Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hi folks,

Well, this is turning into a banner year! Two days ago, I received an offer from Snubnose Press to publish my new short story collection, titled GUMBO YA-YA. This makes the fifth book placed this year. I'm starting to get dizzy...

Snubnose Press is the new ebook press founded by the prestigious Spinetingler Magazine  and it’s a distinct and singular honor to be published by them. I was alerted to them by two of my heroes, Paul D. Brazill, one of the top noir writers in the world, and by Jack Getze, Fiction Editor of Spinetingler and author of the Austin Carr series. I met Jack a couple of years ago when we were both appearing at the Writer’s Retreat Workshop in Kentucky and became instant buddies. Turns out we both share a love of good writing—in particular, crime fiction—and Mr. Jack Daniels. I was introduced to Paul by Robin Billings, a terrific writer in her own right. The moment I first read his work, his particular genius was evident and I became a huge fan. If you haven’t yet read either of these guys, I’d recommend you glom onto their work. You can check each out on their blogs—Jack at and Paul at Tell ‘em I sentcha!

Jack gave me a heads-up on Mr. Lindenmuth’s tastes, saying, “He goes for very edgy, nourish stuff. No happy endings, you know?” Do I know?! Jack just described my twin from whom I was separated at birth! He described my own tastes perfectly and I started feeling good about my chances with him. None of my stories will ever be considered by the Disney folks. Reminds me of something my wife Mary said recently. She said, “Okay. How am I going to recommend my husband’s books to my friends? They’re titled THE BITCH and THE RAPIST!” I answered by saying, “I understand. How about if I change them to ‘The Hardy Boys Visit the Playground Slide' and ‘The Sugar Creek Gang Catches Flies’.” She felt if I did so it would make it somewhat easier for her to recommend them…

I do understand Mary’s concerns. I encourage her to voice her feelings. After all, she only fell in love with me because of that Stockholm Syndrome thingy and we’re trying to work past all that business and ancient history…

It pays to network. However, while knowing prominent people in the business is extremely helpful, it still all comes down to the work. No matter who you might know, if the writing isn’t top quality, your work will get rejected the same as anyone else’s who doesn’t measure up. Thankfully, Brian Lindenmuth, the editor of Snubnose Press and nonfiction editor and awards director at Spinetingler Magazine saw GUMBO YA-YA as a quality work. Brian’s wife, Sandra Ruttan, was the co-founder of Spinetingler Magazine, along with her former husband and along with Jack Getze. Check out Sandra’s books on the website—if you like dark crime, she’s your writer!

I always try to practice due diligence and research any press before I submit. Before I queried Brian, I purchased and read their first published book, Speedloader, a collection of six stories by six different writers. An awesome collection! Not a weak story in the lot! Simply a gathering of six extremely good writers. As soon as I read this collection, I knew this was a press I wanted to be published by.

As of this writing, the collection consists of 14 stories and two essays. I’ll be adding one more story to it as Cort McMeel and Eddie Vega, publishers of NOIR NATION are reading five of my unpublished stories to pick one for the inaugural issue, and as soon as that’s determined, that story will be added. It could easily end up with fewer stories, as my experience with collections is that the editor will most likely delete a story or two from the final version if he feels it might not be as strong as the others. Or, maybe not. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision as I like all of them—they’re my babies!

I love writing and reading short stories. Collections, as a rule, don’t make publishers or their authors rich. But, I have reason to believe we may do well on this one. My other collection, Monday’s Meal, has sold all but about 100 copies of its print run, and garnered rave reviews, including this one from The New York Times:

The New York Times Book Review

The sad wives, passive or violent husbands, parolees, alcoholics and other failures in Leslie H. Edgerton's short-story collection are pretty miserable people. And yet misery does have its uses. Raymond Carver elevated the mournful complaints of the disenfranchised in his work, and Edgerton makes an admirable attempt to do the same. He brings to this task an unerring ear for dialogue and a sure-handed sense of place (particularly New Orleans, where many of the stories are set). Edgerton has affection for even his most despicable characters—"boring" Robert, who pours scalding water over his sleeping wife in "The Last Fan"; Jake, the musician responsible for his own daughter's death in "The Jazz Player"; and Tommy in 'I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger," whose plan to get hold of some money involves severing the arm of a rich socialite—but he never takes the reader past the brink of horrible fascination into a deeper understanding. In the best story, "My Idea of a Nice Thing," a woman named Raye tells us why she drinks: "My job. I'm a hairdresser. See, you take on all of these other people's personalities and troubles and things, 10 or 12 of 'em a day, and when the end of the day comes, you don't know who you are anymore. It takes three drinks just to sort yourself out again." Here Edgerton grants both the reader and Raye the grace of irony, and without his authorial intrusion, we find ourselves caring about her predicament.—Denise Gess. The New York Times Book Review, November 16, 1997

Monday’s Meal also earned a starred review from The Library Journal, along with great reviews from “Studies in Short Fiction,” The School Library Journal, The Port Arthur (TX) News, Texas Monthly and blurbs from such writers as Dr. Francois Camoin, Diane Lefer, Vince Zandri, Melody Henion Stevenson, Carol Anshaw, and Gladys Swan. It was also a Finalist for the Violet Crown Book Award.

And, I think this collection is even better. It ought to be—hopefully, I’ve become a better writer since that book came out!

What’s really cool about Snubnose Press is that because of Spinetingler Magazine’s outstanding reputation as a publisher of top-notch fiction, their books are going to be treated by reviewers, bestselling lists, and awards organizations the same as print books. That’s a huge advantage over many ebook publishers.

This marks the fifth book either my agent Chip MacGregor or I have placed this year—it’s without doubt my best year as a writer! Kind of makes up for the lean times

Hope you find this interesting! And, those who’ve known me for awhile know I’ve had some really, REALLY lean years, so I hope this gives my fellow writers who are undergoing dark times now hope for their own futures. As that great Canadian philosopher, Red Green says: “Keep your stick on the ice. We’re all in this together. I’m pulling for ya!”


Blue skies,

How I came up with the title "GUMBO YA-YA"  is a story in itself. Story collections are supposed to fit into a theme. When my first collection, MONDAY'S MEAL was taken by the University of North Texas Press, the tales in it didn't fit much of a theme. They were kind of all over the place--kind of like me about whom folks say I'm like "a fart in a skillet." While this collection is a bit more focused, theme-wise (all dark), they still cover lots of areas. I came up with "Monday's Meal" as a southern institution that fit the body of work. In the Deep South where I grew up (Texas and Louisiana), Monday was traditionally wash day. That meant the wife not only had to take care of her kids and husband and do the regular chores, she also had to do the weekly wash. There wasn't much time to make a meal, so the traditional meal became gumbo or a stew--something the woman could stick on the stove and, when she had a spare minute or so, run in and throw in an ingredient as it simmered all day. There were a lot of ingredients, that, at first glance, didn't seem to go together, but when it was finished and served her hungry brood, turned out delicious. 

I grew up in a bar and restaurant in East Texas that my grandmother owned, and she had one wood stove in the kitchen that was reserved strictly for gumbo. Nowadays, restaurants serve gumbo by particular names, i.e., "shrimp gumbo," or "chicken gumbo," or "crab gumbo," or whatever. Oldtimers just made... gumbo. It could have any number of ingredients and usually did. (The one ingredient that almost always was in it was okra, and of course, to begin with, "first you make a roue.") For instance, in season, one of the best ingredients would be crab eggs. They're delicious and have a wonderful texture and flavor! She would simmer the pot all day long and when she got a minute, throw something into it. We just called it "gumbo ya-ya" as every day there was a different mixture. Again, often including ingredients that you might not think would go together, when you tasted it, it was wonderful. Ergo... the title GUMBO YA-YA. My hope is that when you read the gumbo assembled in my collection, you'll think it's delicious as well...

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Hi folks,

As I promised at the end of the last post, I want to talk about another new novel forthcoming from StoneGate Ink (  later this summer, titled JUST LIKE THAT.

Quite a bit of this novel has already seen publication as parts of it have appeared as short stories in various publications, including Murdaland, Flatmancrooked, Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, High Plains Literary Review, Houghton-Mifflin’s Best American Mystery Stories 2001, and one forthcoming in Noir Nation. A couple of the stories taken from this novel were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. So, I feel it has already kind of proved it's worth a bit.

It’s largely autobiographical—perhaps 80-85% taken from my own life. It’s centered around a road trip that I actually took with a friend from the joint.

Awhile after I was released on parole, I was working in a barbershop in Lakeville, Indiana for a guy named Dean. His shop was cleverly named “Dean’s Barbershop.” Dean was a truly cool guy and I loved working for him. At the time, I was charging $1.00 a haircut; at the end of my journey as a stylist, I was charging $100 per cut.

Every single morning when I arrived at work, Dean always said the same thing over our morning coffee before we opened the doors. “Les,” he’d say, a faraway look in his eyes. “Do you ever think when driving to work that someday you’d just like to keep going until you run out of gas, and then, wherever that is, you get a job there and live there?” I admitted I had the same thought many times myself. After all, until I was about 40, I’d never lived in one place more than two years at a time. Some places I’d lived in more than once, but never more than a two-year stretch at a time. I loved moving to new places and even today, after two years in one place I find myself incredibly bored with wherever I am. Although… I’ve been stuck here in Fort Hooterville for many years… (I’m still bored and more than ever!)

Anyway, Dean never followed his own dream, but one day, I did just that. Was on my way to work and hadn’t even thought about it when I woke up that morning, but halfway to Dean’s it struck me that, yeah; I’d like to keep driving until I ran out of gas.

So… I did just that. I pulled over, got on the phone and called Bud Palmer, a friend of mine from the joint who was out also. Like many ex-cons, Bud was of the same mind as I was—that “rolling stone” mentality, and in a nanosecond, he said, “You bet. Give me half an hour and I’m with you.”

An hour later, we were on our way. We would have left sooner but I had to stop to pick up some cash… at a convenience store. (Which I can talk about as the statute of limitations is past for what transpired there. Other things in the book are fiction and because of that statute of limitations thing…)

Where to, neither of us had a clue. I just wanted to go somewhere warm and interesting, and to me, that meant South.

We ended up in Lake Charles, Louisiana after some adventures along the way in Kentucky and New Orleans. Bud ended up climbing on a Trailways and going back home to his girlfriend and I stayed awhile longer, and eventually I came back to Indiana also.

I could never understand what the big deal about leaving a place and moving to another. At least in those days, you couldn’t move anywhere in the U.S. where you weren’t $100 from home, wherever home was. That was the most Greyhound charged for a one-way ticket to anywhere in the country. That means that if the worst thing happened—you couldn’t get a job, ran out of money, whatever—you were only a hundred bucks away from getting to where you had a support system and friends or family. And, no matter how broke a person might be, when push comes to shove, you can always come up with a hundred bucks.

To make this work as a novel, I had to take some liberties with the time line. Actually, I took two trips (with a different buddy) and have kind of combined them into one. One trip was a bike trip where another friend and I decided to take off on our bikes and go to Mexico. We never made it, but some of the things we did and experienced on that trip are included in JUST LIKE THAT. One thing I left out, is that at the time (of the bike trip) I had hair down to my waist and a long ZZ Top kind of beard (this was before ZZ, or at least before I was aware of them.). We arrived at the Grand Canyon and there were these little places where you could pull your vehicle off the road and gaze down into the Canyon, and we were pulled off, toking on a joint and drinking some brewskies, when four RVs pulled over and all these “popcorners”* started piling out of their campers with their cameras and taking pictures. Only… they weren’t taking pictures of the Grand Canyon. They were taking pictures of us! That’s when I first shaved my head and cut off my beard (long before Michael Jordan!). Just too much… tourists taking my picture over shots of the Grand Canyon...

*”Popcorners” is a term an old girlfriend of mine gave to retirees. One time, we were at an American Legion drinking and they were having a dance with one of those big balls swirling overhead and we looked in at the dance, and she said the dancers looked like “popcorn popping” with their white hair bobbing up and down. Ergo… “popcorners.”

A lot of this novel takes place in the joint at Pendleton and is based on experiences I had there. I think readers will get a kick out of these parts. Most books written about the joint have most of it wrong. The reason is most folks who find themselves in prison are barely literate and not likely to write a book about their experiences. At least not the ones who find themselves in state joints. In federal joints, it’s a bit different, as they house white collar criminals, but then many federal joints aren’t anything like state joints. If I ever think I’m going to end up in a state joint again, I’m pulling a federal crime and ‘fessing up  to that so that I go to Prison Med instead of Michigan City! There’s really no comparison.

I had one of my advisors (Diane Lefer) at Vermont College when I was getting my MFA who asked what I thought about a famous author (whom I won’t name) who writes a lot of his fiction about criminals and the joint. I told her that while I enjoyed his fiction, I didn’t buy a word of it. His stuff sounded like it came from a guy who’d spent a night or two in the drunk tank or maybe spent a bit of time as a reporter in a joint. There’s no way such experiences counts for anything at all. It’s like those kids who go through the “Scared Straight” programs. They may go inside the walls and they may even have inmates pretending to “break bad” on them, but it’s not even close to a real experience. These kids know they’re not going to wake up in the morning and for the next several years, having to watch their backs every second. There’s only one way to get that experience and that’s to get sentenced and actually live it.

The “Scared Straight” shows are really a joke. I’ve watched a bunch of them and to begin with, the kids are always surrounded by hacks who, if an inmate actually broke bad with the kids, would have the guy in the hole and the kid hustled out immediately. It’s a stretch to think these kids actually get scared, especially since some of them have already done juvie time and may have already had somebody try to get their brown eye. And, they never have truly bad dudes participating in these deals—most look like the kind of guys who the actual bad dudes are breaking bad on. There’s no way the prison is going to let them hang out with Charlie Manson or his cellmate, Roger Smith, the “most-stabbed inmate in history.” The guys who participate in this program are trying to get out by doing this kind of “community service,” and have a boatload of good time to even qualify for the program. They’re not going to put kids in contact with the dudes who are truly bad. The kids who go through this stuff have to know this. It’s a good idea in conception, maybe, but I’d be surprised if any other than the truly naïve are much influenced by the experience.

Anyway, in JUST LIKE THAT, the reader will get a bit truer look at the joint than they will in most books… There’s a scene where Jake (the protagonist) and Bud are in a swamp in Louisiana and just shooting the shit about fears that shows the criminal mind fairly accurately. Cathy Johns, then the assistant warden at the Louisiana prison at Angola (the Farm) read this and wrote me that it was "the truest account of the criminal mind" that she'd ever read. Should be. I was a criminal for a long time.

Hope when it comes out you’ll glom onto a copy and if you do, I hope you enjoy it. We don’t have an exact date just yet, but anticipate it’ll be available as an ebook in August. I’ll post it here as soon as it is.

Here’s an excerpt:


            “Let me call my old lady,” Bud said, not even asking where I was--which was the QuickStop, or where I was going--which I didn’t know, or why or none of the kind of questions a straight john would of. Just, “Let me call Kimmie. She’s working down at Parkview Hospital in housekeeping. Give me an hour to pack.”
            To kill the time, I invested in a call to my brother. “Thirty-five cents,” the operator said. “For three minutes.”
            “Shit,” I said. “I just want to use this for a minute, lady,  not buy it,” but I was talking to a ring tone. Bitch.
            “Hello,” I said. “Is Raymond there?” It was my sister-in-law, Ruthy Ann. I figured it was a Tuesday, Ray might’ve had a hangover and skipped work. I had his work number if I needed it, but it turned out I’d called the right number first.
            “--fuck you calling this early for?” he said. “I’m still in bed.”
            “Yes,” I said.
            A woman with a little blond boy, about four maybe, pushed by me to get to the cooler where the pop was and I had to hug the wall to let them by. He was crying he wanted a Coke-Cola and she was saying it was too early for pop; he should have a fruit juice, how about orange or maybe cranberry? The cranberry was on sale, she was explaining to this little brat; I could get two, one for you and one for me, honey. I waited till they were past to resume my own conversation.
            “Jake? You still there? You calling from jail?”
            Raymond calmed down when it became clear I wasn’t after bail money, was offering him something instead.
            “I got a bunch of clothes, two nice leather jackets, both full-length, and other stuff, records. There’s about an eighth in a bag in one of the pockets of the brown one.”
            “And I can have it all?” he said, waiting for the catch. “You owe rent or something doncha? Will the landlord let me in? You still in that place in Ft. Wayne off Lake?”
            I laughed. “Yeah, and I’m paid up for two more weeks, Ray. I’ll call him, tell him to let you in. I’ll even see if he’ll give you the two weeks I already paid. I doubt it though. There’s some deposit money too, but I think he’s gonna want that to fix the door.”
            “Well say, it’s worth a try,” he said. “Maybe I’ll just use it for two weeks. Have some poker parties.” I could see his mind working, figuring out how to capitalize on his sudden good fortune only I figured it wasn’t poker he had in mind. I wondered if Ruthy Ann was standing there listening and did he think she was that dumb. He was going to drive all the way down from South Bend to Fort Wayne for poker parties? Sure. “Where you going Jake? You told Mom? What’d she say?”
            “No,” I said to the second question, and “I don’t know, Ray. I can’t say for sure,” to the first.
            “Hey, Jake.”
            “How come you weren’t at Dad’s funeral?”
            “I was.”
            “Fuck you were. I didn’t see you. You wearing your Captain Midnight Invisible Shield?”
            “Maybe. Fuck you, Ray. I was there. Don’t worry about it. I just didn’t go in the church is all. I paid my respects in private.”
            When I hung up, the kid’s mother had gone to the front by the cigarettes and Slim Jims and the kid was opening and slamming shut the cooler door. I guess she’d given up on him. Me, I’da left him. Climbed in my car when he wasn’t looking and went out and took in a movie, hope he got run over by a beer truck, something.
            “Kid,” I said, crooking my finger at him and bending over. “Kid, you get the cranberry juice like your momma told you. I got a gun in here and if you don’t I’m going to shoot you in the leg.” He stood there a minute and I was half out the door when he came screaming up to his mom. I looked back in the car and seen her and she had the little shit up in her arms glaring at me. So were some other people. Fuck’m, is what I thought. I was in a mood.
            I started to pull out then changed my mind. One of those things that were always happening, don’t ask me why. I went back in.
            “Line up by the coolers,” I said, waving my hog. “Fill it,” I said to the clerk, this kid who was a poster for the pimple cure industry, shoving one of the plastic bags on the counter at him.
            While the clerk was putting the money in the bag, I told the little kid’s mother, “Honey, you go back and get you a can of that cranberry juice.” The smart thing would have been to get the hell out of there, but I wasn’t done.
            “Drink it,” I told the kid. He only started bawling. “Drink it or I’m gonna blow out your kneecap, you little shithead.” His mama seen I was serious, slapped the living shit out of her kid, held the can for him while he tried to choke some down, both of them boohooing. It mostly got all over the front of his shirt way he was moving around, looked like blood.
            “You mind your mama, son,” I said, going out the door. “Less you want to end up like me.”
            I headed over to Bud’s place. On the way I dumped out the bag on the seat and tried to count it with my free hand. No more than fifty-sixty bucks it looked like, mostly ones and a few five’s. One lousy ten.

Blue skies,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Hi folks,

Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit, but I have four new novels coming out this year and have been knee-deep in rewrites! I’ve also been covered up with the last (hope!) revision of my memoir, ADRENALINE JUNKIE, prior to sending it to my agent to begin marketing it. I had to do one last rewrite on it as, at the “young” age of 68 and as chronicled here, I found out the man I had always been told was my father… wasn’t. That kind of put an entirely new twist on my life so I figured I needed to address that.

Anyway, I wanted to talk a bit about the four new novels coming out and today I’ll focus on the first, a crime thriller titled THE PERFECT CRIME.

This one has a history. I wrote it back in the nineties and at the time my agent, Jimmy Vines, was arguably the hottest guy in agenting. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Jerry Maguire, the title character played by Tom Cruise was Jimmy to a T. A slick-talking (in machine-gun bursts), expensively-dressed, stereotypical polished New Yorker smart-ass type, Jimmy could easily have been the originator of the phrase, “Show me the money.” Lots of publishers did just that for his writers.

Jimmy received so much initial excitement from publishers when he first sent out feelers on THE PERFECT CRIME that he decided that even though this was a first novel, this was a book that needed to go to auction. For those writers here who’ve had a book go to auction, you know that’s one of the biggest thrills for a writer to be had, up there almost with getting a nomination for the National Book Award, or a travel agent calling to check on your drink preferences for your flight to Stockholm, or, even getting a message on your unlisted cell phone from Kim Khardashian giving you her private number and inviting you to a “personal and up-close” slumber party and something she called a “sesh” with her and her sisters, ending her message with a cheery, “Call me, ya big lug!”

In other words, a literary auction is a big deal.

It was… what’s the word?... exciting. I’m sitting here in the Great Flyover in Fort Hooterville, Indiana, and every three or four minutes, Jimmy was phoning me breathlessly from the Big Apple, giving me up-dates. Between his calls, I’m screaming at my wife Mary to “Don’t go near that phone!” and ignoring the withering looks she was shooting my way. Offers were being messengered to Jimmy every couple of minutes, and he’d be calling to tell me who’d offered what, what the bidding was up to, who’d joined the fray and who’d dropped out.

Finally, everyone had dropped out except two players, Random House and St. Martin’s. Both made their final bids. Random House offered $45,000 for their advance and St. Martin’s offered $50,000.

“It’s your call,” Jimmy said. “We’ll go with whoever you want.”

We talked about it and I tried to weigh the offers. Both were big, well-known, respected presses. Both were talking about a probable three-book deal, a series based on the same characters, and depending on how the first book did, the advances for the next two would most likely go way up. Jimmy figured the final tally would be in the healthy six-figure range. Enough money that I would be able to achieve my version of true wealth—being able to fill the gas tank up completely each time on my car instead of the normal two buck purchase. He talked about the excellent chances he saw for a future movie deal.

Finally, I made my decision.

Worst decision of my life, bar none. The financial fall-out from that decision destroyed me at the time and actually, I've never recovered. More about that later...

“Random House,” I told Jimmy. “Why them?” he asked. “Because,” I said. “They’re Random House.” The House of Bennett Cerf and all those legends of literature. I didn’t care it was for less money than St. Martin’s was offering. This was Random House.

Jimmy understood. He called St. Martin’s, told them my decision, and the editor who had been doing the bidding, Charlie Spicer, was disappointed, but before he hung up, told Jimmy, “If Edgerton ever has another book and is looking for a publisher, we want first crack at it.” Just a pure gentleman. I just wish...

Next, he contacted Scott Moyers, the senior editor who had been doing the bidding for Random House. Scott had just come over from Villard Press and been appointed a senior editor. Mine was the first book he’d signed for his new publisher.

The day I signed the contract was one of the happiest of my life.

I was at a crossroads in life. Up to that point, I had made a terrific living for thirty-plus years as a hairstylist. My wife Mary and I had our own salon, Bold Strokes Hair Design, and we were booked solid for six months in advance. But, our lease was up and we had to make a decision. To sign a new 5-year lease or close the salon. Up until then, even though I had sold several books, I had never considered quitting my day job. I’d heard and listened to all the advice about not doing so until one was absolutely certain he’d be able to make his entire living from writing.

Now seemed the time. I’ll relate the rest by including the gist of an exchange of emails between myself and one of the most respected agents in the business a couple of years ago. I won’t name the agent as I don’t want to reveal his identity as he was honest with me about what had probably happened but didn’t want to be identified for clear reasons.

Here’s is the email I sent this agent:


I'll try to be as concise as I can be. A few years ago, when I was a client of Jimmy Vines, I wrote a crime thriller that he was ecstatic about. So ecstatic that he took it to auction, which, as you know is a rarity for a first novel. It was an exciting time—phone calls and emails every few minutes for several days—you know the drill. The upshot was that it came down to two houses, Random House and St. Martin's. St. Martin's offered $50,000 and RH offered $45,000. Jimmy said we'd go with whoever I wanted. I decided on RH because... well, it was Random House. The company that Bennett Cerf built and with all that glorious history. I was going to be a Random House author!

The editor who took it was Scott Moyers who had just that week come over from Villard to become a senior editor at RH and this was the very first book he signed. They were going to bring it out simultaneously in hard and soft cover, from Ballantine and RH. Jimmy told me that Ann Godoff, who was the president at the time, personally phoned him and raved about the book, telling him how much she loved it. She said they were going to guarantee me that not only would it come out on the NY Times bestseller list; it would come out as #1 the first week. She said she could guarantee that because the lists weren't derived from sales but from copies printed, etc. She and Scott then asked that I change the title as they saw a trilogy in the future and they wanted the name to be one that would lend itself to that. The original title I had was The Perfect Crime and they asked that it be changed to Over Easy, a play on the "Big Easy" since it was set in New Orleans and they wanted the other two to be as well. As soon as it came out, they wanted to create a new contract for a new two-book deal. But, my God—I couldn't believe what she was telling me—that my book was going to be Number One. That's a cloud I'm probably never going to reach again. From the lips of the president of Random House, that's something you can take to the bank. Or so I thought. (I'm bad on dates, but it seems to me this was around '97.)

I know this is all very interesting and all, but so far everything's going well and why am I telling you all this you're probably thinking. Well, that's when the bottom dropped out. The time period here is crucial as you'll see. A week after I took RH's offer, Bertlesmann took over Random House. Being out here in the "great flyover" I had no clue as to what was probably going on in NY and London, in the power centers of publishing, but it's obvious to me now that the Bertlesmann takeover is what impacted my deal.

For the next several months I rewrote the book entirely for Scott four times. I'd already rewritten it twice for Jimmy before he'd sent it out and I had no problem with either guy requesting rewrites. I'm a firm believer that writing is rewriting and I do it cheerfully and professionally. At the end of the last rewrite, Scott emailed me and said he was regretfully going to have to turn it down. During the process, he had me eliminate a major character and do some other things. In his notes for the last rewrite, he said he wished I would write like Russell Banks! For the first time I got mad. I told him if he wanted Russell Banks, why didn't he just sign him? Just weird stuff. I told him I'd done everything he'd said without question as I didn't want to "be that guy" editors talked about--the difficult writer. To that he said, "You should have pushed back." My bad, I guess...I talked to Jimmy and he was furious with Scott and RH and said he'd never ever do another deal with Random House the rest of his life—that he'd never heard of a major publisher treating someone this way, etc. At this remove, I confess I'm a bit skeptical now of what he was saying, considering I was this little guy out here in Indiana and he was claiming he'd never again deal with the biggest publisher in the business because of what they'd done to me. Lots of things I thought at the time have changed the more I think about it. I have a strong suspicion that he was... how do you say it? Blowing smoke up my ass? Yeah, that's a good way to describe what I think happened.

What was the kicker was that St. Martin's had offered $5,000 more and wanted to publish it without changing as much as a comma and they wanted an additional 3-book deal after it came out. The editor who participated for them was Charlie Spicer and Jimmy told me that after they lost out in the auction, Charlie told him that "if Edgerton ever wanted to leave RH, we'd take him in a minute." He said later, that if "Edgerton wrote another novel like that that they wanted first crack at it."

Which made what transpired next hard for me to get the logical part of my brain around. After the RH fiasco, I asked Jimmy if he could take it to St. Martin's as only a handful of people had even read it—RH and St. Martin's and maybe a dozen others who had participated early in the auction. No, Jimmy said, it's a dead issue now, but as soon as we sell your next one, then we can get it published. That never made sense to me being as no one had read the book except the ones mentioned above. It wasn't as if the public was aware of it or had read it or anything.

Anyway, Scott was very apologetic and said he'd make sure I would never have to repay the part of the advance I'd already received ($12,500). Shortly after that, he left RH and I've never heard from him again. About two years later, I got a bill from RH for the 12.5 and I wrote them back, relaying what Scott had told me. Nothing happened until a couple of years after that and I got another bill and I told them the same thing and again, haven't heard from them since.

This whole thing really impacted my life in ways that are still happening. At the time, my wife and I owned a very successful hairstyling business. At the exact time I signed with RH, our lease for our shop was up and we had to make a decision to sign a new 5-year lease or not. I'd always tried to be realistic and practical and even though I'd sold a number of books before the RH thing, never succumbed to the temptation of quitting my day job. Well, this seemed to be the perfect time to do so. I was given enough money to live on for the next year while I rewrote; Ann Godoff had guaranteed Jimmy (according to him anyway) my book would be #1; they wanted at least two more books after this one, etc. I felt it was time to become a truly full-time writer. So we closed the business and my wife went to work at another salon and I settled down to all that I've related above. The upshot was that after a year of all that, our business was gone and I was jobless and went through some health problems that wiped out our savings and put us heavily into debt, etc. We've never caught up since. You can't go back and regain your clients--they're gone forever, for the most part. I feel pretty sure that Bertlesmann taking over probably put all this into action—there was probably some sort of house cleaning and lots of books like mine were probably thrown overboard, and people jettisoned, etc. I have no way of knowing this—just a strong suspicion.

I'm not a whiner and I don't blame the world for the bad things that happen to me—it's just part of the deal of life and usually because of bad choices I'd made on my own. The reason I wanted to share this with you is that I still have this novel and it's a good one and I'd like your opinion as to if I should send it out.

Mr. ______, thank you for reading this and taking your valuable time to do so. If any of this intrigues you and you'd like a look at it, I'd be very happy to send it to you. Also, if you know Charlie Spicer and run into him you might ask him about the deal. We don't get "do-overs" in live as a rule, but that's one guy I wish I'd gone with. He really liked my work and in every dealing with him I always felt he was a true gentleman.

Thank you so much for taking time for someone who isn't even earning any money for you.

Blue skies,

The agent’s reply to this was:

You don't owe Random House squat. Having "won" you at auction, followed up by having you rewrite the book multiple times, what they did is completely shitty behavior. And it happens every day. I'm actually surprised they bothered to send you two bills. For Das Random Haus, $12,500 is pocket change and they probably cleared it from their books as a write-off years ago.

When Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp Inc bought a company, (name deleted), they cancelled a lot of contracts... only they found other ways of saying it so CEO Jane Friedman could be quoted in the press saying, "We didn't cancel any contracts."

I do business with Random House every day, and would sell them one of my represented books in a heartbeat. To booksellers and book reviewers that little house on the spine, or even better, that little Borzoi dog, still carries a lot of cachet and helps get reviews and in-store display space. The fact is, though, the Random House of Bennet Cerf, or even Bob Bernstein is long gone. They do some books brilliantly. Most others are little more than putting a cover on the barely edited manuscript and shipping it out the door. Sadly, that's true most places. The hard part for old grizzlies is that they remember what Random House used to be -- before it was a division of an arm of a media conglomerate and expected to cough up 15% quarterly profits to the Mother Ship. The old souls have either fled the building (actually "the building" is gone too) or sit in their offices, bitterly waiting for the day they can full advantage of a fat 401K.

Ann Godoff is over at Penguin now.  She "might" view this as an opportunity to do right by a book and an author she once seduced with fantasies of a #1 New York Times best seller ** or she might want to slink away in embarrassment. Plus, who knows what portraits of you as a madman had to be painted by Scott or others in order for them to look less evil. 

I'm actually surprised Ann would do such an amateur thing. She is a total pro and I think brilliant publisher. I love the way she works between the cracks. Who could have predicted the huge best selling audience for Orchid Thief or Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil before they were published? All those previous best sellers about Savannah or orchids? What was the obvious category for these books? They are not typical true crime or travel or anything but extremely well written. I love Ann for that.  But I would NEVER promise an author a best seller. The fates are too fickle. Why is Marley & Me a massive and ongoing seller, where Mark Doty's version of the same book (only MUCH better) a quiet success and no one reads Willie Morris' classic My Dog Skip. I'm not even sure the Morris is still in print.

There is a great essay by E.B. White called Here is New York. White wrote it in 1949 and it is absolutely relevant to this day. In writing about New York City, I think he nailed the right attitude for anyone aspiring to be a writer. He wrote (and I paraphrase badly, having not read the piece for ten years), "If you come to New York, you having to be willing to be lucky."

If Ann Godoff is a "No," maybe George Witte, the editor-in-chief of St Martin's would be intrigued by the story of the Auction they lost so many years ago, but get a chance to win now. Sally Richardson, their President & CEO, I'm sure was at St. Martin's at the time and probably read your manuscript. She's very involved. I sold one of my writers on the idea of going to St. Martin's over going to HarperCollins and a "name" editor in David Hirshey. My reason was because both Sally Richardson and Matthew Shear, their publisher, had called me to say how much they liked the manuscript. I told the writer that in-house enthusiasm is worth its weight in gold. The book comes out in July. We'll see how right or wrong I was.

So yeah, dust off Over Easy and send it in. I am even more surprised than Ann's promised best seller that your agent would say it's a dead book and nor resubmit it to St. Martin's. This happens all the time. After David Ulin had post-Harper Morrow back away from his book, he resold it to Viking. And heck, what's gotten more press this last year than the passed around If I Did It by O.J. Simpson?


Mr. ______________

Mr. ___________ and I ended up not hooking up, as I have other forms of work he doesn't represent, such as sports books, a YA, etc. He's a great guy, though, and very generous in sharing his advice and wisdom with me as he did with the above. I just thought it'd be easier to show you our correspondence about the PERFECT CRIME/OVER EASY book as it contains all the pertinent facts about what happened so you'd know the history.

I had some other worries about this novel. When I wrote it, the idea behind the crime was truly original. Such a crime had never been committed. My worry was that some outlaw would eventually come up with the same idea and even though I had thought of it first, his effort would trump mine in the public’s eye. Well, a couple of years ago that very thing happened. And then again. The good thing is that neither were really the “perfect crime.” They’d made some mistakes—which is why they were caught. Mistakes I’d foreseen and hadn’t had my character make. So, while yes, there have been a couple of instances where the basic idea has been used, they still haven’t reached the “perfect” level mine has.

Indeed, when I was writing it, I conferred regularly with Bob Parker, a good friend of mine who’s a computer genius and has done work for various government agencies. He looked it over, found a weak place and told me how to fix that and when I had, proclaimed it indeed, a “perfect crime.” You’ll have to leave some stuff out, Bob said, or it will be a template for someone to actually use and get away with it. He went on to say that I could either do the crime myself or publish the novel and I’d probably make more doing the crime. Well, at one point in my life I would have been tempted, but I’ve since been in prison and that isn’t an option these days… And, I did take his advice to leave a couple of things out. I really don’t want someone to use it and if they don’t know the parts I omitted, they’ll stand a chance of getting caught, especially with today’s CSI units.

And now, I have a publisher and it’s coming out! We don’t have a firm date yet, but it will be available by the end of the summer from StoneGate Ink. Check out their link at for updates and ordering information. I’ll post that info here as soon as we get a firm date.

The publisher, Aaron Patterson, is doing some remarkable things with books. He’s created the new paradigm for authors and literature and it’s spot on. What he’s doing is the best thing that’s ever happened for us writers. In fact, I was so impressed with him that I recommended him to Jennifer Wilkov, hostess of the top-rated show on WomensRadio, for an interview, which came on today. You can hear Aaron at!-Show--Aaron-Patterson%3A-Best-Selling-Author-and-Publisher-Stone-House-Ink/9775.html.

I discovered this press through an old friend of mine, Vince Zandri. Vince and I have been buds ever since we were classmates at Vermont College, getting our MFA’s and hanging out at Charlie O’s. We hit it off immediately and have remained steadfast friends forever. We’re big fans of each other’s work and have each blurbed the other’s books. At the time we were in school, I was looking for a new agent and Vince hooked me up with his, the aforementioned Jimmy Vines. Jimmy did even better for Vince, getting him heavy-duty advances for his work. One for $175,000. In the intervening years, Jimmy left the business, and the publishing industry began to change. Vince discovered Aaron’s company and began to publish with him and now he’s the “star” of the company. He’s selling more now than he ever did with the legacy publishers and he did pretty well with them. Much “gooder” now… Like to the tune of selling 100,000 copies in a month! In another of those turns life takes, Vince was looking for a new agent and I was able to recommend and introduce him to my guy, Chip MacGregor, who happily took him on. What goes around comes around… Check out Vince at His only flaw is that he will never be able to keep up with me drinking… Maybe that’s my flaw… Depends on your perspective, I suppose…

And, check out THE PERFECT CRIME when it comes out! Just don’t use it for the template for your own perfect crime. There’s a tiny flaw in it that if you don’t figure it out, may land you in a six by eight room with a guy who looks like your worst screamin’ meemie nightmare and involved with him in a heavy debate over who’s going to be playing the prom queen role in the near future…

I hope the above proves of interest to the writers out there. This isn’t stuff that’s reported on in English class or even your MFA workshops as a rule… The Cosa Nostra has very little on publishing…

Blue skies,

Next post, I’ll talk about JUST LIKE THAT, the other StoneGate Ink novel coming out along with THE PERFECT CRIME. This is a road novel, based on an experience I had with a former cellmate of mine at Pendleton. It’s about 85% autobiographical. The only reason it isn’t 100% is that pesky statute of limitations thing…