And remember that you can convert to other formats by using Calibre.
And remember, if you don’t yet own an e-reader, you can read it on your computer screen by downloading one of the free apps from Amazon. It’s not the best way, but, heck, it’s free.
Now about The Gray Lady.
Most folks in America know that’s the affectionate nickname given to The New York Times.
Respected by most, hated by some, the Times is, more than any other, America’s newspaper of record.
And, for us who read and write books, a publication of supreme importance, because it is one of the few major dailies in America that continues to publish book reviews and support the people who write them.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review Section appears in two versions, one with a cover price sold via subscription, and in bookstores and newsstands; the other with no cover price, which is included as an insert in each Sunday’s edition of the Times. The versions are otherwise identical. And there are, each week, well over a million copies printed.
The NYTBR receives between 750 to 1000 submissions each week.
A mere 20 to 30 are chosen for review.
Of those, only four or five are mysteries.
Yesterday, December 12th, 2010, my latest book, Every Bitter Thing, was so honored.
You can read the complete review here:
And, if you’d like to hear a live interview with the author, you can drop in to C.J. West’s internet radio show this coming Wednesday:
If you take the time to register with Blog Talk Radio ahead of time, you can use the chat feature to chime in with questions. You can even, if you like, call in.
This is a launch week. I hope you’ll all pardon me for being in promotional mode.
It only happens once a year.
Next week, I promise, it's back to business as usual.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Congrats on the notice by the NYT.

    I caved in (after a bad experience with the Nook) and just bought a Sony reader, the PRS650. I love the device but, you're right, the Calibre software is a must. Sony's software is so unstable I'm surprised they bother.

  2. Thanks for the post. Like many purists, I've long been a fan of having a printed collection of pages in my hand. It's the easiest way to give and accept recommendations (a friend of mine recently let me borrow Michele Marie Tate's multi-generational crime novel, Blood, Money, Power) and gauge how much time you'll invest in a new book. That being said, I recently went on a trip and this guy sitting next to me at the bus depot was showing me the stuff he was doing with his iPad. Now I find myself browsing for a reasonably priced e-reader whenever I'm online.

  3. Thanks, Leighton. I just downloaded BLOOD OF THE WICKED. After reading EVERY BITTER THING, I'm looking forward to it. Also, congratulations on the NYT review. EVERY BITTER THING deserves all the good pub it can get.

    I succumbed to the Kindle after I bought one for my mother, so she can continue to read through her greatly diminished eyesight. I playing around so I could show her how hers worked, I saw a lot of potential I hadn't thought of before. Now I'm a fan.

  4. Leighton, as long as I can download your books onto my PC with the Kindle application, I can hold off on buying the device.

    If Kindle becomes the only way I can have access to your books, than I guess I would have to take the plunge.

    Impatiently waiting for the next book in the series,


  5. Hi Leighton

    I gave in about two months ago and got a Kindle for my birthday. I love it although I still buy printed books and like having access to both. I think for anyone who travels or who lives in an area like you do where ordering books is an iffy situation, an e-book is just the ticket.

    I was in Barnes & Noble the other day having a hot chocolate in their Cafe and a woman at the next table had a Nook. The one with color. She's showed me a lot of the features and it looks pretty good, especially if you read magazines on your e-book (I don't), but I'm still very happy with my Kindle.


  6. Naomi,
    Please share your "bad experience" with the Nook. I'm curious.
    The color screen on the Nook appealed to me, and I considered it. But when I found out that you can't buy books from Barnes and Noble outside the United States, I realized it was not for me. The only folks who seem to have solved the copyright issue for folks who live "abroad" are the folks at Amazon.
    So, as far as I am concerned, the Kindle is the only game in town. It's an entirely different ball game, of course, for people who don't spend any considerable degree of time outside the United States or Canada.
    My problem with the Ipad was the backlit screen, which tires the eyes. Also, I carry a notebook computer wherever I go, so I really wanted a light, totally dedicated reading device without any bells and whistles. Hence the Kindle. Which I quickly discovered has bells and whistles I would never have imagined. Example: I'm letting the female voice read me to sleep with my own books. And the device is sturdy enough not to break when my wife rips it out of my hands and flings it against the wall.
    It's very important to me to keep my books in print. I want to be in libraries. And I want to be in libraries because I want people to be able to read my books. And I realize that, even at the cost of a trade paperback, or a Kindle edition, not everyone can afford those books. So you need not worry. You'll never have to read me on your computer if I have anything to say about it. But I betcha, really betcha, you'd join me over here on the dark side if you lived next door and I could lend you my Kindle for a week.
    Thanks for taking advantage of the free download. I wish more people would. Like I said, I want to be read.

  7. Here in NYC, the libraries lend books to Kindle owners. They have a way to make the download temporary, so they can "get that book back and lend it to someone else.". Cool! I went for the iPad. I needed a new laptop, and the sales assistant showed me how one can annotate text on iBooks. That sold me. The backlighting is a good thing for me, because it allows me to read in the dark when I am insomnious and don't want to turn on the light and disturb my sleeping husband. Big bonus: I put an icon of this blog on my desktop. One touch and I am here!

  8. Hurrah for the New York Times review, Leighton -- great to see Chief Inspector Mario Silva recognized as "irresistible"! I too have downloaded your generously priced BLOOD OF THE WICKED and look forward to re-reading it on my iPad, which suits me well for reviewing. (Best of all, though, from a reviewer's point of view, is Adobe Digital Editions, which I use for protected files and which has great note-taking capacity.) And thank you also for the tip of the hat to Kingdom Books -- mysteries from classic to cutting edge. Your visits here have been a huge treat to northern New England readers (including us!).

  9. Leighton thanks so much for the very articulate and objective discussion of e-readers. I have just be gifted with a Nook and was able to pick up your free download as an Epub. It's a definite addition to my personal library. Looking forward to reading your latest sometime in the early New Year.