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Earl Emerson

answers the Usual Questions

Writer Earl Emerson, photograph courtesy the author; 220x190

Earl Emerson

Washington state-based author Earl Emerson was a Seattle firefighter for over 32 years. Not surprisingly he has written a number of thrillers with fire department backgrounds since he started publishing mysteries and thrillers in 1985.

Emerson has been nominated for the Edgar Award several times and won the Shamus for best private eye novel. The New York Times named Black Hearts and Slow Dancing one of the ten best thrillers of the year.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Readers let you know right away what they like and what they don't like. People reading my Thomas Black mysteries always want more personal business between Thomas and Kathy, who has a sharp tongue and a keen, sarcastic wit. Any time I don't write enough of that, somebody lets me know they need more of Kathy.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

A reader named Marsha told me after reading Yellow Dog Party -- which was about four men searching for their dreamgirls and hiring Thomas Black to help them -- that I should write a book about women looking for men from their past, "But of course," she said, "it wouldn't be for love. It would be for revenge." Men look naturally towards the past for missed love, women for missed opportunities to get even, or so she claimed. I thought what she was saying was interesting and used the idea to plot the third in the trilogy, The Vanishing Smile. I believe those three Thomas Black books,including The Portland Laugher, are my best.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

I've always admired Charles Willeford, who not only wrote great genre crime novels but left two wonderful memoirs about a remarkable life. A reader once gifted me a signed first edition of Something About a Soldier by Charles Willeford and I'm dying to read it again but afraid to spoil a perfect signed first. Maybe I'll put on cotton gloves to read it. Also, I still go back to marvel at Mark Twain from time to time.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

Bill Bryson or some other authority with a vast knowledge on a variety of topics and a unique perspective on them.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

George Bush or Jennifer Anniston.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

Actually, I would take my dead brother's suicide note. It was fairly lengthy and all we really have left of him. Also some M&Ms.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

I'm trying to write stories that will entertain, enlighten and make people think, but most of all to entertain.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

I try always to write the kind of books I would like to read, working hard to craft sentences that would tickle me if I discovered them in another writer. I feel the most satisfaction when I've built a novel into something better than I planned, when a whole lot of happy little accidents and inspirations contribute to a better story. It's all about telling a good story, keeping the reader hooked.

submitted by Earl Emerson

26 September 2013

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Just the facts:
Born: Tacoma, Washington, 1948.
Resides: North Bend, Washington.
Bibliography/Awards: Thomas Black series:
The Rainy City (1985)--Shamus Award nominee; Poverty Bay (1985)--Shamus Award Winner, Anthony Award nominee, Edgar Award nominee; Nervous Laughter (1985)--Shamus Award nominee; Fat Tuesday (1987); Deviant Behavior (1988)--Shamus Award nominee; Yellow Dog Party (1991); The Portland Laugher (1994); The Vanishing Smile (1995)--Shamus Award nominee, Anthony Award nominee; The Million-Dollar Tattoo (1996); Deception Pass (1997)--Anthony Award nominee, Shamus Award nominee; Catfish Cafe (1999); Cape Disappointment (2009); Monica's Sister (2013).
Mac Fontana series:
Black Hearts and Slow Dancing (1988); Help Wanted: Orphans Preferred (1990); Morons and Madmen (1993)--Anthony Award nominee; Going Crazy in Public (1996); The Dead Horse Paint Company (1997).
Other books: Vertical Burn (2002); Into the Inferno (2003); Pyro (2004); The Smoke Room (2005); Firetrap (2006); Primal Threat (2008).

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