Any industry is going to be defined—for better or for worse; wholly, or at least in part—by its leading brands.
Ask people what they think of discount retailers, and they’ll probably grimace. Why? Because Wal-Mart has a history of unfair labor practices, of ruthlessly squeezing pennies out of its suppliers, and of devastating small businesses whenever it moves into town.
Ask people what they think of search engines, and they’ll probably smile. Why? Because Google gives away many of its products for free, has committed itself to sustainability in all forms, and has a long-standing corporate philosophy encapsulated by the motto: “Don’t be evil.”
This brings me to David Baldacci. Because in the case of crime fiction, he’s unquestionably one of our leading brands. His first book, Absolute Power, came out in 1996 and became a runaway bestseller. Over the last quarter century, he’s proven it was no fluke. Year after year, novel after novel, he tells captivating stories that readers love.
I’ve had David on my mind lately, because he gave my upcoming release, Unthinkable, an absolutely sparkling blurb (in part he called it “a fast, furious, fun and deliciously twisty tale told with the deft and accomplished hand of a veteran storyteller,” causing me to just about die from happiness).
Now, my interns may have had a little fun with my man crush on Baldacci in their latest newsletter. But since this blog is my space, not theirs, I have to tell you, in all sincerity:
In addition to all his other accomplishments, David Baldacci is also a heck of a good guy.
You know what I paid him for that blurb? Nothing. And you know what benefit he received from taking the time out of his busy life to read my book and comment thoughtfully on it? I’ll give you a hint: It lives next door to nothing. (Somehow, I don’t think having his name on my cover is going to do much for his Q-rating.)
He did it for me—just as he’s done it for author friends of mine like Jason Pinter, Allison Leotta, and others—simply because he wants to support the genre, leveraging his fame to give a hand up to writers who are lower on the sales ladder than him.
He also gives back in other ways. His Wish You Well Foundation, which promotes adult and family literacy, is largely self-funded; and it has helped thousands of people unshackle themselves from the terrible burden of illiteracy. He has also donated his time, talents, and fortune to dozens of other charities, often with little notice and no expectation of reward.
And, happily for the crime fiction industry, Baldacci is the rule, rather than the exception, when it comes to our leading brands.
When I think of so many of the legends I’ve had the privilege to interact with over the years, even sometimes just briefly—Lee Child, Sue Grafton, Harlan Coben, Mary Higgins Clark, Walter Moseley, Michael Connelly, and on, and on, and on—one of the things that unites them is their consistent generosity of spirit.
Sure, part of that it simply being grateful to a genre that has given them so much. But the way they have chosen to live out that gratitude has been to the benefit of others around them.
It’s honestly one of the things that makes the mystery community such a wonderful group of people to hang out with. And it’s certainly a reason why, even for those of us whose career sales are not in the tens of millions, being a crime fiction author is one of the coolest jobs around.
So what do I really think of David Baldacci?
I think we’re lucky to have him.