One thing I don't understand about mystery readers is why they'll read mystery novels set in ancient Rome or Victorian London but turn up their noses at one set in the American West in 1888.
Which brings me to Shoot First, another fine mystery novel by Ed Gorman, who said this on his blog the other day: "A long time ago I joked that I was a nobody in three genres and that holds true today as well." I think he was kidding, in a way, but if there's any truth in what he said, then it's a shame, and it's the readers' loss.
Of course the publishers don't help. Richard Wheeler believes that publishers have a narrow idea about cover art for western novels, and that point seems proved here, where the cover at the left seems to have little, if anything, to do with the contents. I'm not sure if Ed came up with the title or if it came from the publisher, but I don't see how it fits the book any more than the rest of the cover does.
But I've digressed again. What about the book? Well, for one thing it's a mystery novel. There's a series of murders, and Sheriff Reed Matthews has to investigate. There's a lot more to the book than that, however. If you're expecting a lot of "shoot first and ask questions later" action, you've come to the wrong place. This is a book about characters -- the sheriff, the mayor, the businessmen, and a lot of others. Gorman gives as much attention to the walk-ons as most writers do to the protagonists. These are people like you and me, just ordinary folks in an extraordinary situation, and you care about all of them. There's humor and tendnerness and fear and greed and all the things that good fiction is about.
So why won't mystery fans grab it and read it? Don't ask me. All I know is that they're missing a treat if they pass it by.
Update: I wonder if Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range will change things. It's being published as a mystery, not a western, though it's set in about the same era as Ed's book. Steve's book, by the way, is also highly recommended, and see above for a link to the narrator's new blog.