Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ross Thomas

Now and then some of us will sit around at some mystery convention somewhere and ask the age-old question: "Why didn't Ross Thomas ever become a best-selling writer?" I was asking myself the same thing the other day when I was re-reading The Fourth Durango.

I think that when Otto Penzler signed Thomas to Mysterious Press, both of them probably had the idea that it was time for Thomas to "break out," as they say these days. For years Thomas had gotten rave reviews, and no wonder. He was one of the best writers around. His style was sophisticated without being literary, his plots were clever and twisty, his characterization was the best in the business, his dialogue was top-notch, his humor always seemed to click, his wit was sharp, his backgrounds and facts always seemed absolutely on the money, his worldview was a little jaded but never depressing. So why didn't Thomas break out?

Don't ask me. Writers who couldn't carry Thomas's ballpoint pen (No, I'm not naming names. [James Patterson, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum.]) sell billions of copies, while a guy like Thomas sells only adequately. Maybe he was too good to be a best-seller. I suppose that's possible. It's also a shame. If you haven't read one of Thomas's books, you should. It'll be a real treat, whether it's one he wrote under his own name or as "Oliver Bleeck." I believe that the ones under his name are currently being reprinted in paperback by St. Martin's, which is a real public service.

I'd like to add here that when I picked up the first Oliver Bleeck book, many years ago, I'd read no more than two pages before I knew that Thomas had written it. I'm not usually that perceptive. (It's happened only two other times.) But Thomas was so good that I knew nobody else could have been the author.


Frank Denton said...

Gosh, I think I've read all of the Ross Thomas books but I have to admit that I've not read any of the Oliver Bleeck novels. I'd better put them on my list. I do agree that Thomas was one our best crime writers.

Anonymous said...

Synchronisticly (take that Guy Townsend), I have just started a rereading of Ross Thomas myownself. Just finished THE SINGAPORE WINK and have started on THE EIGHTH DWARF. He is the best writer, bar none, to have ever graced the crime writing field.

A trivia question. In THE SINGAPORE WINK there is a character by the name of Carla Luzopone. Who can tell me where another character by that name resides? A hint: it's in another medium. And was the use of the name a tip of hat to Ross or another instance of synchronicity?

Steve Stilwell

Unknown said...

Nobody tops Stilwell when it comes to Ross Thomas trivia. And I don't have a clue. So tell me, where does Carla re-appear?

Anonymous said...

Carla, the waitress on CHEERS. Her maiden name is Lozupone.


Unknown said...

We may have gone beyond trivia to minutia here.

Sarah said...

As it happens, I wrote a long essay on why Thomas's work is so good for the next issue of Crime Spree. I'll never forget reading OUT ON THE RIM a few years ago and being totally knocked out by how good it was. I'm rationing the rest of his work (still have the 5 Bleeck novels and about 4 under his real name to read still) piecemeal because once I've read them all, I'll be incredibly sad that there won't be more to read.

But I'm getting the feeling the reprint project isn't doing well and SMP's preparing to drop it. Which would be an utter, utter shame.

davem6 said...

Hi, Bill if you are a Ross Thomas fan, do you know which of his novels contains the name of a firm called Diddie Dumps & Tott? You can reach me at