November 28, 2012

Made It Moment II: Charles Salzberg

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:05 pm

Swann Dives In

Charles Salzberg is an author who has played such an important role in my writerly life that it’s hard to encapsulate it in an introduction. First, there was the fact that I met Charles when I attended NYWW’s Perfect Pitch…after which I met the agent who not-so-long-ago sold my first novel. Charles helped craft the pitch for the novel I was working on into something that attracted an agent (and 3 editors). He’s a master at seeing through to the bones of a novel, of developmental editing. He’s also an author himself–and if you like your mystery taken with a dash of shrewdness and a dollop of realism, both Swann novels are for you. Last, Charles’ website is a true work of art, worth a visit just as eye candy.

Did I say last? Last is really contained in the Made It Moment you’re about to read. Because now, as I stand poised on what feels like the rim of a cliff, Charles’ influence continues. One thing we writers–we humans–have to learn is how to meet failures with something besides a crash landing. How to turn them, wherever possible, into successes. In this Moment, Charles shows us how.

Charles Salzberg

Before I received the confirming email, Google alerts kicked in.  My first detective novel, Swann’s Last Song, had been nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.

I was shocked.  Not because I didn’t think the novel was good, though not good enough to win an award, but because the whole thing was a mistake. I’d never meant to write a detective novel and certainly not one that might be taken seriously by the crime community.  In fact, when I first wrote the book, almost 25 years ago, I thought of it as an anti-detective novel, a literary exercise that would play with the genre, turn it upside down by creating a traditional detective who follows all the clues but doesn’t solve the crime.

But that didn’t go over so well with agents or publishers, so I stuck the manuscript in a drawer, and buried it on an old computer, only to resurrect it years later when I caved in and changed the ending, thereby getting it published.

And now it was nominated for an award.  I didn’t think I’d win, but after a while, I don’t care what anyone says, you get a taste for it.  You can see all those bios that read “Shamus Award winning novelist,” and you even say to yourself, “little do they know that it’s a one-off,” because in SLS, at the end, the detective is so disillusioned that he quits the business.

I lost, as I knew I would.  But then something strange happened.  I got pissed off.  I wanted another shot at it.  I wanted to win something, anything.  And so I did something completely unplanned: I wrote a sequel.  I rescued Swann from the dung heap of a real day job and put him back to work as a skip tracer.  The result was Swann Dives In.   And now, since I’m having so much fun with the character, I’ve just finished a third.

So I guess the “made” moment was not being nominated for an award, but losing it.

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, New York Magazine, GQ, Elle, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Arts and Leisure, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Book Review,  the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and various other publications.

He is the author of From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, An Oral History of the NBA, and On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place:, Baseball’s 10 Worst Teams of the Century, and co-author of My Zany Life and Times, by Soupy Sales, Catch Them Being Good, by Tony DiCicco and Colleen Hacker, Phd., and The Mad Fisherman, by Charlie Moore.

His novel, Swann’s Last Song, was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.  The sequel, Swann Dives In, will be published in October, 2012.  He also has a Swann short story in Long Island Noir (Akashic Books.)  His novel, Devil in the Hole, will be published in July, 2013.


  1. What a strange turn of events. Funny how life takes on a path never mapped out. Well done.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — November 28, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  2. Ah, I have that itch, too, wanting to win something, anything. But the best part is always the writing and anything that leads to more writing. Hope you win an award this time!

    Comment by Sara — November 28, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

  3. I love it! I’ll break my neck to do something if someone tells me I can’t. Guess we all have a touch of that perversity in us! Congrats.

    Comment by mountainmama — November 28, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  4. How great that you got your award. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Kellie — November 28, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

  5. Charles, what a wonderful moment!

    from Crime Fiction group

    Comment by Theresa de Valence — November 28, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

  6. Hi Charles:

    Good for you for writing the next book! My question is – I went online and did not see that your book was available in e-format. A I missing the link?


    Comment by Pamela DuMond — November 28, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

  7. Charles, as they say, three times a charm. Continued good luck with the growing series.

    Comment by Doctor Barbara — November 29, 2012 @ 12:30 am

  8. Dang, I think the novel with its original ending would’ve been fantastic! Congrats on all your success, with or without the award.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — November 29, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  9. Charles,

    Congrats on your success, obviously well-earned. Jenny gave you a wonderful introduction. But what impresses me most is your tenacity. I think it’s an important lesson for all of us who write. In the end, hard work does pay off!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — November 29, 2012 @ 11:56 am

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