Behind The Book: CATCHING WATER IN A NET

The summer of 2000 found this Italian-Russian Brooklyn boy working in an office in Columbia, South Carolina. A fish out of water. In the evenings I would write, working on my first full length novel. And then one day it was complete. Now what?

It was literally impossible to get a publisher to look at the work unsolicited. So I was forced to go the prescribed route, attempting to find a Literary Agent who would champion my novel. All of the agencies I researched would only accept query letters; would not even take a peek at a chapter or two. If I imagined I could write a good book; I learned quickly that I could not write a convincing query letter. The responses were short form letters which all said the same thing. Thanks but no thanks.

When Van Morrison was asked what would you do if you never sold a song or a record he answered without hesitation that he would not stop creating because, he confessed, I can’t not write. Vincent van Gogh said If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Determined to thwart discouragement, I did the only thing I could think to do. I sat in front of an archaic Dell desktop PC and began to fill in a blank page.
I wished to write something unlike what I had written before. I wished to take my mind off rejection. Without much premeditation it began as a first-person narrative set in the office of a San Francisco private eye; and displayed humor that had been absent from my earlier efforts. I wrote ten pages.

A few days after the barrage of rejection letters I was surfing the internet (more like rowing back in the days of dial-up) when I stumbled across the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for Best First Private Eye Novel. I decided immediately that I would finish a private eye novel and submit it before the deadline, which was less than a month away. Apparently for the book’s characters and dialogue, and certainly not for its convoluted plot, Catching Water in a Net was chosen for the award. The prize was publication by St. Martin’s Minotaur (after a considerable amount of editing) and an advance against royalties. Holy smoke.

Exactly one year later I received a final hardback copy in the mail. It was a wonder to behold, and a thrill to hold. The novel was released on October 1, 2001; less than a month after 9/11, making my first Bouchercon World Mystery Convention both an exhilarating and somber occasion. SMP gave me two more shots before deciding that the Jake Diamond series, though well received by critics and readers alike, was not what they considered a cash cow. I continued to write, of course, what other choice did I have; but the work seemed destined to remain out of the public realm. And then, the net held water once again when Down&Out Books reached out to me and gave Jake Diamond and J. L. Abramo a second shot.

Over the course of eighteen months, D&O re-issued Catching Water in a Net, Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity as eBooks and published the stand-alone crime thriller Gravesend in eBook and trade paperback. Catching Water in a Net is now available in trade paperback for the first time. A prequel to the Jake Diamond series, Chasing Charlie Chan, will be released in June, 2013, and a fourth Jake Diamond novel will follow.

We write, we paint, we sing because we need to. And if we are persistent, and honest, and lucky, perhaps we can catch water in a net and reach an audience. We keep clutching and counting. And we keep writing.

J. L. Abramo was born in Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday. Abramo earned a BA in Sociology at the City College of New York and a Masters in Social Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Catching Water in a Net (2001), winner of the PWA/SMP prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; and the subsequent Jake Diamond mysteries Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity. Abramo is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and the Screen Actors Guild. His latest crime thriller, Gravesend, has recently been released by Down&Out Books.