Monday, December 10, 2007
Prodigal Sons: Harry James Denton (by Steven Womack)
Steven Womack (www.womackbooks.com) wrote some great novels featuring Harry James Denton in the nineties... We haven't seen Harry around since 'Murder Manual' in 1998. Sons of Spade tracked Steven down and got the low-down on the state of his character.
1) Will Harry James Denton return?
I hope so. After six books with Harry, he was a big part of my life. In the last book, Dirty Money, Harry left Nashville and went to Reno, Nevada to attend the birth of his daughter. At the end of the novel, he was on his way back to Nashville. I would like to pick up his story there and somehow integrate his child into his life and see where that goes.
The reason I haven't written that book is one based primarily in the rather cruel realities of the publishing business. I wrote six books in the Harry James Denton series, and every one of them either won or was nominated for a major mystery award--winning an Edgar and a Shamus. But for reasons I've never been able to fathom, the publisher never really got behind the books. When I went back to contract for the last two books--which became Murder Manual and Dirty Money--the publisher agreed to publish them in hardcover and make them monthly lead titles. Then when I turned in the manuscript to Murder Manual, my editor told me the suits had decided to not only renege on the hardcover deal, but to actually cut the print runs.
Basically, I could see the writing on the wall. Contemporary publishing is a numbers-based business, and my numbers weren't impressive enough. It's a "Catch-22" kind of arrangement: your numbers are bad so we won't promote you, but your numbers are bad because we haven't promoted you.
Of course, the majority of published authors probably have the same gripe.
I left the original publisher and asked my agent to move the series to another publisher. She started shopping the books around and all sorts of editors were interested, but when they saw my sales figures, the had to turn me down. Again, that's some catch, that Catch-22.
2) Why haven't you written about Harry for some time now?
3) What's up next for you?
I didn't want to start another mystery series; I'd been down that rough road twice before. So I had an idea for a suspense thriller based on the idea of a New York Times best-selling author who bases the plots of his novels on murders he commits himself. It's a long story, but the idea basically came about when I was anonymously accused of committing a murder myself. That book became By Blood Written. It was published in the summer of 2005 in hardcover by Severn House, a British publisher, and the paperback version was just last month published by HarperCollins.
I have another book making the rounds in New York right now. I also have an idea and am doing the research for a trilogy of books set in World War II--which would be a complete departure.
In the meantime, I continue teaching. I'm the Chair of the Watkins Film School here in Nashville, Tennessee, and I also teach Film Studies at Vanderbilt University. I'm also a parent, with two lovely young daughters.