Saturday, August 19, 2023

“You Too Can Become an Overnight Success … in Only 55 Years!” by Josh Pachter

On November 1, Genius Books will release my first novel, Dutch Threat, a whodunit set in a closed community in the heart of present-day Amsterdam. This will make me eligible for various Best First Novel awards in 2024 … and that’s just weird.

Because, you see, my first professional publication was a short story that appeared in the December 1968 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. That’s not a typo: December 1968, fully fifty-five years ago. Since then, I’ve sold more than a hundred stories to EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and many other periodicals and books, and collections of my short fiction have been published by Crippen & Landru and Wildside Press. In addition to my own tales, I’ve translated fifty stories from Dutch and other languages for publication in EQMM’s “Passport to Crime” department and elsewhere, and I’ve edited more than a dozen anthologies. My work has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and other awards, and in 2020 the Short Mystery Fiction Society honored me with its Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement.

But until now, I’ve never written a novel.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I began work on Dutch Threat more than twenty years ago, but with lots of other projects, parenthood, and a full-time job in academia keeping me busy, it’s been on the back burner for a very long time.

My daughter, Rebecca K. Jones, is now older than I was when she was born and well established in a life of her own. She practices law out in sweltering Phoenix, Arizona, and her second novel, Stemming the Tideis due from Bella Books in September. (The first one, Steadying the Ark, came out last fall and was a finalist for a Goldie Award in the Best Mystery category.) 

A year ago, soon after I retired from fifty years of teaching, my good friend David Dean—whose short fiction appears regularly in EQMM—signed a contract with Genius Books for three collections of his stories. Publisher Leya Booth asked him if there were other authors he’d recommend, and David very kindly suggested me. When Leya contacted me to ask if I might have a book I was looking to place, I proposed a novel I’d translated by Dutch crime writer René Appel, which was looking for a home. Leya read it and published it—and then I remembered Dutch Threat and asked her if she’d like to have a look. (Yes, I admit it: I actually forgot that I still had a novel of my own simmering on that back burner!)

So I finished Dutch Threat and sent it to Leya, and now it’s coming out at long last. I’ll be delighted to see it in print, and it’s tempting to say that my current plan is to write a novel every fifty-five years … but, oddly enough, I’ve got a chapter book for younger readers coming out from Level Best in February! It’s called First Week Free at the Roomy Toilet, and like Dutch Threat it’s something I’ve been tinkering with for a long time.

What this means is that, after more than half of century of short stories and anthologies but no novels, I now have two novels coming out from two different publishers within three months of each other!

Publishing’s an odd business, ain’t it?!
Josh Pachter is an author, editor, and translator of crime fiction. He taught film history and appreciation at the university level for fifty years, and now teaches as a volunteer at several programs for adult learners in Richmond, VA, where he lives with his wife Laurie.

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