Today, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kate's Mystery Books
. Owned and operated by Kate Mattes,
one of the first directors of Sisters in Crime
and the recent winner of a Raven from the Mystery Writers of America,
this tiny shop has been instrumental in launching a thousand careers. Others at the party tonight (6:30-8:30 if you're in the neighborhood) will tell the more famous tales. This is mine.
I've told this story a dozen times or more, and it's all true. Kate Mattes got me started writing mysteries.
You see, I used to write serious nonfiction. I was a journalist who wrote books. Which meant I wrote serious, researched books on serious, heavy topics. But what I read for fun, obsessively and happily, were mysteries. Which meant that I got to know Kate Mattes, because her store, Kate's Mystery Books
here in Cambridge, is sort of ground zero for mystery lovers – a place where authors sign, writers meet, and the recommendations are always good.
So when my last, maybe not so heavy book came out, I ended up talking to Kate about it. That book, The Feline Mystique
, came out in 2002. That December, as Kate was planning her usual holiday bash, she said I should come sign at the party. I said, "But Kate, Feline Mystique
is not a mystery."
She responded, "Believe it or not, Clea, there's a big crossover between women who love cats and mystery readers." (Those of you know Kate's store, by the way, will know that in addition to books, the first floor is packed with black cat memorabilia.)
And so I did. I happily joined the ranks of Linda Barnes and Robert Parker, Kate Flora and Dana Cameron, BarbaraNeely, and more than a dozen others in signing and greeting and laughing and eating. And drinking. There was drinking. And so, at the end of the evening, when Kate turned to me and said, "Clea, you should write a mystery," it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
I started the next day.
(Pictured: Kate and her Raven at the 2008 Edgar Awards.)