Monday, January 10, 2011

Ruth Cavin

I first met Ruth Cavin at Bouchercon in 2000. My friend Walter Wager introduced us, but we didn't really get a chance to talk.

A few years later I submitted a manuscript in the Private Eye Writers/St Martin's Press PI Novel Competition, then forgot all about it. Really. I mean, I knew there was no way I would win, right?

Fast forward three months, and I'm in Wisconsin shooting a commercial when my cell phone went off. I sent the call to voice mail (hey, I was in the middle of a shot). When I retrieved the message it was from Ruth. I wish I could've saved it, she had this warm tone in her voice, as though she had something extraordinary to tell me. What she said was,

"Hi, this is Ruth Cavin calling from St Martin's Press. I have wonderful news for you, but you have to call me back to find out what."
Other folks might have just left a message saying, hey, you won the competition. But not Ruth, she wanted to do it person-to-person, in real time. That's the kind of lady she was.

Shortly after that, I went to see her in New York. I was nervous about meeting her, but she put me completely at ease. We talked about mysteries, Ross Thomas in particular, and my book. When she asked me what I thought about my book, I said I hoped she could help me make it better. She smiled and nodded and, of course, that's just what she did. Not just for me, but for so many writers who came before and after.

There are very few people who have helped me as much as Ruth. She knew so much more than me about mysteries, yet she always treated me with kindness and respect. I'll miss her very much.