Mysteries, thrillers, home of PI Thomas Black

Sunday’s Seattle Times ran an article about showrooming, a practice wherein the shopper goes to a local bookstore, browses the merchandise, makes a selection and then walks out of the store and purchases it online, thereby both using and abusing the bookstore. This practice is hurting bookstores and is going to help in the demise of many of them. You can view the Times article here.  It’s worth reading and, if you’re guilty of showrooming, perhaps this will change your mind. I’m not. I’m more of the go-straight-to-the-online retailer kind of guy —just because it’s easier and less time-consuming and I live in a small town far from any large bookstore — which is also bad for bookstores, both the national chains and our friendly independents.

There were some interesting facts in the article which I’ve verified —- online. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is selling in bookstores for $35.00. The Kindle version is $17.99. Amazon sells the hardcover for $20.71. I’m not sure how much of a hit Random House is taking by allowing Amazon to sell the hardcover for $20.71, when they’re asking $35.00 for it at independent brick-and-mortar bookstores but big publishers have been discounting bestsellers forever. Let’s look at how much of a hit they’re taking on the Kindle version.

Amazon has two different royalty rates for their Kindle books and unless my information is incorrect, they’re ruthlessly strict about it, even with New York publishers. Here’s how it works. Read the rest of this entry »

The Willo Award

Posted by admin under Earl Emerson website


Last weekend Mystery Writers of America, Northwest branch, gave me the Willo Award for lifetime achievement. This was only the fourth time the award was bestowed and I’m very grateful to the board of Mystery Writers for selecting me. It was really a great honor.

The award is named after the late Willo Davis Roberts, who was a major force in young adult literature and a two-time winner of the Edgar for best mystery. Willo was always an inspiration to other writers and as free and candid with her advice as anybody I’ve ever met. I vividly remember attending Mystery Writers monthly dinners back when I had only two books published, trying to get a spot near her so I could glean pearls of wisdom during the meal. And the pearls came with frequency, unguarded, honest, helpful and insightful. Writing is a business and nobody knew that better than Willo. Unfortunately, I rarely sat next to her because everybody else in the room was thinking the same thing. Get next to Willo. Learn something that will change my career.

Writing is a tough gig even when you’re wildly successful, as Willo was, and it was always amazing to me that she could be so generous with her time and thoughts. If I could be half the inspiration to other writers she was, I would be happy.



Here at last is number seven in the Thomas Black series, back in print for Amazon Kindle here.


And for Barnes and Noble Nook here.


This is part two of what I’m calling the Birchfield trilogy and is one of my very favorites.


Ann Rule said about this book. “The Portland Laugher” sings all the way through. Chilled my veins and made me laugh out loud and fooled me when I got too smug.”

yellowdogpartyfinalIt’s finally here in electronic form. The first of my personal three favorite Thomas Black mysteries.


It’s available for Nook here.


And for Kindle on Amazon here.


Yellow Dog Party is the first in a trilogy. The other books in that trilogy are The Portland Laugher and The Vanishing Smile.  The books are about desire, jealousy and relationships between men and women and in particular, between Thomas Black and Kathy Birchfield.

In Yellow Dog Party Thomas Black is asked to find the dreamgirls of four different bachelors. Each man has reached a pinnacle of success in his life, each is lonely, and each believes a woman he’s been dreaming of can fill a hole in his life. One is a cheerleader from the guy’s high school, one a woman with season tickets to the Mariner’s, same as him, etcetera. In this book Thomas and Kathy are getting closer and farther apart at the same time. Kathy’s got a boyfriend.

While I was doing signings for this book, or maybe it was the next one in the series, an alert reader, a researcher for one of our two local newspapers at the time, told me she liked the book, but why hadn’t I written about four women looking for men from their past. Of course, she said, they wouldn’t be looking for love. They would be looking to get even. Unwittingly, or maybe it was wittingly, she gave me the plot for the third book in the series, The Vanishing Smile.  These really are my three favorites in the Thomas Black series, both for how they work as individual books and for how they compliment each other in both theme and storyline.

If you haven’t already read it, enjoy Yellow Dog Party.

Another cover by Cinelli.


Posted by admin under Earl Emerson website

Recently in a forum for writers I read a post from somebody bemoaning the fact that her British sales had plummeted to nothing. She attributed this to the one review the book received in Britain, an on-line review from a purported reader. In the review the critic admitted they hadn’t  read the book. That didn’t stop them from rating it with one star. And that one-star brought UK sales to a halt.

It is my understanding that Amazon has taken measures to make sure authors don’t blitz their own books with favorable reviews by checking out the IP address of review writers and blocking more than one review from the same IP listing. They are protecting the readers from unscrupulous authors but who’s protecting the authors from unscrupulous or just unthinking readers?

For my part I’ve received more than one on-line review  from readers who admitted they hadn’t read the book. One woman gave one of my books a one-star review based on the price, something I had no power over since it was decided by my New York publisher’s marketing department. It seemed to her that an electronic book should be a little less expensive. She hadn’t read the book. She hadn’t even bought it. She said as much in her review. Later, she posted a note, a comment on her own review, saying she finally read the book in question and loved it. The one-star rating still stands. Another “critic” wrote he liked all my other books, a lot, but didn’t care for the particular one he was reviewing. It was the only novel of mine he didn’t like and the only one he bothered to review. Gee, thanks.

If you want to do a favor for an author, if you want to see more work from an author, write a favorable review after reading one of their tomes. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just a few minutes.  If you review one of my books, I will definitely read it. If you want an answer from this author, include a copy of the review in an e-mail to me and I’d be glad to correspond. I answer all of my e-mail within a week, sometimes within the hour. Cheers.

Nervouslaughter#4The Kindle and Nook version of Nervous Laughter is now online.  With this addition, all five of the first Thomas Black private eye mysteries are on line. We’re working on the next five. Cinelli has given us an updated cover for Deviant Behavior. I’d like some feedback on which cover is preferred. Book covers are always problematic. It’s hard to tell if people are buying the storyline or the cover, or just completing a series.

The old Deviant Behavior cover.Deviant Behavior cover by Cinelli.


The new Deviant Behavior cover. Exit from darknes - Light at end of tunnelWhich do you prefer?







Both these covers are replacing the absolutely hideous cover Ballantine slapped onto it in 1998. All I can think of is that somebody in the house must have gone temporarily insane.

Lastly, you can purchase Nervous Laughter at your Kindle store or at Barnes and Noble —coming shortly.

Nervous Laughter (Thomas Black Series #3)The hideous cover. Unfortunately thousands of these were printed and Ballantine repeatedly assured me that as soon as they were all sold, they would reconsider the cover. Well, it never happened. The Rainy City and Poverty Bay covers were equally hideous. Cinelli, when he’s not drinking, does a far better job, I think.

A short note on typos. We proofread these titles scrupulously but we’re only human. If you find a typo, please notify me and I’ll amend the e-books pronto. The problems are multiple. In the beginning, a lot of it had to do with the Kindle platform and the translation. Most of the first mistakes in the first few Kindle books we put on weren’t ours. Well . . . a lot of them were ours. But a lot of them were translation errors and not our fault.

We download a Word document formatted properly, then read the kindle translation, then okay it. But what we read in the sample is not what always shows up in the finished product. It was frustrating. Kindle has revised their technology and now they even have a spellchecker which found four typos in this last manuscript. Bravo.





Deviant Behavior cover by Cinelli.


Posted by admin under Earl Emerson website

The Rainy City and Deviant Behavior will be offline for a day or two. Cinneli updated the covers and it takes a while for Amazon and Barnes and Noble to update.


Posted by admin under Earl Emerson website
Deviant Behavior cover by Cinelli.

Deviant Behavior cover by Cinelli.

Now on Kindle and on Nook.


Four out of the first five Blacks are currently on line. My proofing person is stuck on Nervous Laughter,  the 3rd Black, and Cinelli has yet to come up with a cover concept for that title, so that’s next.

After this come the more mature Blacks, the ones I wish readers would start with. Readers never want to begin a series with the 5th or 6th title, but in this case, I would prefer they did, then go back and fill in the earlier stuff. But you know how that goes. If wishes were . . .




fattuesday finalfinal

Coming slightly out of order in electronic book form, since this was the fourth Thomas Black and the third is still being professionally proofed, here is Fat Tuesday.

It is available at Amazon here and on the Barnes and Noble site for Nook here.

Fat Tuesday was the first bestseller in my quiver, racing up the Northwest paperback charts the summer it came out in paper from Ballantine Books.  The paperback version is slightly modified from the original hardback but only by about 1500 words. I did that myself. It was not in response to some monstrous editorial dictum. By and large, my editors have all been pretty good, if not excellent.

I invariably do a title search before using a title. When I researched “Fat Tuesday” it did not exist as a book title. I don’t want to put out a book with a tag that’s already been used a hundred times. Nine years after my Fat Tuesday came out, Sandra Brown brought out with a book titled Fat Tuesday.  It was mildly annoying but since titles are not copyright-able, I had no permanent claim to the words and knew it. The fact is, I was surprised somebody hadn’t used the title long before I did. It’s a great title. There are now several other books out with the same title. In those days I did my title searches at the public library using the huge most recent volumes of “Books in Print.” Now, of course, you google it.

As annoying as it was to have Sandra Brown—who sells much better than I ever have— come and take away some of my thunder, something good came out of it. Shortly after her book came out we sold the rights to Fat Tuesday to Italy, my first and only Italian sale. Generally, foreign rights to a title are not sold nine years after pub date. I had a wee suspicion somebody in Italy got the two authors mixed up and believed they were buying the title by Brown when they bought mine. I cashed the check anyway. A very small check. These new covers are being done by Cinelli.

Tell me what you think.

Next and coming soon: Deviant Behavior, which I consider the first of the modern Thomas Blacks.




Poverty Bay

Posted by admin under Earl Emerson website

povertybayfinal#1Poverty Bay, as some of you have already noticed, is now for sale here on Kindle and nook.


When it came out Poverty Bay was nominated for an Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America. Along with it’s predecessor, The Rainy City,  it was also nominated for a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America and won that year.  It was a glorious thing to have written two out of the five nominees for best paperback original that year. But then, glorious things are rare, which is why they are glorious. The series garnered five more nominations for Shamus awards.

The two boys in this story were inspired by a couple of twins I met when I was eleven. Clearly, they left an imprint, because I only knew them for one afternoon, yet twenty some odd years later I made them central characters in a novel. One thing I got in reader feedback on this one was that Kathy wasn’t in evidence as much as she had been in The Rainy City. People wanted to see Kathy with Thomas. In later books she plays a larger role. The hokey jokes were all used on my kids when they were growing up, but a number of adult readers have commented that they liked them, too. There’s nothing like a hokey joke.

Subscribe to earlemerson.com