It’s eerie. Robin Hathaway’s column two Mondays ago discussed her irresistible compulsion to enter second-hand bookstores wherever their paths crossed. I’m similarly afflicted but do not limit my horizons to the second-hand-used. This past Monday, Robin analyzed the highs of a random encounter with her first-published novel, The Doctor Digs A Grave, in the hands of a flesh-and-blood person apparently reading it, presumably for pleasure. That very thing happened to me in January, 2008.
Rose and I were on a well-deserved vacation at Velas Vallarta, a lush Old World resort on the beach at Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, in the State of Jalisco, Mexico.
There we were poolside, me sipping a Virgin Narranja in a lounge chair, when I slyly look to my right (on an unfathomable premonition) and I see — one Sarah Grace Partridge I am later to learn — her nose deep in a trade paperback that is strangely, vaguely familiar. Suddenly, I know: she is reading Queens Noir, MY Queens Noir. A collection of original crime fiction (19 stories by 19 authors chosen by me, set in as many neighborhoods in the great Borough of Queens, NYC, the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S., and our home at the time) — which was then on the stands but two months, from my Brooklyn publisher, Akashic Books. I am THE EDITOR, this is MINE, I remember. Thunderstruck, I drop my Virgin Narranja.
“What!!??” Rose says. I explain. “Get over there and introduce yourself,” she says. I cower in my lounge chair. Then I siddle over to the young woman sitting with a middle-aged man (reading his book) and a woman sketching on an artist’s pad (her parents, I am to learn). I intend nonchalance but when I get within finger-wagging distance, I wag, blurting out: “That’s my book! I’m the Editor!!”
Sarah Grace is suitably awe-struck while I am suavely self-deprecating. She is a medical investigator at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, and has read all the titles in the "Noir" series (18 to date, mine being the latest). Jack Partridge, the father, is reading the manuscript of HIS OWN book, Straight Pool, the second in a mystery series set in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island, where he is a senior partner in a venerable law firm. The lady sketching is Sarah’s mom, a well-regarded Providence painter. So we all palled around the rest of the week, taking in the fleshpots of Puerto Vallarta (the restaurants known for good Mexican cuisine, that is).
The next time I ran into the Partridges was at the Edgar Awards Dinner of the Mystery Writers of America in May, 2009, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. Hung from the ceiling in the Hyatt ballroom were twelve-foot-high TV screens at both ends of the room, streaming the front covers of the books nominated for Best Mystery of 2008, etc., including Anthologies containing short stories nominated as the Best of the Year. To my astonishment and intense delight, the front cover of Queens Noir continually flashed from the screens in sight of the assembled throngs to honor the story, "Buckner’s Error" by Joseph Guglielmelli, the winner of the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award as The Best First Story of 2008. Especially sweet since Joe, along with his perceptive wife Bonnie, were the proprietors of the Best Mystery Book Store in New York, till they had to fold their tent in 2009.
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. And let’s not forget: What Goes Around Comes Around.
— Robert Knightly