Monday, April 29, 2013

Mention in Dispatches

Yesterday my old stamping grounds, the Chicago Sun-Times, ran a nice Q&A with me in its Sunday book pages. (Free, but registration required.)

Overnight, the e-book sales of my novels doubled. Conclusion: People are reading the Sun-Times' book pages.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

John McPhee on overcoming writer's block

In the April 29 New Yorker, John McPhee, the nonpareil purveyor of "creative nonfiction," as highly literary explanatory journalism is often called, writes a long piece about multiple drafts, copy editing and writer's block, and the best ways to overcome that last. Among his suggestions:

"You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that’s where you’ve been getting. What do you do? You write, ‘Dear Mother.’ And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the ‘Dear Mother’ and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear."


Monday, April 22, 2013

Moving Day

Today the Lady Friend and I are moving out of the home we have occupied for 40 years in Evanston, Illinois, the house where we reared two sons and indulged two sets of grandchildren. Is it a bittersweet uprooting, a sentimental goodbye to a place deeply entwined with our hearts?

Not at all. We've enjoyed living there, but we haven't loved the expensive upkeep of a 103-year-old house. Now and then things have to be renewed—roof, windows, boiler, water heater, basement drains and sump pump. Stuff breaks and has to be fixed. Decoration fades and needs to be redone.

In the early days we did it all ourselves (and in some places that shows). But as we have aged, we have increasingly hired things done rather than straining our backs. That's not cheap. Tradesmen have to be paid. (At least they do a professional job.)

We're staying in town, moving to a two-bedroom-with-balcony pied-a-terre in a condo building just two blocks west in a familiar neighborhood that has grown on us, the Central Street corridor in northwest Evanston.

But it's not really our home. Our hearts belong to a tiny log cabin on the shore of Lake Superior in upper Michigan a few miles west of the small, struggling town of Ontonagon, called Porcupine City in the mystery novels I've based on the semi-wilderness region. There we spend five months of the year—mid-May to mid-October, returning to Evanston for our winter quarters.

Why not live there year round?

For one thing, the cabin is set up only for three seasons. The water system must be shut down before the winter freeze, and the only sources of heat are a large fireplace in the great room and small electric heaters in the bedrooms. (Good thing firewood is cheap in the North Woods.)

For another, all our guys are in Evanston. (The primary guy, the knee guy, the back guy, the heart guy, the skin guy, the eye guy, the tooth guy. Old folks need their specialists close by when it counts, and it takes a while to get them trained.)

So it goes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Of dogs and ponies

The beginning of my author "tour" for Hang Fire is quickly coming up. With the help of the Lady Friend, who'll be reading passages from the novel, I'll make my pitch using a digital projector and Keynote, the Mac version of PowerPoint, at these Chicago-area venues:

Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m., Evanston Public Library North Branch, 2026 Central St., Evanston, Ill.

Sunday, May 5, 2 p.m., Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 W. Madison, Forest Park, Ill.

Wednesday, May 8, 7 p.m. Evanston Public Library Chicago and Main Branch, 900 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Ill.

The two Evanston appearances are fundraisers sponsored by the Evanston Public Library Friends.

In the works are presentations and signings this summer in a number of venues in western Upper Michigan, where the novels are set.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kirkus Service lauds 'Hang Fire'

Herewith the Kirkus Service advance review of Hang Fire:


Kirkus Review 5/1/13

This title publishes APRIL 2013

“Implacable Sheriff Steve Martinez investigates a series of musket murders. A confident and engaging whodunit. Kisor's prose is as refreshingly clean and balanced as the hero's investigative style.”


Author: Henry Kisor
Review Issue Date: May 1, 2013
Online Publish Date: April 16, 2013
Publisher: Five Star
Pages: 246
Price ( Hardcover ): $25.95
Publication Date: April 19, 2013
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4328-2685-7
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

Implacable Sheriff Steve Martinez (Cache of Corpses, 2007, etc.) investigates a series of musket murders. Go figure.

Upper Michigan's Porcupine County hopes to lift its flagging economy with some Revolutionary War re-enactments targeted at summer tourists. The county board has urged Desert Storm–vet Sheriff Martinez, a Lakota Indian raised by a white family, to make sure things run smoothly with the re-enactors. Many of them, known as the Mountain Men, camp out together near the performance site and take method acting to an extreme level, living in character even when there's no audience around. When teacher Gloria Lake, who portrayed a seamstress in the re-enactments, succumbs to a fatal musket shot just below the rib cage, Martinez's role becomes more official. At first, Gloria's colleagues close ranks, offering Martinez no helpful information. After stonewalling in an initial interview, however, her good friend and fellow teacher Sheila Bodey admits that Gloria had also worked among the Mountain Men as a prostitute. Although Martinez's ladylove Ginny Fitzgerald reasonably explains how Gloria's death was most likely an accident, a judgment that becomes the official ruling, his gut tells him it's murder. Over the succeeding months, several more deaths by musket cast a cloud of suspicion over the original verdict and raise Martinez's hackles. Once murder is a given, the pieces of the puzzle fall, one by one, into place.

A confident and engaging whodunit. Kisor's prose is as refreshingly clean and balanced as the hero's investigative style.


I hope it is not ungrateful carping to point out a minor glitch: the re-enactments are not of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) but the era of Lewis and Clark (1800-1840). Otherwise this lovely notice made my day. Kirkus has not always been kindly toward my books, but for this one the critical snark clearly was stifled.