IMG_3143Thank you, Kate Layte, owner of PAPERCUTS J.P. Last Friday night was my first public talk, reading, and discussion about my new book Ties That Blind. I shared the stage with Christopher Irvin whose latest novel is Burn Cards. The event was organized by Katie Eelman, the store’s Event Coordinator, and moderated by David Hebb who was very familiar with our work.

When my three books were first published about twenty years ago (now reissued as 2233e-books by Polis Books), I did a ton of speaking engagements, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While I know much more about writing now than I did then, the return to public appearances scared the hell out of me. Especially since I decided that this time around I would actually read from my book, something I had never done in the past. Made for a shaky few days leading up to Friday.

Well, despite my nervousness—especially when actually reading—the evening was a real up. 2015-04-10 20.01.00It felt really good to support a new bookstore in my neighborhood. And Chris and I were able to attract a pretty decent audience that asked interesting questions and had insightful comments. Also, Chris and I come at our work from different enough perspectives, so our give-and-take described more than one side of the writing life. That we liked each other and each other’s work didn’t hurt either. Another added value: David’s knowledge about our books and his ability to keep the conversation flowing. All in all a fine do. Anytime PAPERCUTS J.P. would like me to return, I’m there.


How can I leave Jake out of Matt Jacob?

And how can I leave Jake out of a Matt Jacob event?


Life is strange, isn’t it? When I originally stopped writing for a living I really doubted I would ever return. Yet I find myself writing and collaborating with a publisher for the second time in my serial career after trying my hand at self-publishing. Clearly I’ve returned to a much different landscape than the one I left.

Funny how these second and third acts began. When my books originally went out of print, I retrieved all their rights because I wanted to leave them to my kids. (Why, I don’t know. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.) Then, once I had ’em and learned about the world of eBooks, I thought, why not? I’ll just publish them myself.

Well, now I can tell you why not. Then, I really didn’t know what I was getting into in terms of time, money, and energy. The paper copies of each book had to be scanned, which is not a particularly precise process. Back and forth, back and forth from book to scan to make certain all the words and punctuation were correct. Then, each book had to be formatted three different ways. One for Amazon, one for Barnes & Noble, and one for a distributor called Smashwords, which feeds all the other type e-readers.

Yep, you guessed it. After the books were formatted I again had to review each book in each of the three different formats. By then I was not only hating the books, but hating myself for getting into all this. But there was something exciting about it, too. I was working with talented web designers to set up a permanent site and my artist friend Michael Paul Smith on creating new book covers. Also, there was something exhilarating about taking charge of my own work and learning about a new world of publishing.

Once the books were in the marketplace they really didn’t sell very well, but at least they were there, still assessable to those who wanted them—or could find them. It ain’t easy for an individual to cut through the Internet’s noise, especially since I really didn’t have the fever to go full-scale self-promotion. On the other hand, I had all of them with their brand new covers on my Kindle–as well as the rights for my kids.

Sometimes you really do have to be in the right place at the right time. A good friend who has worked in all aspects of the writing world told me about Jason Pinter, who was taking a leap of faith and leaving his work in traditional publishing to create a primarily internet oriented publishing house called Polis Books. Jason was looking for writers with back-lists but also new books swirling in their heads. She suggested I email him and, within a very short period of time, Jason and I agreed to work together and created a fair contract for both of us. (Which included a reversion of rights back to me after a very reasonable amount of time. You know—for the kids.)

Ah, that new book. When I began to seriously dig in on TIES THAT BLIND I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore and needed a way to seamlessly bring Matt and the recurring characters into the now. While I had always tried to frame Matt’s and my other characters’ ages as vaguely as possible, there was no denying our society and culture had undergone technological and cultural revolutions I simply couldn’t ignore. That even Matt, despite all his resistance, couldn’t ignore. I had to incorporate the “time gap” without losing the basics of my people—especially Matt, who had always been less future oriented than most. This was the guy who wouldn’t own an answering machine.

On the other hand, revisiting a main character created a fairly long time ago is a strange do. It almost felt as if I were being reacquainted with a long lost friend or relative. But having thoroughly reviewed the previous three books, I felt that while Matt needed to change, and I had changed as a writer, the essence of who he had been, and the writer I had been, would remain intact. Even in our brave new post 9/11 world.

Thinking about these issues created part of my excitement about TIES THAT BLIND. The other part was that Jason encouraged me to write the book I wanted to write and not to concern myself with traditional mystery conventions. So I didn’t, and was finally able to write a book that places introspection and interpersonal relationships front and center while telling what I believe to be an exciting story at the same time. Apparently Jason felt the same since he decided to publish the book as both an eBook and a trade paperback.

Many years have passed but I’ll never forget the rush of excitement when STILL AMONG THE LIVING was first published—even though Kirkus’s pre-publishing review was less than kind. (I’ll admit to a serious degree of nasty satisfaction when STILL was chosen as a New York Times Notable). Even that lousy first review, my first taste of public judgment, couldn’t quell the pride I felt holding my author’s copy for the first time. Writing, overcoming self-doubt, more writing, holidays spent in my office staring at blank screens, then writing some more, had become tangible and something in which I was proud.

Well, I’m older now and less exuberant than back in the day. Nonetheless, the re-birth of my first three books is fulfilling. For myself, not for the kids. I feel great satisfaction in producing TIES THAT BLIND, a book I believe in, without fighting my publisher every inch of the way. And yes, it’s still a thrill to open a Fed-Ex box and hold onto my author’s copy.


I’ve Come Out will be a two-part post. This week I’m somewhat uncomfortably placing every purchase link for each of my books on this page rather than leaving them on their own specific website locations (where they will remain). I’m also listing all the personal appearances that thus far have been scheduled. As of this writing I’ve yet to receive the Box Set links.

I say “somewhat uncomfortably” because frankly, I have a difficult time self-promoting. In fact, for part 2 (next Monday) I’ll write about that and the myriad of feelings I have about the re-birth of my older novels and, of course, my new one.

I’ve placed the links in the order the Matt Jacob Novels were written. For those of you who might want to purchase any or all, here are all the places where you can. Just click on the highlighted links. Thanks.


Be sure to check out this link for exciting news about STILL AMONG THE LIVING!




Barnes & Noble








Barnes & Noble









Barnes & Noble







eBooks & Trade Paperback



Barnes & Noble







April 10, 2015 — PAPERCUTS J.P. BOOKSTORE, 5 Green St. Jamaica Plain, Ma. (7 P.M.)

April 15, 2015 — BROOKLINE BOOKSMITH, 279 Harvard St, Brookline, Ma. (7 P.M.)

April 24-25 — NEWBURYPORT LITERARY FESTIVAL, (Venues and times to be announced.)




Zachary Klein

Those of you who read this column already know that Polis Books is publishing the original three Matt Jacob novels as e-books, individually and as a set, then my new one, TIES THAT BLIND, both as an e-book and paperback. What most people are less aware of is the preparation it takes to create a successful relaunch/launch, for both the publisher and me.

If you’ve been to this site before you’ve probably noticed some significant changes with more to come. First and foremost are all the new covers for each book. Soon there will be links to where they can be bought. And while I cherish Michael Paul Smith’s cover designs that I used when on my own, I also appreciate the care and concern that Jason Pinter, founder and publisher of Polis took to create each of the new ones.

One striking difference from now and my experience at traditional publishing houses was Jason’s desire to include me in the cover design process. A whale of a change from when I’d see the covers of my books only after they were published. That’s just how it worked. Instead, Jason sent me multiple mock-ups of each book’s cover. Not only was I given a choice of the different pictures, but also the opportunity to mix, match and discuss the results with him.

For those who never worked with legacy publishers, that sort of care and connection was (I can’t speak for the present) non-existent. To say I’ve been pleased to have embraced this new world of publishing would be a huge understatement.

But where the rubber really met the road was in working with Polis Books after I submitted TIES THAT BLIND. Again, I was used to editorial demands to change the novels’ main character. “How can anyone drive having taken a 5mg valium pill?” Or, “It’s time to place Matt into a 12-step program.” Or, “Change the ethnicity of a character in NO SAVING GRACE.” How about being told that a murder needn’t happen in the first forty pages, then getting thumped when I didn’t have a murder in the first 40 pages? And these were only a few. Each submission was the beginning of a fight. An ugly fight I came to despise.

So you can imagine my pleasure when I received well thought out comments from Jason. Comments that made sense and helped make Ties a better book. This was the first time I didn’t have to argue about Matt’s personality, a book’s interpersonal relationships, or engage in “comma wars.” He also appreciated that this novel doesn’t adhere to the traditional detective fiction framework. It’s been something that I was edging closer and closer to from STILL AMONG THE LIVING to TWO WAY TOLL, and finally NO SAVING GRACE. In fact, this is a wave that’s been happening with other detective fiction authors and one that fits with my work. As I’ve mentioned in other columns, I think detective fiction and jazz are related. Some musicians have broken through the boundaries of their time and redefined their contemporary music. They feel as if they can experiment with the form, create innovations and variations, but it’s all jazz nonetheless. I can’t claim I’ve done that with TIES—but I can say it’s an honest attempt to place all the characters’ relationships at the forefront and let them define and drive the drama.

Truth is, if it wasn’t for this new age in publishing I probably would never have written this book. Writing is difficult and this is a novel that occurs at much later point in time than the first three. Truth also is that I’m grateful in many ways. The book allowed me to maintain continuity, but also move beyond where Matt had been before. It forced me to look at the aging process in terms of Matt’s personhood, lifestyle, and listen to his older voice. And I’m extraordinarily happy that I did because it stretched my abilities. Something that I still enjoy.

There are a lot of people to thank for their support and encouragement along the way. Kent Ballard for covering the fort on alternate Monday columns while I finished my revisions. Sue for her encouragement, and Sherri Frank for holding my feet to the fire and providing insightful comments all the way through. It ain’t easy reading the same book twenty times or more to get it right. And getting it right feels harder than it had been—I don’t know whether that’s because I’m smarter now or just older. But whatever happens with TIES, I’m truly pleased that Polis Books helped make the book the best it could be. And, although it can stand on its own two feet, I really hope people take the time to read the first three e-books. It’s always richer to know how a character grows and changes. I think it’ll add to the enjoyment of this one.

The trouble with young writers is that they are all in their sixties. ~ W. Somerset Maugham


I admit it. My recently completed three-part interview with Norman Mailer (#1, #2, #3) in the INTERVIEWS WITH THE DEAD series damn near killed me! The man can drink and he can talk. So, since I’m working hard to publish TIES THAT BLIND, the fourth book in my MATT JACOB MYSTERY NOVELS this coming fall, I chose to rerun JUDGING A BOOK By ITS COVER because Michael Paul Smith is not only a dear friend but an amazing artist who will create the cover for TIES. If you enjoyed the first three covers, there’s no doubt how you’ll feel about his fourth.        


cover1On 08/22/2011, I wrote a post titled “PHOTO SHOT” where I described the process of shooting the cover for STILL AMONG THE LIVING (which is available for downloading along with TWO WAY TOLL, and NO SAVING GRACE). What I didn’t write about was the process of choosing among a number of different possible covers and how the choice was made to go with the one I did.

The artist, Michael Paul Smith, was kind enough to give me permission to post those that we didn’t use along with the one we did. So I thought it might be fun to let people see the ones we decided not to use and why those decisions were made. The first two we, (Sue, Michael, and me), were easily able to lay aside.

Although we rejected both of these, one thing I really liked was the angle of the picture primarily because it showed Mark Harris’s book THE SOUTHPAW. On the other hand there was general agreement that in these versions the colors didn’t “pop,” my name and “A Matt Jacob Novel” were too washed out.  And no one really liked the lettering.




The next two engendered more debate:

This one’s lettering took too much of the picture of the table, plus the lettering itself didn’t cut it for any of us.







I really liked the font on the second of these two—given my deco predilections—but Sue and Michael felt the picture wasn’t what they were looking for since there was too much of the table itself showing, especially the brown pattern, which took the focus off the other elements of the picture and again, my name and “A Matt Jacob Novel” were too washed out—though I argued if we lettered them white on this one, I’d be good with it.  Sue and Michael countered that once we cropped the picture the proportions of the whole cover would change.

Alas, these were also put aside though they left the one I liked in its own lonely pile.

Here were two were serious contenders.  No hour and out with these. In fact, both of them made it to the final pick. The fonts worked, the lines on the bottom of this one worked, though again we were going to have to pop my name and “A Matt Jacob Novel,” something that Michael indicated would be no problem.





I, however, had an issue with this one. The left side shading on the picture seemed cool, and I liked the two-tone idea much more than the lines on the cover directly above. Yet I felt the shading seemed too washed out. By this time, however, I was feeling uncomfortable about sending Michael back to the boards.  He assured me that he was enjoying the project and would certainly be willing to give it another go.



Which he did and created the cover we all agreed upon:

Although THE SOUTHPAW doesn’t really show, everything else about this cover was appealing.  And so, when the book does go online, this is what you’ll be seeing.

Given that this entire process is pretty damn subjective, I’d be interested to know what choices any of you might have made.