Sunday, April 21, 2024

Fred Weisel

Here's a good article from our local newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, about a friend of mine. I worked with Fred Weisel (or as I know him better, "Jonas," because he's a fancy writer with different pen names he uses for different purposes) in a small science-writing firm, where he was my boss and editor. 

He was one of the best editors I've ever had, one who could not only instantly spot the problem in something you'd written but knew exactly how to fix it. Since that company went out of business--gosh, more than 20 years ago!--our careers have followed similar arcs as freelance science writers and then as book authors. We still get together for lunch every couple of months to compare notes and gripe about our publishers (kidding, Charlie!). There aren't many people I can talk shop with and he's my favorite.

The hook of the article is that Jonas, who writes mysteries set in our local Wine Country, recently won the prestigious Nero Award for Best American Mystery Novel of the Year! He beat bestselling authors with big publishers who actually have marketing budgets. For an obscure author with a small independent publisher, it's an astonishing accomplishment. If there's any justice, he won't be obscure for long.

Jonas told me one of my very favorite stories about being a writer. I'll give the short version but his is better. In his first book, Jonas had one character kill another with a grape knife, a short curved blade used in vineyards to harvest wine grapes. But he wasn't sure if that would actually work, so he went to the hardware store to buy one. 

"Odd time of year to buy a grape knife," said the clerk, making conversation. "Oh, I'm not harvesting grapes," said Jonas. "I just want to see if you could use it to kill someone." The clerk's face went ashen as he slowly backed away, and Jonas was in the parking lot before he realized why. 


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