Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A great songwriter featured in a great magazine

And lucky me, I had the pleasure of doing the interview. This one was a real treat, and I encourage you all to check out Joe Pug's work and browse around the Paste site a bit. There's wonderful stuff there.

Some nice mentions

So Cold the River was named one of the year's notable crime novels by Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times. An honor, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Robert Petkoff continues to impress with his rendering of the audio version of SCTR, winning an Earphone Award from AudioFile Magazine, which has the following to say of his performance: “This production is a huge success. Robert Petkoff hits all the right notes of bewilderment, menace, and tension as the plot thickens. He delivers an especially effective voice transformation as one character is inhabited by his demon ancestor. But most effective are the marvelous sound effects—of rising winds, a hallucinatory railroad train, sloshing waters, and a ghost violin from the dark past.”

Can't wait to hear what Mr. Petkoff does with The Cypress House!

Friday, December 3, 2010

So Cold the River receives some generous recognition

Amazon has selected So Cold the River as #5 of its 10 Best Thrillers of the year, and as #51 of the 100 best books of the year.

Library Journal has named So Cold the River one of the year's best audio books. This was wonderful news, of course, but really a minimal surprise because I've heard nothing all year but praise for Robert Petkoff's reading. It's a real tribute to his abilities, because I thought SCTR would be a challenge for listeners -- long and sprawling and with lots of point-of-view characters to keep track of. Instead, I heard repeatedly how wonderful the audio edition was, and for that, all credit is due the narrator, not the writer. I'm happy to report that Mr. Petkoff will be narrating The Cypress House on audio as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanks, Publishers Weekly

The Cypress House

Set in Florida in 1935, Koryta's masterful follow-up to So Cold the River effectively combines supernatural terror with the suffocating fatalism of classic American noir. Since serving as a Marine in WWI, Arlen Wagner has been able to identify people marked for death by something only he can see--smoke swirling in their eyes. While riding a train with 33 other Civilian Conservation Corps workers, Arlen spots smoke in the eyes of his fellow passengers. Certain the train is headed for disaster, he can persuade only one of them, 19-year-old Paul Brickhill, to get off at the next stop. Arlen and Paul wind up at a boarding house, where they become involved with its operator, the mysterious and beautiful Rebecca Cady, who's somehow beholden to some vicious and corrupt local law enforcement officials. Koryta excels at describing both scenery and his characters' inner landscapes. It's hard to think of another book with equal appeal to Stephen King and Cornell Woolrich fans.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cypress House -- UK Cover

Nice and spooky! Love to see what different designers in different parts of the world do with the same material. Pretty humbling to have so many talented people investing their time.

Fun and games from the good folks at Hodder & Stoughton

I've never had a book trailer before, so I was intrigued when my publisher in the UK sent this along. I have to say I really enjoyed it, but there's a slim chance of bias to my opinion. Just a chance. What do you think? Ready to read now?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cypress House tour announced

Preliminary dates and locations are below. Hope to see you out there!

10/23: St. Petersburg, FL

11/20: Miami, FL

1/20: St. Petersburg, FL

1/24: Tampa, FL

1/25: Sarasota, FL

1/26: West Palm, FL

1/27: Miami, FL

2/1: Bloomington, IN

2/2: Indianapolis, IN

2/3: Cleveland, OH
7:00 PM BARNES & NOBLE – Crocker Park

2/7: Houston, TX

2/8: Phoenix, AZ

2/9: San Diego, CA

2/10: Los Angeles, CA

2/11: San Francisco, CA

2/12: San Francisco, CA

2/13: San Francisco, CA

On to the next one...

Already? Yes, the new book is sneaking up on me pretty quickly, and I'll have plenty to say about The Cypress House -- which was perhaps my favorite writing experience thus far -- in the future. For now I'll show you the gorgeous cover, and I am deeply honored to share the following quotes about the book, which releases on Jan. 24.

"The Cypress House is a unique and entertaining blend of noir and paranormal suspense, with a tightly controlled supernatural thread as believable as the gunplay. Mr. Koryta is at the start of what will surely be a great career. He's now on my must-read list."
Dean Koontz

The Cypress House is a dazzling blend of suspense, the supernatural, and superb storytelling. What a gifted writer. Michael Koryta is the real deal.” –Ron Rash, author of Serena

“Michael Koryta is one of our new dynamos in the world of books, and in The Cypress House he spreads his range, wedding suspense with the supernatural in the eeriness of 1930s Florida. He uses the psychology of place to penetrate the human heart and delivers his tale of hurricanes and love and hauntings with great narrative force. Koryta's becoming a wonder we'll appreciate for a long time.” Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

“Michael Koryta has fashioned a great character in his reluctant prophet, Arlen Wagner, a good man who ends up with an awful lot of blood on his hands before the denouement of this deliciously dark tale. Koryta is a fantastic storyteller, and the many admirers of his previous novel, So Cold the River, will find similar chilly pleasures awaiting them here.” –Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins

"Michael Koryta's command of story, character, and language put him in an elite group of writers at work today: Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Lee Child to name a few. He is one of the very best writers out there. Don't try to label him, or stick him in a genre; that would be a disservice. Just read him, and soon you'll be saying Michael Koryta is among the best there is. And even that praise falls miserably short."
Ridley Pearson author of In Harm's Way

"Koryta is superb with mood and setting…the simmering tension erupts into a rolling boil by the bloody, spooky, and satisfying ending."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tragic news in the mystery community

If you can make the memorial service, do so. If you can't, buy a book from David Thompson's store -- we just lost the most passionate bookseller in the business, and one of the finest people I've ever known.

It's impossible to overstate the sense of loss that David Thompson's far-too-early passing brings to the many who knew him. I remember our meeting -- at Alafair Burke's apartment following the Edgars, when my first book was out and I was a stranger to all and David, as was his way, made it a point to try and make me feel as if among old friends. Amazing how swiftly he could do that. By the next time I saw him, he truly felt like an old and dear friend, and he always will. I'm thinking now of each visit to the store, of each meal shared and each book recommended and each deeply appreciated encouragement, and I'm overwhelmed by just how wonderful those memories are and thus how profound the sadness. David was about passion: for McKenna, for books, writers, friends, customers, dogs and all others who came his way. No one was more generous, more encouraging, and more sincere. My stops in Houston were, and will be, treasured moments because of the time spent with David and McKenna, all of the meals and drinks and laughs. His legacies are many and they are powerful and they are scripted in sincerity and generosity and compassion, truly rare levels of all the best qualities in a man.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Summer isn't just upon us any longer, it has engulfed us. Always seems to sneak up, but this year, with a book release in early June, it seems to be vanishing with a speed I don't recall since I was in school. Enjoy your holiday, and then figure out a way to slow this thing down.

TIME Magazine collected summer reading recommendations from many writers, and I'm honored to be in the mix. My pick was William Gay's wonderful Gothic Provinces of Night, which I can promise won't let you down if you read it this summer, fall, or winter. But it just tastes a little sweet in the summer. If there's an online link to the piece I haven't found it, but it is in the current edition and features many great picks by many great writers. Worth a look!

Quick links roundup: The NY Times takes their second pass at So Cold the River, this time with Janet Maslin evaluating, and again I'm pleased to say it emerged with a favorable review. Also the first time I've had a book earn a daily NYT review, so it felt like a milestone achievement.

USA Today's Carol Memmott:
The Washington Post:
The Toronto Globe and Mail:

A pair of video interviews:

Borders sent a wonderful team all the way down to West Baden Springs from Ann Arbor, and they clearly put a lot of effort and ability into this video piece, blending the historical setting with the current in a beautiful way.

The BSC Review, interview by Keith Rawson:

Monday, June 28, 2010

On genre

Thought I'd tackle this one after receiving an e-mail interview from the excellent writer Tom Piccirilli who said he'd begin by asking the obvious question, the one I'm probably tired of answering: why switch genre?

I realized that beyond being a good question -- and yes, one I'm hearing a lot these days -- it's one I've never attempted to answer here. There are certainly readers who are wondering about the issue, too. I've heard from some of them, with emotions ranging from pleasure and excitement to disgust and anger. It fascinates me to see such passion placed on genre, because I don't feel it as a reader. I just don't. I like good writing, and I like good writers. If I find a writer whose work I enjoy, I'll follow them anywhere. My perceptions of the work will vary -- everyone has his own ranking of "the best books by (insert author name here)" -- but my willingness to try it will not. Stewart O'Nan for example, could write about anything, and I would read it. That guy's range is extraordinary. He hasn't let me down yet.

So Cold the River doesn't seem like that much of a jump compared to the range displayed by many other writers. At its core, it is concerned with crimes (past and present varieties) and the execution is heavily concerned with building suspense, planting questions in the reader's mind, and developing emotional responses to the characters. All the same things I'd worried about for five crime novels. And, yet, it apparently is a "major departure." All right. Fair enough. So the question is WHY did I depart? The answer:

I write because I love it. Publication is great, but I wrote for free before and I would again if I had to (nobody forward this one to Little, Brown). I love stories. Why decide to tell a ghost story, though? Allow me to run through a quick-hits response:

1) The place. West Baden Springs and French Lick, Indiana are truly bizarre little towns. The landscape is gorgeous, the history is unbelievable, and the feeling in the region is, to me at least, a little eerie. Every now and then time and place collide in a way that seems to call for a supernatural tale. Think of a full moon on a chill October night in New England. For me, Springs Valley on the edge of a powerful summer thunderstorm was issuing the same call.

2) Desire to stretch. You improve as a writer, I believe, by trying new things, finding new challenges, and taking away the safety net. You can always improve -- if I wrote nothing but Lincoln Perry novels for the rest of my life, I'd still believe this -- but there's something really satisfying in trying a novel that is in some way unlike anything else you've done.

3) Influence and inspiration. I've been a Stephen King fan since his book On Writing came out, but I was a little late getting to his fiction. Once I did, What a world of story opened up there, what a world of talent. From King I found Matheson, and Straub, and Gaiman, and McDowell and Bloch and McCammon and Simmons and...whew. Lots of good stuff. Here's a fun anecdote about the way influence convinced me to try my hand at a ghost story. I read Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill's debut novel, and loved it. I also thought, "Look at this guy, he's going very fearlessly into Stephen King territory and pulling it off. You could try that, too." Turns out, of course, that the writer I viewed as the heroic challenger to the throne was of course the heir to the throne: Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. The fact that he hid that reality for nearly a decade of submissions out of determination to break through on his own merit and not on his father's name, is, I think, one of the truly great stories of publishing. At some point, though, all of my writing comes back to reading -- I'm responding to what I love. This is true of crime fiction, and true of supernatural fiction, and will, if I'm blessed enough to continue publishing, probably extend toward several other categories.

4) Timelessness. Here is an element of the ghost story that intrigues me. We all have heard the argument that there are only X number of plots, so I suppose any story has its long traditions, but the longevity of the ghostly tale is impressive. It extends through the early days of the novel, back beyond the printing press and out to the campfires of centuries past in the same way of the heroic quest stories. There's a reason: the audience enjoys it, and so do the storytellers. I got my first taste of that latter experience with So Cold the River, and let me assure you, these things really are a LOT of fun.

I don't know how much meaning any of this will have to readers. After a book tour in which I heard the question posed often, though, I did feel it was time to address it. I understand that some people have specific reading tastes, but I'd urge you to push beyond them. Not necessarily with my work, but in general. There's a lot of great fiction out there. And non-fiction. And poetry. And...just keep reading, folks! We need you.

One final note: if I hear another person tell me they don't like Stephen King, and then admit that they've never read Stephen King, I'm grabbing a rifle and heading for a tower.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Parade All-American

Okay, maybe not. The basketball dream eluded me due to...what was it, a bad knee? Hamstring? Oh, no, it was a total lack of talent. Right. So while that Parade list is out of reach, it was still pretty exciting to be a Parade Magazine pick for summer reading. None other than Willie Nelson on the cover, and 50 Cent inside! I've always considered myself closely aligned with those two.
"A fast, eerie chiller of a book that will make you shiver in the sun," claims Parade.

The St. Petersburg Times agrees, promising something to "chill you on a steamy summer afternoon," in this very generous review complete with a great photo of the West Baden Springs Hotel:

Amazon's Daphne Durham conducted a wonderful interview for their podcast series:

Entertainment Weekly (Stieg Larsson on the cover, an oddly literary-focused edition!) brings back plenty of high school memories for me. First of all, they offered a B grade, which always pleased me then and still does today, and then they call me "more creepy than truly terrifying" which is how I was generally described by girls.,,20394477,00.html

We got the cover story in the always-wonderful Mystery Scene:

The Sydney Morning Herald offers a nice piece upon release of the book in Australia, a place I'm already eager to visit again:

I want to thank everyone who has come out to the various tour stops -- only one left, Tampa on Tuesday, and then a short trip to Canada. It's been a wonderful time, and I'm deeply grateful for the support the book has received.

Once the tour winds down, it's back to writing -- books, first and foremost, but also hopefully a blog or two of more substance and fewer links. We'll see if I deliver on that...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

A buy it, buy it now pick...

Just finished this one, so it wasn't on my top ten list for the summer, but it certainly would have been if I'd made that list a week later. Hampton Sides is one of my favorite narrative non-fiction writers (Ghost Soldiers is a tremendous book) but his latest, Hellhound on His Trail is his best yet, an extraordinary account of James Earl Ray's stalking and assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. I'm in awe of the way Sides can take so much information in and then weave a tight, compelling narrative that both informs and entrances. This one is a writing clinic, and a truly important read.

Thanks for the support, and tune into NPR tomorrow...

Tour for So Cold the River is officially underway, and I want to thank everyone who has come out to support the book. It means a tremendous amount. Everyone's busy, there are lots of great books out this summer, and the idea that people travel out of their way (in some cases, WELL out of their way, I've had a few people make multiple-hour drives and cross state lines to get to signings already, which blows me away, how generous)to buy a book is extraordinarily humbling. The response to this novel has been a pleasure, because I had such fun writing it, and I love the area and its true and fascinating history so much.

There have been some very nice mentions of the book, and I know I'm going to fail to link to them all here (some are behind subscriber walls, as well) but I want to thank every reporter and reviewer who has been willing to give the novel a look. On that front, I'm extremely excited to report that tomorrow's "All Things Considered" on NPR will feature an interview about the novel conducted by the wonderful Michele Norris. That one was a real treat, to say the least.

1) IndieBound has selected the book as one of its best of the month:

2) The Huffington Post's Jason Pinter offers a review and interview:

3) The LA Times jacket copy blog asks about some summer reads that stand out in the memory:

4) The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review does the same (and makes a really interesting call in comparing the book to "Breaking Away," which had never crossed my mind before, but we are in Indiana limestone country for this one...

5) The Boston Herald's Jim Sullivan discusses the book and the always-important influence of Dennis Lehane, whose teaching has benefited a LOT of students over the years.

6) The incomparable Miriam Parker of Little, Brown offered a nice audio interview:

I know I'm leaving some things out, and I hate to do that because I can't stress just how appreciated these things have been. In a summer filled with great books, it's very humbling to receive so much support for this novel. Thanks to all the writers, reviewers and bloggers who have championed the book, and thanks to everyone who has turned out at the signings. Still have quite a few to do, and I'm looking forward to them!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Release day, and some music picks...

Well, after a fairly long wait (I finished a draft of this book in summer of 2008!) So Cold the River is finally available today. If you're into reading, please give it a look. If you have doors that need stopping, please consider it. Very good heft to this one.

I'm thrilled to report that The New York Times not only saw fit to give So Cold the River a very generous review this week ("a superior specimen," says the NYT, "beautiful." Aw, go on...) but the wonderful Paper Cuts blog allowed me to provide a playlist of tracks that have inspired my writing. I hope you'll have a chance to check out these wonderful and deserving artists.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Picks from the first half of 2010

I try to read at least 100 books each year, but right now I'm a bit behind pace for 2010. Hoping to address that this summer, but I've already found plenty of noteworthy titles. Here are some standouts from what I've read thus far, books that merit your consideration as you pick your summer reading material.

1) Mr. Shivers, by Robert Jackson Bennett. Easily my favorite debut of the year. I'm a sucker for style, and the prose is so gorgeous that the book reads like a dark parable. A chilling and mythic tale set against the backdrop of the Depression, the novel closes out with a stunningly good epilogue. I simply cannot wait to see what this writer does next.

2) Burning Bright, by Ron Rash. I'm not finished with this short story collection yet, but I'm already confident it will be among my year's favorite reads. Rash is one of our truly great American writers at this point.

3) The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. This is a fascinating and disturbing study of our culture, one that should be read and carefully considered.

4) 212, by Alafair Burke. Another excellent thriller from a talented writer who is constantly improving.

5) Blockade Billy, by Stephen King. Stephen King writing a chilling novella about baseball? Seems like the definitive summer read to me.

6) Burnt Offerings, by Robert Marasco. Sadly out of print, I finally tracked this book down after hearing about it for years. A wonderful supernatural thriller about the perfect summer retreat that's, well, maybe not so perfect.

7) Peace, by Richard Bausch. A gorgeous, tightly written WWII drama that unfolds in essentially one act, with stellar prose and character.

8) The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan. Egan wrote the stunningly good Dust Bowl account "The Worst Hard Time" and returns to form with this story of a forest fire that changed the nation.

9) Dogtown, by Elyssa East. This non-fiction account of a forgotten New England town, a brutal crime, and the region's emotional hold over the writer was one of my most pleasant finds of the year so far, and captured a lot of the feelings that drove me to write So Cold the River.

10) The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, by Don Robertson. Sure, I'm biased because it is set in Cleveland and I've heard my grandfather's recollections of the terrible industrial fire that provide the backdrop for this coming-of-age story, but the narration style, locked into the voice of a young child and always providing moments of profound grace and power, was mesmerizing. The first book in a recently reissued trilogy.

Come on, aren't you intrigued yet?

Some nice words from both in the states and abroad. I love Australia.

1) So Cold the River has been named a "great read" by Australia's Men's Fitness magazine. They passed on the opportunity to interview me for the "six-pack secrets" feature, which is disappointing, because I have some great tips on how to handle those tough six-pack moments in which your bottle opener is missing, but I'll forgive them because of the following quote: "He's 27 years old and has already been mentioned in the same breath as Stephen King. Koryta's earned it -- this paranormal thriller is a cracker of a read." I'm hoping that last bit is praise and not a dig at my southern Indiana roots.

2) Australia's Booktopia Blog provides a nice interview.

3) The Chicago Sun-Times identifies So Cold the River as one of its five summer thrillers that just might be worth your time...,summer-reading-thrillers.article

4) The St. Petersburg Times and Cape Cod Times also select So Cold as a "must-read" of the summer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Three more to come!

I hope everyone is out on a deck or a boat or a beach with their beverage of choice in hand by now. I'm headed for at least two of those destinations myself. Before I melt into Memorial Day, though, I'll share some much-appreciated mentions of So Cold the River. A few of the pieces also break some news that I am VERY excited to report: Michael Pietsch and Little, Brown have signed up three more novels, which means that I'm locked in with that incredible publisher for at least six books. I am beyond delighted with that, extremely grateful to the good folks at LB for their faith, and looking forward to those future projects.

1) Sarah Weinman's always excellent "Dark Passages" column for the Los Angeles Times features the So Cold:,0,5640763.story

2) USA Today includes So Cold in its list of "hot summer reads"

3) The Wall Street Journal's Laura Mechling profiles the book:

4) The Wall Street Journal also posts an excerpt, the entire first chapter, for any interested readers:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Genuine Hoosier Product

Last week I saw the first hardcover editions of "So Cold the River." Always a good feeling; even better when the book has such a gorgeous cover. Beyond that beautiful face this one may seem a little on the pudgy side, sure, but I insist that it is quicker on its feet than you'd think.

I signed copies at the Hachette Book Group's massive distribution center in Lebanon, Indiana. The people there are outstanding. My thanks to Doug, Alicia, Kim, Tim, and Mike (aka Eugene) for being gracious and good-natured hosts. They put up with me for several hours, always an arduous task, and patiently answered a lot of dumb questions about the warehouse. It's an impressive facility, though I was concerned when informed that they "recycle every single one of our books." I'd hoped that at least a few were sold.

While signing, I asked where the books were printed before being shipped to Lebanon, where they are then distributed all over the country. Turns out they're printed in Crawfordsville, Indiana. This discovery no doubt provokes deep excitement for everyone. It actually did for me, though -- turns out So Cold the River was written in Indiana, set in Indiana, printed in Indiana, and shipped from Indiana. Considering all my contact with the publishing world has always been centered in New York, that struck me as a pleasant surprise.

It was fascinating to see the place, and also humbling -- there were a lot of people working very hard in there, reminders that long after the writer has typed the last word of a book, many people must invest a lot of diligence and energy into seeing it become a product. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank Ploy Siripant for her incredible work on the cover design. She tried several different ideas and looks before coming out with the beautiful final version, and I very much appreciate the effort.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Michael Connelly is appearing in the ABC show "Castle" tonight. You can find the episode here: and feel free to contact Michael to urge him not to take the big-dollar acting offers and give up on writing. I know I will.

On other castle fronts: Mystery Scene magazine recently asked me to participate in their "Writers on Reading" feature with a short essay about a book of influence. I sat down to work on it thinking I'd dust off another version of my consistent love song to Dennis Lehane's "Gone, Baby, Gone" or Chandler's "The Long Goodbye" or Michael Connelly's "The Poet" or...

Then I read the essay Carolyn Hart had provided, in which she reflected back on the early mysteries of her reading life. The first mystery I ever read was a young adult novel from the 1950s called "The Crow and the Castle." In the book, a crow (named Hector) steals a chess piece (technically a rook but the often-substituted term castle makes for a better title) and thus the caper ensues. The "Carson Street Detective Agency," comprised of two friends, Neil Lambert and Swede Larson, steps in to handle the mess. It's a great children's novel -- the characters are realistic, the suspense is high, it's educational in a sneaky, this-fits-right-into-the-plot way, it's funny, and it's able to laugh at itself in a way that allows kids to be in on the joke, and not winked at over the top of the material in the patronizing manner of some movies or books that are praised for being "fun for the parents, too!"

The novel hooked me on reading, writing, and detecting. No, really. I started to make my own attempts at writing -- mimicking Robertson's every move -- after discovering the book; I began to read voraciously; I decided I would become a private detective in addition to being a writer. Most children develop as human beings after these eight-year-old epiphanies. I apparently did not, but I ain't complaining. Throughout school and right on into my career, I stayed locked into two paths: writing and detective work. I've been fortunate enough to do both professionally. When I look back on the impact of that novel, it's eerie to consider.

The novel was long out of print by the time I read it. My father remembered it as a favorite from his own childhood, and the Monroe County Public Library had two copies. I read every book Keith Robertson wrote -- he was best known for the very funny Henry Reed series -- but the mysteries were my favorites, and it's interesting to me to note that they often embodied shared themes: the young protagonists had a realistic but deep love affair with the land around them and the history of that land, and weather often played a central role. Anyone who doubts the influence of children's books on a writer should peruse "So Cold the River" and consider those three elements. But, then, it's already been admitted that I progressed very little from the time I was eight.

I wrote Keith Robertson a letter after discovering his books, and with the help of a patient research librarian, found the address for his farm in New Jersey. The letter arrived a few weeks after he passed away. (Robertson died on September 23. I was born on September 20. My first novel was published on September 19. One of the other great literary influences in my life, Stephen King -- I've written before about the impact his memoir/guide "On Writing" had on me -- was apparently born on September 21. There's something about that week for me...)

Keith Robertson never read my letter. His son, Jeff, did, and he wrote me a response. I immediately wrote back, and Jeff, for a reason I'll never understand, held up his end of the chain. For years. He encouraged my writing, told me stories about his father, about his own experiences (he'd sailed around the world; often I'd get letters after he'd made port again), and offered reading suggestions. We fell out of touch for a few years when I was in my late teens, but when I found out my first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, was going to be published, it became important to me to track him down. This was where the detective work came in handy -- it took a bit of effort. We had a nice exchange and have continued to on occasion since. I've tracked down most of his father's books by now. I found one signed copy. That one gave me a thrill.

I enjoy considering the ripples and threads, moments chained upon moments that make up a narrative, the plot points of real life. I can follow a lot of threads back to "The Crow and the Castle," and to Keith Robertson, and to letters exchanged with his son. I've never met Jeff, but I hope to someday -- talk about a generous soul!

Last year I stopped by a small Wisconsin town to visit the "August Derleth Room" in a pint-sized library. Derleth was a prolific writer, and the founder of Arkham House, a horror publisher whose books were of tremendous influence to the genre in which I'm working of late. His impact on me -- direct impact -- came through a series about the "Mill Creek Irregulars," young would-be detectives with a love of the land, its history, and the weather. Long-out-of-print books, but remembered by my father as favorites.

They had to unlock the Derleth room for me in the library basement; it doesn't see many visitors. It's nice that he has a tribute there, but it meant more to me to walk the Wisconsin River in the place where he'd set so many stories. Someday, I want to make it out to Hopewell, New Jersey, and find Booknoll Farm, where Keith Robertson lived and wrote. I'm guessing it won't be much of a tourist destination, either. That's fine. That's great. There's something special in the idea -- and something very reassuring to me as a writer -- that the tales should long outlast the tellers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Writing Fuel

After writing up the short post below about Larry McMurtry's great memoir, I got to thinking about my favorite quotes on writing -- there are plenty -- and it occurred to me that a fairly common question in interviews is whether I have any quotes above my desk. The answer is yes, though it varies often, and varies between Indiana and Florida. The only quote that is constantly in both places -- framed, and read aloud (I'm not joking) before each writing session -- is from Josh Ritter, an incredible songwriter who just happens to have a wonderful new album out.

"I sang in exultation, pulled the stops, you always looked a little bored. But I'm singing for the love of it, have mercy on the man who sings to be adored."

That's from a song called "Snow is Gone," and if there's ever been a better stated sentiment about the sort of mindset you should bring to your art, I haven't found it.

Additional quotes that are on the desk currently:

1) "Write with your head down." Michael Connelly. If you were to do a survey of interviews with Michael, you'd hear him repeat this phrase dozens of times. He's talking about keeping your focus on the book, not on the business, about writing the story you want to write as well as you can write it, and not focusing on the market, the reviews, and all of the other business-related things that can infect the work.

2)"The truth is that when I'm writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday...only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words." Stephen King. I don't think I need to expound on the meaning of that one.

3) "He was the first player at every practice and the last to leave, the hardest-working NBA practice player any of them had ever seen. The only problem was the degree to which he dominated everyone else. Early on, Rod Thorn called over to the Bulls' practice facility, Angel Guardian, to talk to Loughery, only to find that everyone had already gone home. Why was practice over so early?, he asked the next day. "I had to let them off early," Loughery said. "Michael was wearing them all out."
David Halberstam, writing about Michael Jordan in "Playing for Keeps."

4) "This is why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure forever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal." GK Chesterton

Quotes come and go often from my desk (the Ritter line excepted) and when I add a new one, I'll try to remember to post it here. The quotes themselves may change, simply out of a need for refreshment, but the ideas behind them are the same: they offer me reinforced perspective on what my mindset should be as I approach the page, and on how hard I should work once I arrive at the page.

There's prolific, and then there's...

Larry McMurtry. Who, according to his latest memoir, "Literary Life," wrote the excellent novel "The Last Picture Show" in three weeks, "All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers" in five weeks, and "A Desert Rose" in 22 days. Now, Mr. McMurtry has written over 40 books, 50 screenplays, and plenty of essays and short stories, winning a Pulitzer along the way for "Lonesome Dove," which ranks among my all-time favorite novels. I love the opportunity to hear good writers talk about writing, and "Literary Life" is the memoir of a great writer, so it's an obvious treat. McMurtry is writing a trilogy of memoirs; the first, "Books" discussing his life in the rare book business, the second "Literary Life" discussing his writing, and a forthcoming "Hollywood" installment discussing, you guessed it, his work in the film industry. There's plenty in "Literary Life" that's worth highlighting (such as, you know, the fact that he penned an absolutely brilliant novel in three weeks) but the following quote was my personal favorite, because it resonated the most:

"I learned then and have relearned many times since, that the best part of a writer's life is actually doing it, making up characters, filling the blank page, creating scenes that readers in distant places might connect to. The thrill lies in the rush of sentences, the gradual arrivals of characters who at once seem to have their own life."

Indeed. And, with that noted, I'm off to enjoy that best part of a writer's life, with the hope that somewhere down the line, some of you in distant places might connect with those characters.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So Cold The River by Michael Koryta

Getting closer...

I've been meaning to add a few blogs of substance, and still intend to, but the good news is I've been distracted by writing a book! In the meantime, release for So Cold the River is only a month away. The events schedule will be up any day now, so check back if you're interested in catching a signing. Two new and much-appreciated reviews are in, and both Booklist and Library Journal have kind words for the novel.

In addition, there's a fun little promo video for the book. Hope you have a chance to check it out!

Library Journal: "A mysterious antique water bottle, a town reluctant to let go of old connections to fame and infamy, hallucinations and a resurgent evil combine to bring readers a gripping chiller that will keep them guessing – and looking under the covers – until the last page…Fans of horror and supernatural suspense will enjoy [Koryta's] latest, and darkest, work yet."

Booklist: "After successes with noirish mysteries (The Silent Hour, 2009), Koryta has ventured into genre-bending, successfully melding thriller elements to a horror story that recalls Stephen King. His tight, clear prose makes West Baden as creepy as Transylvania, and Eric is a compellingly flawed protagonist. Legions of King and Peter Straub devotees will be delighted by this change of direction; Koryta’s hard-boiled fans may feel a bit nonplussed at first, but they, too, will fall under the spell of this very strange Indiana town."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thanks to EW!

It was very nice to see "So Cold the River" selected as one of the "most anticipated books of the summer" by Entertainment Weekly.

Release is -- finally -- drawing nigh, and I'll be blogging a little more about the book in the coming weeks, hopefully answering some reader questions that are sure to exist, such as, 1) How much of the history is true? (most of it) and 2)Why a ghost story? (Because they're fun!)

Anyone who followed my picks for favorite books read in 2009 will remember my high esteem for Dave Cullen's "Columbine." Today is the anniversary of that tragedy, and as I've read news articles about it I find my mind turning again to that fine piece of work. If you haven't read the book, you should. It's now out in an updated, paperback version.

Other, more recent, reading pleasures have included Alafair Burke's "212," and the Paris Review series of writer interviews, which is like candy to me. There's a four-volume set of them out now, featuring interviews about the craft with everyone from Dorothy Parker to William Faulkner to Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King. Wonderful stuff. And speaking of King, act fast to receive a limited edition new novella from the master:

I also thoroughly enjoyed Larry McMurtry's memoir "A Literary Life" but I'm saving that one for a full blog entry at some point. Still trying to honor my promise to be more active on the blog this year!

Friday, April 9, 2010

So Cold The River promo widget Version 2.0

Many thanks to Miriam Parker and the others at Little, Brown and Co. who created this fun little guy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Early reviews, good news from abroad, and go Butler!

Some nice things to report on this NCAA Championship Monday, less than 12 hours from tip-off of the unlikely Butler/Duke matchup. I don't want to jinx the Bulldogs, so I'll just say that even if they lose it's been an amazing run and people from Indiana can't complain about seeing two teams (Butler and the Colts) play for the championship in a two-month span. Ah, the Colts...(Hands team, Hank Baskett. Hands team! That's the only reason you kept a roster spot and then they give you ONE onside kick all season and you, a WIDE RECEIVER, cannot hold onto the...)

Ahem, sorry. As I said, we can't complain. Too much composure for that.

The first good news comes from the Netherlands. I just returned from a wonderful trip to Amsterdam, and can't thank the people at Boekerij enough. It's a great publishing house in a great country, and, as of last week, also the first publishing house to land a Koryta title on the national bestseller list, with the mass market edition of "A Welcome Grave" (or "Begraven") debuting at #16.

Back stateside, there's a starred review of "So Cold the River" in the current Publisher's Weekly that will hopefully whet appetites for the new book:

"In this explosive thriller from Koryta (Envy the Night), failed filmmaker Eric Shaw is eking out a living making family home videos when a client offers him big bucks to travel to the resort town of West Baden, Ind., the childhood home of her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, to shoot a video history of Bradford's life. Almost immediately, things go weird. Eric uncovers evidence of another Campbell Bradford, a petty tyrant who lived a generation before the other and terrorized the locals. The older Campbell begins appearing in horrific visions to Eric after he sips the peculiar mineral water that made West Baden famous. Koryta spins a spellbinding tale of an unholy lust for power that reaches from beyond the grave and suspends disbelief through the believable interactions of fully developed characters. A cataclysmic finale will put readers in mind of some of the best recent works of supernatural horror, among which this book ranks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

International hospitality

Considering I still find it surreal to see a copy of one of my stories actually bound and jacketed and available to purchase – just like a real book! – it should come as no surprise that one of the strangest and most humbling experiences I have is the opportunity to see foreign editions come in. I’ve had the wild good fortune to be published in a number of languages and in a number of countries, and the idea that anyone believes the books will appeal to people a world apart from the place where I write them is endlessly fascinating to me. It suggests a lot about the power of story, I think, and the way we can connect to universal themes and struggles. To be a part of that on any level is special.

I spent the end of February and the early part of this month in Australia, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, and will close out the month in Amsterdam, having a great chance to meet people who publish and read the books in other places. Australia was a wonderful trip, and I owe deep thanks to the many fine people at Allen & Unwin for their gracious hosting. I also had the chance to meet local booksellers, and their excitement for So Cold The River’s release was beyond encouraging. At least a half-dozen people told me they’d had nightmares while reading the galley. Strangely, this news always pleases me.

The Perth arts festival was excellent, and I had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful writers, including a pair of personal favorites, David Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers, which was one of my favorite reads of 2009, and Elizabeth Kostova, the wildly gifted author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves. Elizabeth and I share a publisher in the US now, but she’s always eluded me here, so I had no choice but to chase her to an island in the Indian Ocean. She then agreed to sign a book and take a photo, but you can tell from the uneasy smile that restraining orders are being considered.

A few things I took away from my time in Australia:

1) It is very, very difficult for me to avoid attempting an Australian accent when I am in the presence of one. To make matters worse, I did two events and drank many more beers with the talented Adrian McKinty, who is from Ireland, has lived in Harlem, and now resides in Melbourne, all of which led me to want to attempt a hybrid Aussie/Irish approach that, when privately rehearsed, left me sounding like Paul Rudd’s attempted Jamaican accent in I Love You, Man.

2) One of the best elements of being around publishers and booksellers from other countries is getting a sense of writers who have slipped under the radar (or at least my radar) here. I did an event with Colin McLaren in Perth, who has had a truly fascinating police career, and can’t wait to read his work. Rebecca James is getting worldwide attention for her debut, A Beautiful Malice, and everyone I spoke with said it is most deserved. Again, on my reading list.

3) American football has its detractors down under. If I had spent nearly the same energy trying to sell books as I did defending the merits of the NFL versus rugby, it probably would have delighted my publisher.

4) Kangaroos are edible.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Farewell to two of the greats

Talk about a bad day in the mystery world: last week e-mails came through to me almost simultaneously informing of the death of Robert B. Parker and the pending closing of The Mystery Company, Indiana's only independent mystery bookstore and a place that has felt like home since I began to publish.

I'd offer a Parker tribute here, but I've read so many from writers far more eloquent than yours truly that I don't know what's left to say except that Robert B. Parker was for me, as for anyone who has touched the PI novel form in the last thirty years, a tremendous influence. Those first ten Spenser novels may well have saved the genre. It's scary to consider how many of the current detective novelists we love may never have A) tried the form; or B) found a publisher who believed money could be made from the PI novel without Parker.

Anyone well versed in mystery fiction pointed back to Parker at some point in their discussions, and nobody was -- is -- better versed than Jim Huang, owner of The Mystery Company in Carmel, Indiana. The store hosted my first signing, and the first signing of each subsequent book, and, were the world in the palm of my hand, it would continue to do so for as long as anyone publishes my work. It's closing, though, driven out of business by many factors that Jim articulates very well on his blog and that won't surprise anyone familiar with the struggles of independent business or bookselling. I wish Jim and his family the best as they move on, but Indiana is the poorer for watching them go.

Lest this be an unrelentingly bleak entry, I'll add this: I spent last week teaching at the Eckerd College Writer's Conference. (Still Writers in Paradise, to me, but I gather they're in the midst of a name change). The conference was absolutely huge to me in my days there as a student, and it's a wonderful treat to be able to return as a faculty member. There were a lot of talented students, writing hard, and that bodes well for the future. Kudos to Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson for creating, and maintaining, something so great.