Archive for the ‘Interviews and Articles’ Category
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
February 7th, 2011
The problem when you’re an author renowned for an ongoing series of mysteries is that, as Martha Grimes puts it, everything you write is marketed as a mystery, even when there is nothing in a particular book to indicate a mystery.
That may be why some readers seem uncertain of how to respond to Grimes’ novel “Fadeaway Girl.” It is not a mystery, she says, but simply a story told through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl named Emma.
We last read about Emma in 2005′s “Belle Ruin” – this book directly follows that one, as Emma appoints herself to investigate a 20-year-od kidnapping case that may remind you of the Lindbergh case. Emma’s effort is propelled forward by the unexpected reappearance of a key figure in the case, but her inquisitiveness doesn’t always work in her favor.
Click on this link to listen, or right click and “Save As” to download.
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
The New York Times
February 13, 2011
FADEAWAY GIRL (Viking, $26.95) may not be the ideal introduction to the adventures of 12-year-old Emma Graham, since the plot is too complicated to follow if you’re not familiar with previous books in the semi-autobiographical series Martha Grimes has set in some nostalgic post-World War II time warp.
Constant readers, however, should relish the latest chapter in Emma’s efforts to unearth the secrets of the little town in western Maryland where her mother runs the decaying Hotel Paradise. Drawn by her runaway imagination to investigate crimes that have become part of local legend, Emma uses sheer cunning and devious methods of interrogation to pry information from the colorful characters she finds at well-trafficked spots like the Rainbow Cafe. They all quicken to life under Grimes’s Dickensian touch, but none more so than Emma. She may keep losing herself in the past, but she’s far too vital to fade away.
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
February 12, 2011
Another intrepid and observant adolescent, Emma Graham, explored decades-old linked mysteries in Martha Grimes’ 2005 book “Belle Ruin.” But it was to no avail, and she carries on in Grimes’ “Fadeaway Girl” (Viking, 323 pp., $26.95). (The title refers to the mystery, but it also echoes a style of drawing that creates an illusory girl who fades into the background.)
Like Flavia, Emma has multiple talents — in this case, waitress (in her mother’s hotel) and inquisitive reporter (for a local paper). She scours her patch of rural Maryland, interviewing some colorful and beautifully realized characters, for clues to the old puzzle, which involved an apparent kidnapping, a burned-out building, and unexplained deaths.
Knowledge of Emma’s previous doings will help immensely here. As with Flavia above, so will a willingness to accept her startlingly adult perceptions.
That said, Grimes is, as usual, in sure-footed and inventive form.
Adam Woog’s column on crimeand mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.
Monday, February 14th, 2011
By Julia Keller / Cultural Critic
February 11, 2011
If she weren’t writing mysteries, Martha Grimes says, she might be running a tea shop.
You were expecting perhaps an auto-parts store?
No, you weren’t. Not if you know Grimes’ work, which includes 22 mysteries featuring the incisive Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury, whose exploits are captured in books that have sold more than 5 million copies around the world. A tea shop matches up with the thoroughly British Jury as well as a cinnamon scone does with a cup of Earl Grey.
“Although,” Grimes adds during a recent phone interview from her Washington, D.C., home, “I’m sure there’s a great deal more to running a tea shop than I know about.”
Contemplating change doesn’t faze Grimes, who is scheduled to visit Chicago next week to talk about her new book, “Fadeaway Girl” (Viking). While she continues to write the Jury series – distinguished by the fact that the titles come from the names of British pubs such as “The Dirty Duck” (1984) and “The Old Silent” (1989) — “Fadeaway Girl” is the fourth book in another series featuring a feisty young woman named Emma Graham, who solves mysteries in a large hotel just after World War II.
“I don’t think I could have just kept writing the Richard Jury books. It wasn’t that I was bored or dissatisfied. I just had to write something else,” Grimes says. “I like Emma. She was initially supposed to be the protagonist of one book. But I liked her so much I couldn’t stop.
“Emma is not consciously based on me – but I do like her attitude. She’s unsentimental.”
Grimes, who still writes in longhand, says ideas come to her in all forms. “I’ll see something, or hear something. Sometimes, it can be a color. Or a piece of music. Or an image of some kind. I see something, and it has huge emotional weight, although I have no idea why.
“I love stories. I just enjoy telling stories and watching what these characters do – although writing continues to be just as hard as it always was.”
On Thursday, Grimes will appear at a private event at noon at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd., and at a free public event at 7 p.m. at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm St., in Winnetka.
Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Author Martha Grimes admires her heroine’s imagination
By David Martindale / Special Contributor
February 4, 2011
When Martha Grimes takes time away from her best-selling series of Richard Jury mysteries to write about a precocious 12-year-old sleuth and aspiring journalist, she mixes autobiographical self-portrait with a helping of wish-fulfillment.
The characters in Fadeaway Girl (Viking, $26.95) are based on people the 79-year-old author knew as a young girl. And young Emma Graham’s life at the Hotel Paradise, where there are plenty of puzzles to solve, is essentially the childhood she remembers, minus the murders.
But Emma, alas, isn’t Grimes. She’s the girl Grimes wishes she had been.
“I don’t really remember much of what I was like,” says Grimes, who will be in Dallas on Tuesday. “But I don’t think I was as plucky, or as imaginative, as Emma is.”
Fadeaway Girl is Grimes’ fourth book featuring Emma. In it, the young heroine investigates a two-decade-old cold case involving a missing 4-month-old.
Grimes discussed her writing life last month by phone from her home in Washington, D.C.:
Is it true that readers and critics used to give you a hard time when you would write about Emma, because that meant you weren’t satisfying their need for another Richard Jury book?
Yes, and I was terribly annoyed about that. One could argue that it was a compliment of sorts, that it was their way of saying they liked the Jury series, but I’ve never been one to look at the glass as half-full. The way I saw it, those who complained were guilty of having very narrow interests. But I’m happy to say that they seem more accepting of these “other” books now.
There’s a character in the book who has the eccentric habit of not finishing the mysteries she reads. She quits with 20 pages left and thus never finds out whodunit. Where did that anecdote come from?
Actually, I’m the one who does that. I’ve had one book around here by Stuart Kaminsky that I’ve not finished for about three years. He died in 2009, and this is the last book in my favorite of the many series he wrote. And unlike Stieg Larsson, who I suspect has about 15 more books squirreled away somewhere, I don’t think there will be any more from Stuart Kaminsky. So I haven’t finished it, because I don’t want my enjoyment of that book and that series to end.
Given that you’re doing this book signing in Dallas in a brick-and-mortar building, what do you think about the changes technology has brought to publishing?
I’ll tell you one thing that really annoys me. I have nothing against the Kindle. I have one. But when I see a book on Amazon, I want to know if it is from a publisher I have heard of. It bothers me that it’s getting easier and easier for people to be published now, especially with electronic books. The result, I fear, is that we are going to be drowning in a slush pile of badly written stuff, and I don’t like it.
At this point in your career, which has included 22 Richard Jury books, most of them best-sellers, you have nothing left to prove as an author. So what keeps you writing?
I like the characters and I like to tell stories. But I also have this idea in my head that you’re not really a writer unless you’re actually writing. So that’s why I continue to do it: because I want to continue to think of myself as a writer.
David Martindale is an Arlington freelance writer.
Plan your life
Martha Grimes will sign Fadeaway Girl at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, 7700 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas
Friday, August 20th, 2010
Have you noticed the way cats disappear and reappear into and out of thin air? My cat Sydney is here only when she wants to be. Right now she wants to be watching the Washington Nats game. She sits beside me in my chair. Sits, not lies.
She’s waiting for Stephen Strasburg.
Sydney never misses a game; she’s obsessed. She is also upset about the last game that had Stephen Strasburg handing over the ball in the 4th inning.
Right now he lets loose with a 100mph fastball. I have learned this interesting fact: a fastball can disappear a few feet from the plate. It literally vanishes. The batter can’t see it as it crosses home plate and reappears in the catcher’s mitt. The batter swings at empty air. He swings, he misses.
Sydney likes that.
What I like about Stephen Strasburg is that he’s only twenty-two but seems a lot more grown up than most of the people I know, including me. The only thing that matters to him is what’s in the moment. Not his ego, not the 40,000 fans who’ve come to see him, not his past or his future. The only things in his world are the ball, the grip, the pitch, the catcher’s mitt. Nothing else.
Sydney sits up straight and watches. Ordinarily, Sydney never interferes with his game. This time she does. He shouldn’t try another fastball.
Stephen Strasburg is about to wind up, looks over his shoulder at Sydney. Sydney flicks an ear, raises a paw. Anyone passing the doorway and looking in would think Sydney is chasing some invisible insect in empty air. No. Sydney is signaling: changeup
Ivan Rodriguez wishes Sydney would butt out, but Stephen Strasburg nods his infinitesimal nod and throws a chngeup.
The batter thinks he’s looking at a fastball. He swings too soon. Another strikeout.
Done. They’re solid. Now Sydney disappears in that way cats do, as if she’s vanishing like a fastball over the plate.
Stephen Strasburg is a master of deception.
So is Sydney.
Monday, January 11th, 2010
Northwest Passages, March 12, 2008
By STEPHANIE M. KANOWITZ
Fortunately for her readers, Martha Grimes has a hard time letting go. “Everything seems to turn into a series with me even when I don’t mean it to,” said Grimes, a Capitol Hill resident who is best known for the 22 mystery novels she has written about Richard Jury, a Scotland Yard detective. Although she intended for her Jury stories to become a series, she didn’t expect it of her eight other books.
“I enjoy these characters a lot,” Grimes said after a talk at Olsson’s Books & Records in Dupont Circle late last month. “I really like thinking about them, watching them, seeing what they’re going to do. I write about these people, and I get really connected to them and I just cannot let them go.”
One of her favorites among the newer protagonists is Andi Oliver, a young woman battling amnesia and animal cruelty. She first appeared in 1999 in Grimes’ “Biting the Moon” to take on dog fighting, hunting and wild-animal profiteers. At Olsson’s, the tall, slender 76-year-old author spoke about Oliver’s return in “Dakota,” published last month. This time, Oliver tackles pig farming in North Dakota.
Although Grimes is sending a message through her character, she doesn’t consider herself an animal-rights activist. “I’m not,” she said. “I’m not really active doing anything except writing. You can call me an animalist if you want.”
Grimes has always had a soft spot for animals, but it intensified about 35 years ago, after she watched “The Guns of Autumn,” a documentary about hunting. “I was so appalled watching the things some of these hunters did. I mean, you know, standing over a deer with a handgun pointed at the deer’s head — things like that. I stopped eating meat immediately.”
Grimes found the research for “Dakota” difficult to take. But she is passionate about the subject and wanted to share it with readers. “I feel that fiction will get to more people than nonfiction,” she said, citing Gail Eisnitz’s “Slaughterhouse” as an example. “When you have a book called ‘Slaughterhouse’ sitting on a table, how many people are going to buy it? How many people are going to read it?”
Most people don’t want to see what is going on at animal factories, she said, “but if you don’t see it, you don’t know what’s going on. I know there is this perception, this feeling, that if you know something like this is going on, then you have to do something about it. No, you do not. You don’t have to do something about it. But the fact that so many people think you have to do something about it keeps them from wanting to know anything about it. At least if you know, then you can do something about it.” In addition to writing about the topic, Grimes is donating 50 percent of the profits from “Dakota” to Last Chance for Animals and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization she has supported for years. She was accompanied at Olsson’s by Dr. Neal Barnard, founder and president of the committee, which promotes vegetarian and vegan diets in addition to alternatives to using animals in medical education and research.
Grimes, who was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Maryland, graduated from the University of Maryland but found her writing footing in graduate school at the University of Iowa. (She ultimately received her master’s from Maryland, though.) “I got into the poetry workshop not because I was a poet but because my boyfriend was in the poetry workshop. I’d never written a line of poetry.”
She stuck with the genre until she switched to fiction at about age 40. The decision came as “a direct result of a poem I had written called ‘Waiting for the Hit Man.’ I finished writing the poem and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute. Maybe I should be writing fiction because all my poetry … it was sort of dramatic.’” She decided on British mysteries — “because I like to read
British mysteries” — and published her first, “The Man With a Load of Mischief,” in 1981, after reading about an English pub with the same name.
Grimes has published at least one book a year for the past 25 years. She writes every day, and her books typically take one year from conception to publication. It’s the conception that often takes Grimes by surprise. “It doesn’t really begin with an idea as such; it just begins with a shot of something, a scene,” she said. “I don’t know the plot. I don’t know why someone killed Whozywhatsit. I just discover it in the course of writing.”
But it’s always clear when it’s done. In fact, “there were one or two occasions when I knew what I wanted the last line to be, and I wrote the book so that that would be the last line. That sounds a little artificial, which I guess it is, but there are things that grab a hold of me that I really love and I just want them to be in it.” Grimes is currently working on her next Jury book, and she plans to bring Andi Oliver back soon, although she isn’t sure what animal- rights topic the character will tackle next.
Saturday, January 9th, 2010
New York Times
August 20 2003
By DINITIA SMITH
WASHINGTON – “I was fired from Knopf!” said the mystery writer Martha Grimes. “Sonny didn’t want the next Jury book,” she said, speaking of Sonny Mehta, editor in chief of Alfred A. Knopf, and Ms. Grimes’s 18-book series about an urbane British detective, Richard Jury, all named after English pubs, like “The Blue Last” and “The Grave Maurice.”
Nearly 10 years later, Ms. Grimes speaks as if the hurt lingers. Knopf dropped her, she said, probably because at that time she wasn’t earning back her advances.
Never mind. Now Ms. Grimes, 72, whose Jury novels are regularly best sellers, is having her revenge. She has written “Foul Matter,” just out from Viking, a sendup of the publishing industry, with characters, her publicist says coyly, who may bear a resemblance to real people. There is plenty of inside information about publishing, but it is also a comic adventure full of quirky characters and plot twists.
“The woman is brutal,” said Andrew Vachss, the mystery novelist, who is an old friend of Ms. Grimes. “This book is all-out war.”
“Foul Matter” – it’s the term for an unedited manuscript – is to publishing what Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty” was to movies, a dissection of greed, hypocrisy and ambition. Publishers have been taken over by German conglomerates like Blundenraven and the real-life Bertelsmann. Companies have names like Queeg & Hyde, Grundge and Dreck Inc. An editor called Bill Mnemic regularly steals other houses’ authors.
In the book a diabolical best-selling mystery writer names Paul Giverney agrees to jump ship at his old publisher and sign up with Mackenzie-Haack, but only if it gets rid of another, more literary author, Ned Isaly, who makes less money than Giverney
Giverney’s motive is to prove that the business is so corrupt that publishers will go to any length to make money. But Isaly’s contract is unbreakable, so the firm’s head, Bobby Mackenzie, orders an editor, Clive Esterhaus, to have him killed. A Mackenzie author and Mafia informer in witness protection finds two hit men to do the job. The problem is that they insist on reading Isaly’s work before killing him, and they turn out to be amateur literary critics.
Ms. Grimes is cagey about who the book’s real-life antecedents are. Is Bobby Mackenzie supposed to be Sonny Mehta? Mackenzie is brilliant and canny, words applied to Mr. Mehta, who took over Knopf in 1987. Like Mr. Mehta, Mackenzie keeps a bottle of spirits in his desk, and he has added commercial authors to a previously rarefied list. Of course, this is a spoof, and any resemblance stops there.
“A couple of people have mentioned Sonny as a model,” Ms. Grimes said. But she added, “I do consider Sonny to be some kind of publishing genius.”
“I really admire him,” she continued. She is hardly suggesting that Mr. Mehta would take out a contract on one of his own authors, she said.
“There’s only one element of Sonny in Bobby Mackenzie,” she said. “Sonny has a lot of power. It isn’t inconceivable that he would demonstrate power for its own sake.”
Paul Bogaards, the director of public relations at Knopf, said that Ms. Grimes and Mr. Mehta “had an amicable parting.” He said that Mr. Mehta had not read the book.
Ms. Grimes says parts of her are in all the authors she portrays in the book: the best-selling Giverney, the purist Isaly, the unpretentious mystery writer Jamie. Clive, who in the end does the right thing, “is an amalgam of a number of people.”
But what about Mortimer Durban, Giverney’s agent, who is ruining publishing by getting huge advances for authors that they can’t earn back? The name seems like a combination of two well-known real-life figures, Mort Janklow and Amanda Urban. “I wasn’t even thinking of it,” she said.
“Foul Matter” is one of several recent novels depicting publishing in a bad light. In “The Last Days of Publishing” (University of Massachusetts Press) by Tom Englehardt, a Pantheon editor resigned in protest when his boss, Andre Schiffrin, was forced out by S. I. Newhouse. As in “Foul Matter,” publishing has been taken over by German conglomerates. Now the editor has to report to his ex-wife and a slimy former hippie.
German conglomerates have also taken over in “The Storyteller” (Doubleday) by Arthur Reid, a pseudonym for Howard Kaminsky, a longtime publishing executive, and his wife, Susan, a former editor at Dutton. Here the subject is plagiarism. An author who can’t get published obtains a cache of manuscripts that he publishes under his own name. They become best sellers.
But why would Ms. Grimes, who admits to an annual income of over a million dollars from publishing, have a grudge against the industry? Well, success has not come easily.
In her autobiographical books, “Hotel Paradise” and “Cold Flat Junction,” she describes growing up a smart, neglected child whose mother was part owner of a resort hotel in western Maryland. Ms. Grimes’s father, a city attorney in Pittsburgh, died when she was 6.
She graduated from the University of Maryland and did postgraduate work at the University of Iowa. She wanted to be a poet and studied alongside Donald Justice and Philip Levine.
Ms. Grimes married Edwin Van Holland and had a son, Kent, who today is her publicist. The couple divorced.
For 15 years, while bringing up Kent in Maryland, she taught English at Montgomery College, a community college, at its Takoma Park campus, “an awful job,” she said, and tried to write. In her late 40′s, she began sending out “The Man With a Load of Mischief,” about Richard Jury. A dozen houses rejected it before Little, Brown published it in 1981.
Readers became passionately attached to Jury; his aristocratic assistant, Melrose Plant; and Plant’s obnoxious aunt, Agatha. In 1992, when Ms. Grimes published her first novel out of the Jury series, “The End of the Pier,” her fans and editors objected. She got hate mail, she said. Her editors call the non-Jury books, which have not been best sellers, “these other books,” Ms. Grimes said. “If I hear that expression again, I’m quitting.”
Today, Ms. Grimes lives in Washington and near Santa Fe. Tall and elegant, she has never remarried. “Someone had to thrill me enough,” she said with a laugh.
“I have a reputation for being difficult,” Ms. Grimes said. But that is because she refuses suggestions from editors without questioning them, she said. “I just squawk and complain.”
Ms. Grimes has a generally dim view of the business. Her 1993 Jury mystery, “The Horse You Came In On” (Knopf), was reported to stem from a grievance she had against another mystery writer, Elizabeth George, also an American who sets books in England. Ms. Grimes said she thought Ms. George was stealing her ideas. Ms. George’s agent called Ms. Grimes’s accusations “baseless, preposterous and undignified.”
Recently, Ms. Grimes said, “The book has no relationship to Elizabeth George.”
Among Ms. Grimes’s gripes are the big advances paid to some writers. “It’s decadent,” she said. “Most authors can’t possibly earn them out.”
She says this even though she receives advances of about $1 million for every three Richard Jury books. “I’m getting a lot – too much,” she said.
In 1989 her agent sold “Send Bygraves,” a book of mystery poems, for a quarter million dollars, “an exorbitant sum,” Ms. Grimes said. “Crazy! You’re not going to earn it back.”
“I think agents do this to show their own power,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I hate agents.”
But wait, there’s a mystery here. She’s a best-selling author. Why bite the hand that feeds her?
“My motive in writing this book was not to attack publishing,” Ms. Grimes said. “There were no characters in this book I actually disliked. I liked all of them.”
“Foul Matter” could be about Ford, or any kind of business,” she said.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Saturday, January 9th, 2010
Washingtonian.com, August 01, 2008
By Ellen Ryan
She’s written 30 novels and sold 5 million books worldwide. But few Washingtonians recognize Martha Grimes. And that’s okay with her.
Martha Grimes was about to have her picture taken, so she walked to get her hair done at a salon near her Capitol Hill home. Grimes explained to a stylist as she was leaving, “I have an interview with USA Today.”
“As good as you look,” the stylist said, “you’ll get the job.”
Grimes loves this story. The internationally known mystery writer goes all but unrecognized around Washington—which is fine with her.
She has written 30 books, including eight New York Times bestsellers such as The Grave Maurice. Her worldwide sales are about 5 million. Yet when Grimes, who has lived 23 years on Capitol Hill, puts pen to notebook in Pennsylvania Avenue coffeeshops—she writes in longhand—no one realizes she’s the author of the popular Richard Jury novels.
The author, 77, grew up in Pittsburgh and western Maryland, where her mother was part owner of a hotel; her father died when Martha was six. She attended the University of Maryland, studied to be a poet, married and had a son, taught for 15 years at Montgomery College, divorced, and saw her first mystery turned down a dozen times before its 1981 debut.
Grimes makes almost as many appearances for animal-welfare groups as she does to sign books. “I do Q&As, not readings,” she says. “Hell, they can read the books themselves.” A vegetarian since 1975, she has woven slaughterhouses, puppy mills, and rabbit labs into plots—in her latest, Dakota, the protagonist infiltrates a pig farm—and has donated some of her royalties to animal-welfare groups.
Grimes has been remodeling a house in Bethesda; her DC place, stacked with mysteries, is now a pied à terre. She’s lived alone since an aged cat died last year, but in Bethesda she plans to have a dog. “My black cat was named Blackie,” Grimes says. “If I get a dog with a big spot, you know what I’ll name it.”
Interviews and articles