Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â I have a new man in my life.Â And here he is.
On Saturday night, I attended the annual Black Orchid Banquet at the Cafe Soleil in New York City, hosted by the WolfeÂ Pack (otherwise known as the Nero Wolfe fan club).Â Â These are my kind of people.Â TheyÂ eat, they drink, they party, they sing bad songs, and they love mystery novelsÂ — specifically, Rex Stout’s mystery novels starring the immortal Nero Wolfe.Â
I’ve never met a more convivial bunch.
And I don’t say that just because they happened to honor my novel VANISHÂ with the 2006 Nero Award.Â I say this because these are the kind of people I could hang out with year after year, if only they lived closer to me.Â Their idea of a good time is to drink a lot, talk mysteries,Â and enjoy meals from The Cookbook, based on the spectacular repasts described in the Nero Wolfe mystery novels, by Rex Stout.Â For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Nero is what I would be if I was a guy. Well, a VERY overweight guy.Â He loves his food.Â He loves his beer.Â He grows orchids.Â He stays at home and pretty much sits in a chair all day.
Yep, that’s me.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â with Stephannie Russo
Around 80 people turned out toÂ dine at the private party.Â And the evening could only be described, in Nero’s immortal words of high praise, as “most satisfactory.”Â This was not your usual mystery awards night, primarily because the attendees weren’t mystery writers at all, nor even people in the publishing world.Â These were readers from all walks of life, from a former captain in Military Intelligence, to a former pediatrician (who once treatedÂ primates in the Bronx Zoo), and everyoneÂ in between.Â What unites them is a fondness (one might call it an obsession) for the character of Nero Wolfe –Â gourmand, private detective and orchid aficionado.Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Lawrence Block
Â The highlight of the evening was the hang-loose and hilarious keynote speech of Lawrence Block.Â It just so happens that I’ve been a fan of Block’s since the mid-80’s, when I was a wannabe writer, and an avid reader of Writers Digest.Â Block was a columnist and one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever come across.Â In fact, to this day, whenever aspiring writers ask if I recommend a particular book about novel writing, the first title on my list is Block’s TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT.Â If you only buy one book about writing, that’s the one you should have.Â
So now I’m home, and this gorgeous statue is sitting on my bookcase.Â I certainly didn’t expect to win it.Â In fact, I was completely taken by surprise when, a few weeks ago, I got the phone call about the award.
As a writer, I spend most of my year sitting alone at home fussing with a story that always seems like a certain disaster.Â I suffer through months of sleepless nights, thinking that I’ll never be able to turn this mess into a book.Â I thought VANISH would be my worst novel ever.Â I turned it in with the apologetic murmur, “I’m sorry.Â It’s the best I could do.”Â So it’s always a surprise when people actually like the result — and then invite me to a marvelous banquet and hand me a gorgeous statue.
It doesn’t make writing the next book any easier.Â But it sure does remind me that I managed to pull off the feat once before.Â And that maybe I can do it again.