Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Juliet Grames: On Leighton Gage, as his Editor.

Juliet Grames is Associate Publisher of Soho Press, as well as the Editor of Soho Crime of which she acquires and edits for the Soho Crime Imprint. Juliet's the editor of several MIErs, myself, Tim Hallinan, Lisa Brackman and our dear Leighton Gage. After Leighton's passing she had this to say on Soho's Blog (not to steal her thunder on the gracious post she's doing below on today, the pub date of Leighton's The Ways of Evil Men):

"Soho Press, his publisher, and his Soho Crime confederates... are bereft, both at the loss of the gentleman himself and at the reality that his last book will, indeed, be his last book. Each of Leighton’s six published novels—Blood of the Wicked, Buried Strangers, Dying Gasp, Every Bitter Thing, A Vine in the Blood, Perfect Hatred—have each been critical gems, and I am heartbroken to think that Leighton will not witness the critical reception of his forthcoming The Ways of Evil Men, which is due to be published in January 2014—I am certain it will be the warmest yet."

Welcome Juliet and thank you for joining us today on the publication of Leighton's The Ways of Evil Men - I like to think he's looking down and winking. Back at you, L xo—Cara

The week I started at Soho in 2010, the office had just received Advance Reader Copies of Every Bitter Thing, the fourth book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series. A then-employee handed me a copy and said, “This guy is one of the best writers I’ve ever read. Get familiar.”

So that was the book I read my first week on the job—Every Bitter Thing. I don’t want to write anything that would spoil the exquisite story, but I was deeply impressed by it—“impressed” in the original meaning of the word; it left a mark on my reading habits. Yes, the story was energetic and satisfying entertainment. But I closed the book with goose bumps. In 282 pages, Leighton Gage had tricked me into asking myself what justice actually was. I’d thought I was just getting myself into a nicely written find-the-serial-killer procedural. Instead, I was shaken to my core. I wish I could give you more specifics, but I absolutely refuse to spoil this book for anyone who hasn’t read it. (If you haven’t read Every Bitter Thing, though, seriously, go read it now; it’s still one of my favorite crime novels, even though now that I’m more widely read I realize several of Leighton’s make that cut.)

The thing is, as it turned out, each of Leighton’s books had that quality—that surprise nugget of je ne sais quoi you had never encountered before. The thing that made you stop at the end of the book and think, wow, my brain has never been down that path before. Or, wow, these weren’t feelings I had been planning on having today. I think it’s the feeling we’re all looking for when we’re reading—the feeling of having the rug yanked out from under our expectations and of finding something totally new. But I know it’s not a feeling I have very often, although I read voraciously seeking it.

And each of Leighton’s books offered a different je ne sais quoi.

I had the privilege of working with Leighton editorially on three novels: A Vine in the Blood, Perfect Hatred, and his last novel, which publishes today, The Ways of Evil Men.

About a year ago right now, Leighton and I were exchanging ideas for how we would promote The Ways of Evil Men. His earlier books had received plenty of critical acclaim, but I thought Ways was going to be a real crowd pleaser, as well. I thought the new character of Jade Calmon was terrifically likable, the perfect access-point for introducing readers to the series. Furthermore, Leighton’s presentation the all-too-real issue at the center of the book—the covert genocides of micro-tribes—was eye-opening and would be sure to stir up conversation.

Leighton and I made plans for a dynamic pre-publication tour. It’s not something undertaken very often, but we all agreed this book was the right one to go all-out for. We made plans for Leighton to come to Chicago in the summer for the American Library Association annual convention, and brainstormed the other stops we would make along the way. It was all shaping up to be very exciting.
Weeks before the conference, Leighton wrote to tell me it didn’t look like he was going to be able to make it to Chicago. I knew how much he had been looking forward to ALA in Chicago. I have to admit this was another one of those times Leighton gave me goose bumps.

ALA was still a grand success for The Ways of Evil Men, although we booth-staffers were trying to hide how subdued we felt that Leighton was not there with us. Leighton’s friend Timothy Hallinan stood at the Soho Booth for seven hours and introduced more than 800 librarians to Mario Silva. But I can’t tell you how much I wish we could go back to those collection managers next year and say, “Remember that great writer you discovered in Chicago last year? Here’s his next book, which you’ll like even better, because he’s only getting better with every book.”

It isn’t really fair to be greedy. Leighton left us with seven darkly sparkling gems of je ne sais quoi, when many authors are happy to produce just one in their whole career. And I was lucky enough to work on three of them with him. I can’t help but be greedy, though, and wish that there might have been eight, nine, ten . . .

I hope I told Leighton often enough how special I thought his work was. I mean, there is no enough, is there? I wish I had told him more often.

I hope he knew that we at Soho felt honored to have him on our list.

I hope he knew about the goose bumps.

And I wish he could see how many other people—besides his editor, who might be considered biased—are saying those same kinds of things now.

Juliet Grames for Cara—Tuesday


  1. Thank you, Juliet, for a beautiful post - it really is difficult to put in words what we think and feel about Leighton and his work.

  2. Thank you Juliet for sharing your appreciation for a man we all admired. Thank you, too, for doing all that you did to help make Leighton's books as great as they are.

    1. Since you're an editor, Juliet, I should have set your name off in commas. Had to say that just in case one of my mystery writing students happens to catch this post.:)

  3. Juliet, Leighton's tribe will be sharing this on FaceBook, and tweeting it. I am here in New York (right around the corner from you offices). If there is anywhere I can show up to boost this book, I will do it.

  4. You guys are wonderful. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to say something about Leighton here. I appreciate it.

  5. That's a beautiful post, Juliet, and you get at something I've tried to say a few times in the past couple of days, without success: how profoundly moral a writer Leighton was. Without ever being preachy, without ever stepping out of his story to make a point, he showed us injustice and inequality and he made us angry about it. That's just one more thing that made him one of he best writers I've ever had the pleasure of knowing personally.

  6. Thank you Juliet - Leighton's sense of justice and determination to bring us to that reality of Brazil, a country he loved so much deserves everything we can do. Biased? We like our editors biased :)

  7. From Eide Gage:
    Thank you Juliet. Beautiful and moving.

  8. I had a small email correspondence with Mr. Gage several years ago and found him to very polite and approachable.. His talent will be greatly missed. Lisa shevin

  9. Thanks, Juliet
    It says beautifully what most of us feel.