Fish and chips and digital publishing, by Dirk Robertson
School never figured much in my Scottish childhood, though storytelling did, in the various excuses I gave when the teachers said they couldn’t complete report cards on me, as they didn’t actually know who I was.
I was so good at dipping under the radar and skipping off to feed the ducks that when everyone else went off to college and university, I only just managed to scrape a job at the Globetrotter fish and chip shop nestled on the corner of a busy Edinburgh street.
Life dealt me some sweet cards after that, so now I have an honours degree from one of the finest universities in the world and I make a living as a writer. I go back to Edinburgh, from my base in the United States, often. The Globetrotter is still there. Why? Easy answer. Quality never fades and always grows into something new, whilst still retaining the essential elements that created it.
The Mysterious Press represents the finest example of this. Created and led by Otto Penzler, who knew long ago that eternal compromise undermines excellence, the Mysterious Press is taking only the finest crime and mystery writing into the new age of electronic publishing. I admit I have been shy of embracing the digital book for the same two reasons most people stay clear of things—fear and ignorance.
I have since discovered that I can take numerous books with me on my travels without dislocating my shoulder with a heavy bag and that I can read in bed without having to hold a book open with my overworked thumbs. This new venture will grow wildly and with great abandon, but always with a disciplined foundation, like the vegetables produced by everyone’s favorite, though slightly mad, grandmother.
What a feast of writers, past and present. Some of the names previously published by Mysterious Press live in that hallowed world where no first name is necessary. Leonard, Asimov, Ellroy and Amis. If they were a rock band I am not even sure which one would be the drummer. The writers still to be published will have one thing in common with these giants: Quality.
The very first time I met Mr. Penzler I was shaking in my shoes. That was in the day when people actually wore shoes rather than training shoes and flip flops. I was in awe of him and in many ways I still am. I was nervous writing this first blog for MysteriousPress.com but on reflection I shouldn’t have been—I am not in the fish and chip shop anymore.
If Otto Penzler went back in time and went up against Ernest Hemingway in a look-a-like competition, Mr. Penzler would probably come second, though it would be a close call. I am off to mend my flip-flops now but before I do, let me say that I firmly believe that, in the future, Mr. Hemingway could well end up coming second to Mr. Penzler, in terms of overall contribution to all things literary.
Dirk Robertson is the author of Highland T’ing, Bad Day for a Fat Boy and Deep Powder. He’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Crime Writers Association in the United Kingdom. He was born in Glasgow and currently lives in the United States.
Visit The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest mystery bookstore in the country.