One might say gay author Edmund White’s 80th birthday celebration began last year. In the spring, ITNA Press published Crashing Cathedrals: Edmund White by the Book, a scintillating compendium of essays, which together create a comprehensive biography of the iconic writer’s adventurous literary life.
And in November, the National Book Foundation honored Edmund White with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. “Most writers don’t set out to break barriers or trail blaze, but rather to share their unique perspectives and stories on the page,” said executive director Lisa Lucas. She added that by looking at the body of work, one sees his career as “revolutionary and vital, making legible for scores of readers the people, moments and history that would come to define not only queer lives, but also the broader trajectory of American culture.”
A few days before ThillerFest X began, I was dog-sitting in Brooklyn. As I walked Leo around the neighborhood, I found the charming community bookstore Terrace Books. Leo agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to wait outside while I took a quick look. Almost immediately I found a novel I’d been hearing a lot about in the last year: The Fever by Megan Abbott. I met the author when she was on a panel with my editor at Bouchrcon 2013 in Albany. So I bought it and began reading in Prospect Park. Preparation for ThrillerFest, I told myself. I whipped through the book in two days – not so much devouring it as it devouring me. Wow!
The evening I finished The Fever, it won the Strand Critics Award and three days later it won Best Hardcover Novel at ThrillerFest. Preparation indeed!
Birdsong greets the dawn in my friend’s back garden. No matter that clouds mask the rising sun. I’ve a party to get to, so I don’t have much time. It’s Tennessee William’s birthday and I’m celebrating in his “spiritual home” – New Orleans, that is – at the literary festival named in his honor. I don’t want to be late.
I attended the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival back in 2001, covering the event as a journalist for Radio Netherlands. It was my first visit to the city known as the Big Easy and I immediately fell under its spell, much like the young writer who arrived in 1938. Tennessee wrote his Mama: “I’m crazy about the city. I walk continually, there is so much to see.”
On Tuesday I got a message from a friend asking if I could account for my whereabouts after the book-signing event on Sunday. He attached a link to a local news story. A body had been pulled from the water in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, very near the site of a similar crime scene almost twenty years ago – a crime scene that inspired my debut thriller Calvin’s Head. The book I spent Sunday afternoon signing. The book that begins with the grisly murder of a man called Valentine, whose remains are discovered in a Vondelpark pond.