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Jon Jordan

Murder One Books

US Softcover First

ISBN: 0-9744665-0-6

Publication Date: October, 2003

250 Pages; $12.95

Date Reviewed: February 2, 2004

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2004



Non-Fiction, Mystery

Reading is a solitary experience, the reader and the book in isolation, one absorbing the other. But readers, avid, active and enthusiastic readers, also feel a seemingly universal urge to break out of that isolation and to share their reading experiences, their favorite books and authors, with other avid readers. Thus book clubs, author appearances, genre-book conventions, and the huge number of on-line reader-writer forums. There is a strong community of readers, especially genre readers, ever eager to meet, great and engage each other and ever curious about the writers who fuel their fandom. Jon Jordan taps into this community of curiosity with his new book 'Interrogations', a collection of interviews of 25 mystery writers conducted over the past four years. (Complete list of authors interviewed: Colin Bateman, Mark Billingham, Cara Black, Stephen Booth, Max Allen Collins, John Connolly, Jeffery Deaver, Sean Doolittle, Loren D. Estleman, Steve Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Vickie Hendricks, Laura Lippman, Lise McClendon, Val McDermid, Katy Munger, Warren Murphy, George Pelecanos, Manuel Ramos, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, SJ Rozan, Barbara Seranella, Charles Todd, and Brian Wiprud.)

Jordan is a self-described mystery addict from Murder One Books, a specialty mystery bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Together with his wife and other assorted family members, the Jordans interview scores of mystery writers, write scores of articles on the genre, and still find time to read scores of mystery books. 'Interrogations' is Murder One Books' first published work, and while it's rough around the edges from a production viewpoint, it's a gold mine of content and substance for the avid mystery reader.

'Interrogations' includes both best selling authors like John Connolly, George Pelecanos, S.J. Rozan, Ian Rankin and Loren Estleman, and less well known, but equally interesting, writers like Vickie Henderson, Manuel Ramos and Brian Wiprud. Authors from the US, the UK and Ireland are represented. 'Interrogations' also plays fair with the sub-genres, covering hardboiled, cozy, caper and procedural writers in its mix. There's something for every sub-genre fan along with a compelling opportunity for the reader to discover a new writer, or different sub-genre, that's likely to appeal.

Jordan is a knowledgeable interviewer who has clearly read the books (though probably not all the books) of the authors he interviews and clearly knows his way around the mystery world. He's an interviewer who lets the authors speak, encouraging their commentary with well-chosen, often unusual, questions and insightful follow-ups. His interviews are about the writer, not about Jordan. While the 25 entries in the book follow the same format, and each author is asked a number of the same questions, each piece takes its tone and direction from the author himself, resulting in both a delightful and insightful read. Jordan, bless him, includes a complete list of each author's works with dates, including short stories, and the url of the author's website. As a collector, I would have loved the addition of the publisher and publication date to solve those vexing "what's the true first" questions.

And the authors? Well, about the only common thread among them is that they all write mystery books and they all read mystery books written by others. Some outline, others don't; some write on a schedule, others don't; some write first-person, some write third-person, and many write both; and all write that mystery stalwart, series books, while some also write, and love, short stories. Some are gregarious, outgoing, funny and just a little (or maybe a lot) wild while others seem shy, reclusive, earnest and genuine. Some writers, especially those who have been publishing for years with an extensive backlist, are slightly jaded about it all - the books, the publisher, the marketing, the fans, the hullabaloo. Others are still wide-eyed and essentially thrilled to be doing what they're doing.

Jordan asks a few of the typical interview questions, and many more atypical ones, blending the serious with the silly, the mystery writing with music, movies and muses, in his questioning. He lets each author describe his books and it's always interesting to compare the author's description of his work with the reader's assessment. He lets each author describe his writing process, his work-a-day discipline (if any), his interactions with other writers and with readers. And he concludes each interview by asking each author what's in his refrigerator. The most lively answer - Ian Rankin's "$200,000 worth of cocaine and a 9mm Beretta."

'Interrogations' mixes insight with silliness to showcases the unique personalities of these mystery writers which in turn amplifies and clarifies the novels they pen. It's a highly recommended read for any mystery fan, but it's also an expensive lure. I immediately bought four books by authors I hadn't previously read on the basis of their intriguing interviews, which, I guess, is exactly the point of reading the book, and its best praise. And I have another, very long, list of favorite-books-of-favorite authors yet to tackle.

Note: While the content of 'Interrogations' is first rate, the production is definitely not. My copy, for example, went from page 56 to 59 (oops) and I missed the opening of John Connolly's interview. There are blank spaces where a question should be, and there are countless gaps, awkwardly formatted sentences, run-on sentences and the like. The printing suffers from a surfeit of "hard (carriage) returns" and a shortage of proofreading. While I loved reading 'Interrogations', I did so with a red pen in hand.