Okay, trying to figure out my favorite overlooked author for this week’s blog was rather problematic for me. For one thing, I had to figure out how to define “overlooked.” Did it mean underappreciated, relatively unknown, or unpublished? Believe me, there are plenty of good writers in each of those categories, as well as plenty of authors who are bestowed “bestseller” titles who can’t write their way out of a wet paper bag.
But I digress.
I mulled over several names, ranging from my old mentor, Stuart Kaminsky, to prolific author, Dennis Lynds, to one of my personal favorites, James Dickey. All of them achieved a certain degree of notoriety, so it would be stretching things to say they were “overlooked.” But perhaps all of them shared something else in common, as well. They never received their just due, in my humble opinion. I initially read Stuart Kaminsky’s A Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, in the waiting room of an auto dealership while I was waiting for my car to be repaired. The job turned into an all-day affair, and I was able to finish the book in one day. I was so impressed that I ended up taking a class at Northwestern, where Stuart taught, just so I could meet him. He became one of my best mentors through the years, always encouraging me to keep writing and doing my best. One of my proudest moments was having my short story, “The Golden Bug,” in On a Raven’s Wing, the last anthology Stuart edited before his untimely passing. I never met Lynds or Dickey, but admired their work. I read Lynds as Michael Collins and Mark Sadler long before I discovered these were his pseudonyms. And Dickey’s first novel, Deliverance, remains one of the best books I’ve ever read. He wrote prose with a poet’s finesse.
As I said, I could have chosen any of the three aforementioned authors, but instead, I settled on another writer, whom I consider one of the unheralded greats: Donald Bain. I’ve met Mr. Bain a few times at conferences and can honestly say that he is a true gentleman. Moreover, he’s what you would call, a writer’s writer. “A professional writer should never turn down an opportunity,” I remember him saying. “A professional writer should be able to write anything.” Mr. Bain’s own prolific career is a testament to those words. He’s written over 115 books, and hasn’t even taken the credit for many of them. Remember the hilarious “memoir,” Coffee, Tea, or Me?, that made stewardesses (now called flight attendants) the fantasy of every male airline passenger in the late 60s? Bain wrote it, and three sequels under a pseudonym. Ditto for the 27 Margaret Truman Capital Crime murder mysteries, although he repeatedly denied this during Ms. Truman’s lifetime. Like I said, Mr. Bain is a class act all the way.
Perhaps one of my proudest moment came last year, when my Executioner novel, Sleeping Dragons, was nominated for a Best Novel Scribe Award by the International Media Tie-In Writer’s Association. One the other finalists was Mr. Bain’s book, Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder. I was thrilled just being a finalist, much less having my book stand alongside a writer like Donald Bain. I stated this, and described him as my idol in a post on the IMTIWA website. Mr. Bain subsequently contacted me and said that he’d read my book and found it “so well written” that he thought I would win. (I didn’t, but hearing those words from him made me feel like the winner.)
I’m currently reading Mr. Bain’s novel, Lights Out, which I’m finding impossible to put down, after which I hope to pick up his next Murder, She Wrote adventure. He magnanimously shares the writing credits for those with Jessica Fletcher, but who can blame him? Every time she goes somewhere, somebody gets murdered. I sure wouldn’t want to get her mad at me.