J. L. Abramo was born in Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday. Abramo earned a BA in Sociology at the City College of New York and a Masters in Social Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Catching Water in a Net (2001), winner of the PWA/SMP prize for Best First Private Eye Novel, the subsequent Jake Diamond mysteries Clutching at Straws (2003) and Counting to Infinity (2004), the stand-alone thriller Gravesend (2012), and Chasing Charlie Chan (2013). Abramo is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Private Eye Writers of America and the Screen Actors Guild. His latest novel is Circling the Runway (2015).
Private Investigator Jacob Diamond and San Francisco Detective Sergeant Roxton Johnson are famous for not getting along. Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Liston and Ali. Jake and Rocky. When an Assistant District Attorney is murdered in high-rise apartment building, and Johnson suspects his lieutenant may have something to do with it, he can think of no one else to turn to for help—no one he can trust—but Jake Diamond. If the mismatched duo can avoid stepping on each other’s toes long enough—they may be able to stop circling the runway and land on the villain’s doorstep. Lieutenant Laura Lopez, Detective Ray Boyle, Joey Clams, Vinnie Strings and Darlene Roman are all back in the first new Jake Diamond escapade since Counting to Infinity.
Jake Diamond returns after a ten-year hiatus, and his reappearance is well worth the wait. Abramo offers yet another smart, funny and action packed installment to his award-winning series with CIRCLING THE RUNWAY.
-The Denver Review
CATCHING UP WITH OLD FRIENDS by J. L. Abramo
Circling the Runway was a rewarding and challenging novel to write—and the release of the book had me reminiscing about the genesis of Jake Diamond and his cohorts nearly fifteen years earlier.
The summer of 2000 found this Italian-Russian Brooklyn boy working in an office in Columbia, South Carolina. A fish out of water. In the evenings I would write, working on my first full length novel. I called the book A Blot on the Landscape. And then one day it was complete. Now what?
It was literally impossible to get a publisher to look at the work unsolicited. Alas, I was forced to go the prescribed route—attempting to find a Literary Agent who would champion my novel. All of the agencies I researched would only accept query letters—would not even take a peek at a chapter or two. If I imagined I could write a good book, I quickly learned I could not write a convincing query letter. The responses were short form letters which all basically said the same thing. Thanks but no thanks.
When Van Morrison was asked what would you do if you never sold a song he answered without hesitation he would not stop creating because, he confessed, I can’t not write.
Determined to thwart discouragement, I did the only thing I could think to do. I sat in front of an archaic Dell desktop PC and began to fill in a blank page. I wished to write something unlike what I had written before. I wished to take my mind off rejection. Without much premeditation it began as a first-person narrative set in the office of a San Francisco private eye—and displayed humor that had been absent from my earlier efforts. I wrote ten pages.
A few days later I was surfing the internet (more like rowing back in the days of dial-up) when I stumbled across the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for Best First Private Eye Novel. Coincidence? I decided immediately that I would finish a private eye novel and submit it before the deadline, which was less than a month away. Apparently for the book’s characters and dialogue, and certainly not for its convoluted plot, Catching Water in a Net was chosen for the award. The prize was publication by St. Martin’s Minotaur (after a considerable amount of plot doctoring) and an advance against royalties. Holy smoke.
I never intended to write a series. My intention was to send St. Martin’s A Blot on the Landscape—but at my first Bouchercon World Mystery Convention every author I met advised me the publisher would expect a sequel, and it was much too early in my career to try selling a stand-alone.
The result was Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity.
The Jake Diamond series, though well received by critics and readers alike, was not what St. Martin’s considered a cash cow. I continued to write, of course, what other choice did I have—but the work seemed destined to remain out of the public realm. And then, the net held water once again when Down and Out Books reached out to me and gave Jake Diamond and J. L. Abramo a second shot.
Over the course of eighteen short months, my new publisher re-issued Catching Water in a Net, Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity as eBooks. Meanwhile, I went back to A Blot on the Landscape and reworked the book. It became Gravesend, and was published by D&O in 2012. A prequel to the Jake Diamond series, Chasing Charlie Chan, was released in 2013. What next?
How a new work of fiction begins is as important to the writer as to the reader. For the writer, the opening pages are the seeds that will hopefully grow into a personally satisfying and coherent literary journey. They are the cornerstone. For the reader, the opening pages are the hook that will hopefully inspire the fellow traveler to take that journey. When I face the blank first page I approach it as a quest—conscious or unconscious—and try in time to reach some hidden treasure by the end of the excursion—with many detours and side steps along the way. I do not know the final destination when I begin—the characters are developed through a composite of people I have known and imagined. The plot develops as a consequence of how these characters react, and is secondary to the characters themselves since it is the people in a story that have always interested me most as a reader—and I get to know these characters more and more clearly as they move through the story. In a series, such as the Jake Diamond books, there is the opportunity for the writer, as well as for the reader, to learn more about recurring characters in subsequent installments. Plotting is extremely challenging, but when the theme of the work finally dawns on me, when I finally realize what it is I am really writing about, it offers direction. When I finally understand where the story is headed, I often need to back up to find the path I need to be on to get there. But at the start, when I begin, my books have always been initiated with a scene—one that will hopefully be recalled throughout the book, by myself and by the reader, as the circumstance that launched the expedition.
A little voice in my head, amplified by inquiries from Jake Diamond fans, inspired me to bring Jake Diamond, Darlene Roman, Vinnie Strings, Joey Clams, and the other series regulars back. The question was, after so much time, would I still know them. The answer—it was as if they never left. I was as comfortable with all of them as I would be catching up with old friends.
I opened a new document on the new laptop.
Jake and the gang were back, circling the runway.
We write, we paint, we dance, we sing because we need to. And if we are persistent, and honest, and lucky, perhaps we can catch water in a net and reach an audience. We keep clutching and counting, chasing and circling.
And we keep writing.