March Newsletter: Sets

March 9th, 2012

I’ve sent this to my 6,000-strong newsletter mailing list, but some people got it minus images, so here it is again.


Collecting sets of things appears to be an exclusively human wrinkle on acquisitiveness. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, a squirrel seeking out matching acorns. But humans like sets.



Some of them are appealing, and some of them . . . 


. . . are appalling. But people embrace the idea of having entire sets of certain types of things. And few people are more obsessed with sets than mystery fans, who (we writers are happy to say) see a series of books as a “set” and generally want them all, and want to read them in order.

So I can bring this modest meditation to a close by saying that the entire set of six Simeon Grist novels, which I wrote in the 1990s, is now online as ebooks.  And one of them will be free(for the Kindle) this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the 10th, 11th, and 12th of this month.

 I’ll tell you more about that at the bottom of this thing.

But now . . .

Other People’s Books

I’ve had a great reading month, courtesy of a fine American filmmaker and one of America’s classic female writers.

A Moment in the Sun

 Director John Sayles has written my favorite book of the past year, a 956-page epic that captures America (and Cuba, and the Philippines) at the end of the 19th-century/beginning of the 20th, as the U.S. became a colonial power, thanks to the Spanish-American War. At the same time, the Yukon opened up to hoards of gold-seekers; almost the entire Black population of Wilmington, North Carolina was driven from the town in a white race riot; and in New York, Edison’s invention was opening the world to the movies. A Moment in the Sunis an absolutely sensational piece of writing — roughly six big fat movies/novels woven into one enormous patchwork. If you’ve got time on your hands and are in the market for a dazzling read, get your hands on it. If you’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome, read it as an ebook, because the very handsome paperback I read (from McSweeney’s, bless them) weighs about six pounds.

 It’s always been hard for me to warm to Edith Wharton because she never seems to like her characters very much; she’s a writer of many gifts, but sympathy doesn’t seem to be among them. And she’s especially rough on women, oddly cold to the strictures they faced in the early part of the 20th century – peculiar in a woman who had to divorce a mentally ill husband and flee to France.

Wharton doesn’t particularly like Undine Spragg, the small-town heiress who moves like a wrecking ball through New York (and later, Parisian) society in The Custom of the Country, but she obviously enjoys writing a woman who refuses to allow herself to be trapped in any relationship, no matter how scandalous the outcome of her behavior might be. Undine marries and discards two husbands, a son, and a lover, landing on her feet each time, and getting a little more of whatever it is she really wants. But seen up close, what she’s won always turns out to be insufficient, whether materially or emotionally or both. Toward the book’s close, Wharton writes two of the funniest and boldest lines I’ve read recently, “Even now, however, she was not always happy. She had everything she wanted but she still felt, at times, that there were other things she might want if she knew about them.” Tremendous book, with an enormous amount of energy in it.


Me, Me, Me

Some news: The next Poke Rafferty Bangkok book (number five, for those of you who are into sets) is scheduled for publication in July from Soho Crime. It’s called The Fear Artist, and it seemed like a whopper to me until I read the Sayles book. Now it seems like a novella, although it’s definitely the longest book in the series thus far. Next month, I’ll show you the cover.

Free, Free, Free

And the Simeon Grist ebook set is now complete.


The sixth (and, for now, final) title in the series is now available for the Kindle and will be free on Amazon this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can get it right here. I remembered this book without much fondness, but when I reread it, trying to decide whether to put it up, I liked it quite a bit. Free, do you hear, free? For only three days: this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, March 10, 11, and 12.

Get it. Tell people to get it. Roll up your sleeves. Pitch in. Climb aboard. Or I’ll sell your email address to Rush Limbaugh.

And now, back to the war.

6 Responses to “March Newsletter: Sets”

  1. michael hallinan Says:

    I want people to know that Tim loses money on every book but makes up for it in volume.
    Zachary Hall

  2. Gary Says:

    Whatever you do, don’t mention the war.

    Well done, Tim.

  3. Sharai Smith Says:

    Great news! I’ll be pushing the series at the library. Even at my small branch we have wi-fi and people bring their devices.

    Thanks for the break from that other thing! Which doesn’t mean I’m not curious about part 2.

  4. laren Says:

    The biggest mystery is why Tim’s books don’t sell in the billions.

  5. EverettK Says:

    This morning (Monday the 12th) I notice that The Bone Polisher is #35 in the Kindle Free Bestsellers list, and #2 on the Hard Boiled Mysteries list. Congratulations, Tim! I hope that this weekend’s give-away translates into many, many sales of your other books!

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, everyone. This is just a break between discussions of the war — tomorrow a new post by Robb will be thrown open to the furies to rend and shred.

    This freebie thing was a terrific success — more than 10,000 downloaded, and the sales of the other Simeon books have doubled. At one point I was #23 in all free books and #1 in free hard-boiled books. I’ll be doing this again soon, probably with THE FOUR LAST THINGS and then, once the new Junior is up, with CRASHED. Lots of people read series straight through, and this is reflected by the fact that sales oa FOUR LAST have quadrupled.

    THANK YOU, LAREN — That’s such a nice thing to say. But if they did, I’d probably be insufferable.

    Sharai, you’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

    Bro Mike is a mere painter. Painters sell their canvases and can’t be blamed for failing to understand the arcane finances of literature.

    Everett, thanks for keeping score. Yup, it worked so far. Now we’ll see whether it continues.

    Gary, the no-war hiatus is officially over tomorrow.

    Thanks, everyone.

Leave a Reply