Killer Year–The Class of 2007

Where Do They Go?
May 15, 2007, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Marcus Sakey

Ever read a book by someone you’ve never heard of, only to have it rock your world? I’m not talking about established masters that you’ve just gotten around to, or authors who had a long career and have simply been lost in modern times. No, I’m talking about people who wrote one or two brilliant books and then vanished.

Examples, you say? How about Christopher Cook, author of the spectacular ROBBERS, about two small-time thieves on the run after they killed a clerk over a penny. Fever-dream prose, subtle characterization, one of the few twists that ever had me actually exclaim, “Holy shit!” out loud.

Or what about Arthur Golden, whose intricately researched and lushly drawn MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA swept the bestseller charts? Or Ellen Miller, who wrote a haunting novel of addiction called LIKE BEING KILLED, several scenes of which I still can’t clear from my head five years later.

Or the one that’s currently driving me crazy, a guy named Kent Anderson. He wrote two books: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, one of the finest novels I have ever read about young men at war, and NIGHT DOGS, flat-out the best cop novel I’ve ever picked up. Two books, both of them brilliant and raw, written with unflinching emotional honesty and a willingness to revel in acts that make angels weep. Check these reviews:

“Writing with a ferocity that makes your head buzz.”
— The New York Times

“Kent Anderson has outwritten just about everybody who preceded him in trying to make fictional sense out of the war.”
— The Washington Post

“The best I’ve ever read about cop life on the streets.”
— The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A brilliant accomplishment.”
— The Chicago Tribune

Frankly, having read both of them, I feel like these quotes are holding back. The books are that powerful.

But where is he? SYMPATHY came out in ’87; NIGHT DOGS in ’96.

In Anderson’s case, my guess is that as these books were both very personal (he was a soldier and then a cop), he may simply not have anything else to say right now. Which kills me a little, because I’d listen to him talk about retiling his bathroom. And I hope that at very least, he’s still alive and still writing, just taking his sweet time.

What about you? Who’s got you wondering where they are?


5 Comments so far
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I made the much the same observation about Kent Anderson yesterday in response to a similar question on Daniel Hatadi’s crimespace forum. Although I didn’t think of him at the time, Philip Reed is another author who disappeared after two noir gems, BIRD DOG and LOW RIDER.

Comment by Don Anderson

Interesting question. It’s possible that the books were only mid-listed and they couldn’t get any more contracts in today’s competitive publishing market. Some of the books may have been the exorcising of particular demons which left their writers free, like you suggested.

Comment by Princess Haiku

Damn, now I am going to have to go get those, assuming I can find them.

Comment by toni mcgee causey

I saw Night Dogs, which was published in 1999, in a Phoenix airport shop yesterday. It had a facing next to two James Patterson, Inc.® paperbacks.

Comment by Bill Cameron

I meant 1996. No, really, I did.

Comment by Bill Cameron

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