Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ceepak and Danny Rise From The Ashes Aboard The Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein is an award-winning mystery writer and children’s book author, and a former advertising executive and improvisational comedian.

He performed in the same Greenwich Village comedy troupe as Bruce Willis back in the early 1980s.

Chris spent almost twenty years writing commercials for America’s top advertising agencies, representing clients such as Seven Up, Miller Lite, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dr. Pepper, and many others. He was, perhaps most famously, the copy writer who created Trojan Man, a radio campaign that still rides the airwaves today.

He went on to become an Executive Vice President/Group Creative Director at Young & Rubicam in New York.

Chris’s writing talent was first discovered by international bestselling author James Patterson, his Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising. Patterson had come up with a Writing Aptitude Test, which ran as a full-page as in the New York Times under the headline “Write If You Want Work.” Over 2,000 applicants responded. Chris was the first writer hired.

Chris has written screenplays, made-for-TV movies, Muppet scripts, and the occasional grocery list. In fact, he’s been writing since he moved to New York from Chattanooga, Tennessee—bringing along seven suitcases and the Smith-Corona typewriter he got as a high school graduation gift.

He won the Anthony Award for "Best First Mystery" (given at Bouchercon 2006) for his debut TILT A WHIRL—the first in a series of John Ceepak stories to be set "Down The Shore" in a New Jersey tourist town called Sea Haven. The second book, MAD MOUSE, was called one of the "Ten Best Mysteries of 2006" by Kirkus. WHACK A MOLE came out to great critical acclaim in 2007. The New York Daily News called the fourth Ceepak book, HELL HOLE, a "must-read." The fifth book in the series MIND SCRAMBLER was published by St. Martin's Minotaur in 2009. ROLLING THUNDER available in 2010, rounds out the first Ceepak six pack.
Chris’s fast-paced Christopher Miller holiday thrillers include Slay Ride and Hell for the Holidays.
On May 27, 2008, Random House will publish The Crossroads, the first installment in Chris’s ghost series for middle school children.

Chris is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He lives in Manhattan with his beautiful, beloved wife J.J., along with their dog Fred and three cats, Jeanette, Parker and Tiger Lilly.

by Chris Grabenstein

It was about this time last year that I was making plans for John Ceepak’s funeral. Danny Boyle’s too.

MIND SCRAMBLER, book five in my Jersey Shore mystery series that started with TILT A WHIRL (winner of the 2006 Anthony Award for best first mystery) had just come out. We were holding our annual launch party at Partners & Crime, a terrific indie bookstore down in Greenwich Village. The wine, beer, and saltwater taffy were flowing. Mark the Magician was prestidigitating, because the murder in MIND SCRAMBLER takes place backstage at an Atlantic City casino during an illusionist’s act.

I glanced around the room. Friends and fans had assembled. My agent, the fantastic editor of my YA books at Random House, and the narrator of the Ceepak books for Audible were all in the house. So, of course, was my amazing wife who has been on this roller coaster ride with Ceepak and me since the start.

However, nobody from Ceepak’s second home, the folks publishing MIND SCRAMBLER, attended the event. Scheduling conflicts, I suppose. Not even an assistant to the assistant publicist’s assistant was there. Trust me -- this is never a good sign.

Anyway, I thanked everybody for coming, did a short reading, and then asked if anybody had any questions.

“So what’s the next book going to be called?”

Yep. It was the very first question out of the box

“Well, uh, um, I don’t know,” I had to reply, because Ceepak’s code won’t allow me to lie or fudge or prevaricate. “This may be the last book.”

To say the life was sucked out of the room would be an understatement.

You see, the Ceepak series had started at Carroll & Graf, a fantastic fiction and mystery imprint, which published TILT A WHIRL, MAD MOUSE, and, the purple one, WHACK A MOLE. Unfortunately, C&G was wiped off the face of the earth when its holding company was swallowed up by a bigger holding company that only held on to non-fiction imprints.

As luck would have it an editor who had been a fan of the Ceepak series soon acquired two new books for a Major Mystery House. But then, as often happens, Ceepak’s champion left that Major Mystery House to go off and write some Major Mysteries of his own.

And so Ceepak was orphaned. After HELL HOLE and MIND SCRAMBLER, we didn’t hear much about “future plans” for the series.

Crickets started to chirp. Carrion birds to circle. The verdict was clear: There would be no more Ceepak stories from publisher number two.

So, to keep the character alive, I decided to write a Ceepak short story, RING TOSS, and was thrilled when Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine agreed to run it in their June issue.

But then, the mystery fans started to speak up. I was moved to find e-mails like these in my in-box and on DorothyL:

“Please say you weren't serious when you said that Ceepak #5 was the last! I love this series and can't wait for each new one to come out. Now you're saying there won't be any more? It's just too cruel...!”

“I have to know, Chris, is there anything we can do? Would letters from librarians work? This is just too, too awful to contemplate.”

Yeah. Mystery lovers are amazingly fantastic.

On July 5, 2009, Oline Cogdill, one of the top critics in our field, IMHO, blogged that “Chris Grabenstein’s novels deserve to find a home”

I was quite dismayed when I heard recently that Grabenstein's series had been dropped. With the abundance of dreadful nonfiction "written" by celebrities and commanding big bucks, it doesn't seem fair that someone with talent such as Chris Grabenstein should be dropped.

Of course, Grabenstein isn't alone in being dropped. Many talented mystery writers with loyal followings also have been dropped. Many have found homes with other publishers. Others haven't.

I am not alone in my admiration for Chris Grabenstein's work. On the message board DorothyL, several readers have weighed in about his work.

Sheila Simonson, author of Buffalo Bill's Defunct and An Old Chaos (Perseverance Press), had this to say "Ceepak is a different kind of protagonist altogether. Under the surface simplicity, he is an ethically complex person in a world made for villains. . . Without being a boring superhero, Ceepak manages to come out on top, using his courage, intelligence, and honesty, and that is a very special kind of comedy indeed. When I finished reading the first Ceepak book, I turned back to page one and reread it. Surely Chris will find another home for Ceepak."

Sheila is so right.....and I hope there is a home for Ceepak.

And so, I said to my agent, Eric R. Myers, let’s see if we can find Ceepak and Danny yet another home.

Somehow, he did.

Folks, for a mystery series to live in two, let alone three, different publishing houses during its lifetime is nigh on impossible.

Miraculously, Pegasus Books picked up the series and published ROLLING THUNDER in May, 2010. They even brought back Michael Fusco, the original cover designer.

And, I am pleased to report, that this week Pegasus Books sent ROLLING THUNDER back to the presses for a second printing -- two weeks after its intitial publication date.

There’s a very reason Ceepak #6 is dedicated to Eric R. Myers.

My agent is a very good house hunter.


Lesa said...

And, all of your fans, Chris, are ecstatic that Oline wrote that article, and your agent is a good house hunter. We're hoping Ceepak and Danny have a long run.

Oh, and I'm writing the chapter on mysteries for the upcoming volume of Genreflecting, a librarian's reference tool. It's used for readers' advisory, and, hopefully, the book will be used soon in library schools. I'm putting Ceepak and Danny into one of those genres in mysteries as "Must-reads."

Lesa -

Jen Forbus said...

I echo Lesa's sentiment, Chris! She introduced me to Ceepak and I will forever be in her debt. I so look forward to my time with Danny and Ceepak - in print and on audio. They have made the genre tremendously richer. Thanks for being persistent!

And here's to another 6-pack for Ceepak...give that man a case!

Chris Grabenstein said...

Thank you Lesa and Jen. I am very pleased that so many Ceepak fans LOVE the new one (ROLLING THUNDER) since I kind of wrote it for them!

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful story! Hurrah for Oline and for your agent and for you, especially. The Keep On Keeping On award has your name on it! And hurrah for all the Dorothy L folks who kept pushing!

May the Force continue to be with you, Chris!

lil Gluckstern said...

So glad the series continues-delightful books from a delightful man. Very satisfying to score one for the good guys!

Patty said...

I'm forever grateful to DorothyL readers for introducing me to Chris and his alter-egos Ceepak and Danny! I've gotten five (haven't gotten six read, yet) wonderful reads, but then there are the two Saint Chris books and the two Zack books and well as a Ceepak short story. So, keep 'em coming Chris and I'll keep reading.

jenny milchman said...

I was there at the fantastic Mysterious Bookshop to hear Chris read from the phoenix-rising sixth in the series--and what a treat that was! I love how the mystery community--from reviewer to readers--pulled together and actually effected something in Big Publishing. This is a great story in and of itself.

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Chris deserves all the praise he gets for his Ceepak novels and his YA's. A funny man with a huge talent and heart.

Karyne Corum said...

Chris wrote a new chapter into mystery history when he invented a protagonist as unique, honorable and fresh as Ceepak. This detective has none of the hard boiled, boozing, bad boy attitude that has dominated the mystery scene for too long. The stories are clever, the dialogue witty, and the flavor of New Jersey is as tasty as pork roll, egg, and cheese on a hard roll. No one else has ever made me laugh, reminisce and even cry, as well as Chris does in the Ceepak mysteries. I am eternally grateful to Pegasus, who had the foresight and intelligence, to save this treasure before it was gone.

Chris, you are the reason I found new ways to love my home state, and to write about it. Thank you!! May Ceepak forever ROCK ON!

Chris Grabenstein said...

Wow Karyne. Can you please write all my reviews for me????

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Chris - Thanks so much for being a guest at Meanderings and Muses - I'm honored and tickled pink!!

And thanks to you all for stopping by. We're all happy little campers to have Ceepak and Danny around for awhile longer and hoping for a VERY long run.