Greetings from this neck of the woods.
If you’ve taken a look at the Tyrus Books website in the last few days you may have noticed two books that look a little out of place mixed in with titles from Reed Farrel Coleman, Craig McDonald, Bill Cameron and other crime writers I’ve worked with since my time at Bleak House Books. It occurs to me an explanation might be in order.
Last year I attended the Houston Writers Guild’s Annual Conference. While there, I took a dozen or two pitches from aspiring crime writers. As is the case with most conferences, I met some really cool people and heard about some intriguing books that I’m confident will find homes with other publishers. In between discussions of shootings, poisonings, and other violence, a young woman stuck her head in the door and said something like –
“Hey Ben. My name is Miah and I don’t write crime fiction, but I like some of the things Tyrus has done. I’ve written a book and though it’s not right for you, I’d like to give it to you anyway just because.”
The details are a little foggy here, but the important takeaway is that the pages for Miah’s book, Sweet Land of Bigamy, were added to the collection of whodunits. And, because I’m blessed with the memory of a goldfish by the time a conference draws to a close, I’d likely forgotten pretty much everything everybody had said about their books.
A few months later I flew to Portland for the Willamette Writers Conference, and I took the pages from Houston with me to read on the plane.
Like I said before, there were some really good crime novels in the mix that weren’t a good fit for Tyrus, but have probably already found homes elsewhere because they were well done. I’ve discussed before that it’s necessary for me to have a visceral reaction to new material if I think Tyrus should publish a book.
I read the first few pages of Sweet Land of Bigamy and was grabbed immediately. By that point, I’d forgotten about Miah’s introduction and was likewise unaware that I wasn’t reading a crime novel. As the title suggests, it’s a story about bigamy, more specifically a woman who is married to one man, but is unable to stop herself from getting married to another man while the first husband is away for months as a contractor in Iraq.
It is beautiful. It is emotionally charged. It is funny. And it is sad.
But it was not crime. Nor would fit into the other, vaguer category I use to describe what it is we do—dark literary fiction. To be sure, it was literary. Absent, however, was a dead body or the existential examination of the effects of violence that have long been a hallmark of the books we publish.
Or is that completely true?
There was the emotional violence that rises as a unavoidable consequence of the protagonist’s dilemma. It even manifests itself in physical violence at one point. But those arguments would be a stretch at best.
Then it occurred to me, I have insisted for years that what I care most about as a publisher is better understanding the human condition, especially as it relates to everyday people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. And Sweet Land of Bigamy is full of that.
So I made a decision, then and there, that I wanted to publish the book. I called the author and discussed it with her. After a bit of a “are you serious?” conversation that likely sounded as though your narrator was medicated, we agreed to move forward. Sweet Land of Bigamy is now scheduled for a summer 2012 release.
I’ve kept the announcement a little off radar. Partly because of my work with other initiatives like Prologue Books, but also because I wanted to figure out how to announce my departure from the one path that had defined the publishing companies I’d been associated with over the years. How does one, organically and naturally, let people know that in addition to walking along the fringes of what a mystery novel is he might also be interested in skirting the edges of romance? And how does one, in this culture of elevator pitches and 30 second explanations, let people know that to him, it all boils down to the perils of being a flawed human being trying to understand our place in the universe without sounding like a pretentious jackass?
Well, we’ll see how it goes.
And to keep this even more meta-Dead Guy blog, I’d like to point out that the second book in that same line is Linda Hull’s The Big Bang. Linda is a client of our very own Josh Getzler. The Big Bang is scheduled for fall 2012.
For anybody worried about me losing my edge or anything like that, you’ll be happy to know that we also have books from Reed Farrel Coleman, Loren D. Estleman, and other straight up face punching tough guys coming out later this year, too.