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14 - A Novel Idea

Realizing that journalism was never really going to satisfy the writer in me, I had begun working on a novel back in my Herex days. As someone who had long escaped into hard-boiled mysteries, the idea for Red Diamond was a natural. My protagonist was downtrodden cabbie Simon Jaffe who is obsessed with pulp fiction, particularly tough guy private eye Red Diamond. After Jaffe has a trauma, he comes to believe he is Red Diamond and goes off on misadventures. I enjoyed writing in quasi-noir, trying to both emulate and parody idols like Raymond Chandler.

Back in my New York Magazine days, I had been able to get an agent. It was a time when magazine stories were known for inspiring books and movies. With three chapters and an outline, I was fortunate enough to get a commitment for a book from Tom Dunne, at St. Martin’s Press. Over the years, Tom was kind enough to publish eight of my books. He didn’t do much line editing, that was handled by a steady stream of young assistants. But in my limited contact with him, it was always a pleasure.

Tom Dunne allowed me to let me experiment within the mystery genre. So my first three were tongue-in-cheek private eye novels featuring Red Diamond, my fourth was a historical mystery (Bully!) with Theodore Roosevelt, my fifth a spy thriller (The Borzoi Control) under the pseudonym Scott Ellis, my sixth a police procedural (An Eye for an Eye).

I got lots of great reviews and Red Diamond, Private Eye was nominated for an Edgar.

For Red Diamond, Private Eye, reviewers said:

“It’s easily the best mystery book of the year” -The Washington Times

“A tour de force. Schorr has the tough guy lingo down pat.” -The New York Times

“Enormously entertaining” -Newsday

For Ace of Diamonds:

“…swift, raunchy, very funny adventure” -Publisher’s Weekly

“Marvelously engaging” -Newsday

“…breezy, fast-moving…vivid and evocative…and refreshingly different” -The Los Angeles Herald Examiner

For Diamond Rock:

“This Diamond is a gem in his own right…One of the most gifted detective fiction writers to come along in a long while.” -The Washington Post

“It’s a funny book, but it’s also touching and full of action…”-Houston Post

“…easily the most diabolically inventive detective creation of the 80s”-The Chicago Sun-Times

“…the premise is novel, the characters are engaging, and Mark Schorr writes with a wicked sense of humor, all of which are guaranteed to keep the reader entertained by this delightfully loony story”-Publishers Weekly

For Bully!:

“A lively period mystery...Fun fare for history and whodunit buffs”-Booklist

“…a lot of fun. Schorr’s research is good enough, his writing lively, the character engaging and apparently accurate”-The Minneapolis Star and Tribune

For An Eye for an Eye:

“…beautifully plotted and has the kind of accelerating pace that will have you hanging on for dear life during the last 50 pages of the book.” -The Los Angeles Daily News

“…intense, vivid…a meticulously crafted tale…” -The Orange County Register

“It’s one of the more interesting stories in quite awhile and the pace is breathtaking” -The Muncie Evening Press

For The Borzoi Control:

“What separates this excellent novel of espionage from the hundreds that will be published this year is not the plot (it’s ingenious but so are they all) nor its characters, but rather the research that went into it. Scott Ellis is either a man with inside knowledge of the CIA or a first-rate researcher with very good sources” -The Los Angeles Daily News

“The ending is nice…the level of paranoia sufficient; the weapon/violence quotient proper and the (genre) rhythm right. Keep Ellis under surveillance” -The Los Angeles Times

“Absorbing, mostly sensible spy melodrama set in Russia and the States with a wonderfully throbbing question mark at the center…a respectable piece of spycraft.” -Kirkus Reviews

For Overkill:

“Schorr's sentences, his paragraphs, his choice of words are superior to Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler. He can write rings around them, and does.” -The Los Angeles Daily News

For Seize the Dragon

“The best book ever written.” – Mark’s mother

For Gunpower:

“A $%#^ damn good read by a kickass author. I can’t think of any other book that I’ve found as compelling.” - Pope John Paul

Okay, the last two might be a dive into fiction.

Despite many great reviews, I remained a “mid list author.” Which meant I never broke through with a bestseller, either barely earning enough to make more than my advance, or not even selling enough to make back the advance. Even though there were subsidiary rights sold, meaning that many were published as paperbacks or sold in other countries. It’s great fun to have those foreign copies, in Japanese, French and Spanish.

I learned the hard way that promoting one’s book is as important as writing it.


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