Back in the summer of 2000, Harlan Coben — who had worked in the travel business — was asked to organize a mystery conference for Club Med. At that time, Harlan and I had known each other for four years and the joke was that, whatever Harlan did, I did two years later. Harlan won the Edgar, then I won the Edgar. Harlan went to hardcover, then I went to hardcover. Harlan wrote a stand-alone for his eighth book, I wrote a stand-alone for my eighth book. Harlan became a huge international bestseller with his stand-alone . . . I wrote a ninth book. But in 2000, I was going through tough times, and Harlan knew that, so he invited me to Club Med, along with several other writers.
In November 2000, when we gathered at a Club Med in the Bahamas, Harlan was about seven months away from publishing his first New York Times bestseller. Dennis Lehane was about two months away from publishing Mystic River. George Pelecanos was about to publish Right as Rain, the first book in his trilogy (quartet, if you count Hard Revolution) about Derek Strange. Peter Robinson, Nevada Barr and Steve Hamilton were also there, along with such established writers as Donald Westlake and Evan Hunter. But the best-loved writer at Club Med was Jim Crumley because Jim is the best-loved writer anywhere he goes.
The Times list for May 6 came out today. Harlan Coben is #2, behind some guy named Tolkien. He’s huge in the UK and virtually a rock star in France, where the film based on Tell No One won a couple of Cesars, the French Oscar. Lehane, Pelecanos, Robinson, Barr and Hamilton have all done awfully well, to risk understatement. Crumley has since won a much deserved Dagger in the UK. We’ve lost Evan (better known, perhaps, as Ed McBain), but Donald Westlake just published a new Dortmunder book, which means there is a reason to rejoice.
When I remember our days in the Bahamas, where it rained almost every day, I think of us clustered around Jim Crumley in the bar, listening to his stories. About life, about writing, about the writing life. We were a happy, collegial bunch, without jealousy, although some of us may have had twinges of envy. (The distinction is important.) Seven years later . . . we still are.