Friday, March 5, 2021

Remembering Paul D. Marks


Eric Campbell,  from Down and Out Books, said yesterday:

"Earlier this week we lost a great talent in the world of crime fiction. Paul D. Marks passed away, but he left us with a legacy of literature that will live on forever. Paul had the ability to create compelling full-length novels, but was equally adept at writing short stories. His work was nominated for numerous awards, and he won several of them.  Down & Out Books was honored to work with Paul on many projects and sends its deepest sympathies to his family and wide network of friends and associates. He will be greatly missed."

No one ever spoke a truer word. Today, some of the Minds who knew Paul are sharing our memories.

Cathy Ace: Paul was quiet, and unassuming; a gentleman, and a gentle man. His passion for the LA of a bygone era, music of a bygone era, and movies of a bygone era was significant, and something he shared whenever he could. He also shared his home with animals who needed a family with big hearts and generous souls – and Paul and Amy definitely possessed those, as well as an obviously deep love and respect for each other. Since Paul’s treatment began, back in November, he, Amy, and I have corresponded rather more than usual; despite everything he was facing, and fighting, his emails never dwelled on that – his natural demeanor was to look ahead. Paul’s latest book, The Blues Don’tCare, is excellent; it richly deserved Suspense Magazine’s award for Best Historical Novel of 2020. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to consider doing so; it evokes 1940s LA in all its glory and grime, while weaving a layered, complex story using pitch-perfect language, which creates an utterly engaging noirish mood from the start. It certainly allowed all of Paul’s passions, and his ability as a writer, to shine. Oh, and by the way, it and Coast to Coast Noir are eligible for the awards for 2020 books, for which many of us are currently considering nominations. I shall not be alone in missing Paul. My heartfelt condolences to Amy.

Susan Shea: 

“Bobby had almost made it. Today was the last day of the year; tomorrow would not only bring a new year but a new millennium, the twenty-first century. How Bobby would have loved to see it. He was always excited about things like birthdays and Christmas and New Year’s. Everyone had to die sooner or later, but she wished he could havelived just a few more days.”  THE BLUES DON’T CARE

We writers, and music lovers, and film fans, and animal lovers wish our friend, the talented Paul D. Marks, had lived longer. I met him a few times. He was quiet, modest, even shy on those occasions. He always wore a hat. He never bragged about his time in Hollywood, although he told some pretty funny firsthand stories about the dysfunctional but sometimes generous world of movie-making. I always had the sense he was listening, listening to everything and everyone, maybe looking for pieces of our personal stories that might possibly fit into one of his fictional ones.

Frank ZafiroI never met Paul in person, but I had the pleasure of reading his work and then interviewing him on my podcast last April. I was struck by what a kind man he seemed, and how thoughtful. We covered some thorny ground in that interview, including the issue of race. One of his books takes place against the backdrop of the L.A. riots in 1992. The story most definitely confronts the subject of race and perceptions of it at a very individual level. I was impressed at how he navigated a difficult topic with equal parts compassion and brutal honesty, both in the book and during the interview. 


We talked about his newest book, too, The Blues Don't Care, which I hadn't read at the time and sadly still sits in my TBR queue. Paul's obvious passion for it secured a permanent spot in the queue until it gets read, though. His first book showed me what a talented writer he was, and talking to him revealed his kindness, his measured thinking, and his passion. All of that adds up to a near certainty that it'll be a tremendous book. Honestly, I wish I'd read it sooner, just to have been able to fire him a quick note to let him know I'd finished and to share a couple of thoughts. I know how nice it is to get that from a reader, particularly if s/he's also another writer. Paul did it exactly that for me after he read The Last Horseman. I saved my comments for White Heat until we were talking before the interview recording, but I would have liked to have shot him a message about The Blues Don't Care, because I know he was pretty excited about it. Like all of us fools, I thought I had more time.

Jim ZiskinPaul was a wonderfully talented writer. I enjoyed his novels and short stories immensely. It seemed that every time I turned around, there was another story of his in Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock magazines. Paul’s books and stories won awards and accolades, including the Shamus and Macavity. His short story, “Windward” was included in the 2018 Best American Mystery Short Stories anthology.

But I’ll remember Paul as a kind soul who was always willing to lend a hand to other writers. He loved Los Angeles and its history. That’s why I asked him to fact-check my fifth book, Cast the First Stone, which was set in 1962 Los Angeles. His insights were so important for that book that I thanked him in my acknowledgments. 

My heartfelt condolences go out to Amy, Paul’s loving wife. I’ll miss Paul the writer and Paul the good guy.

At Bouchercon, 2018, St Pete, FL

Terry Shames: It’s strange how you can see people at conferences, exchange a few words, read their books, read their posts on social media, and feel like you know them. But in reality, I hardly knew Paul at all. He always had a good word and a smile. I almost wrote a “quick” word, but Paul never seemed to be in too much of a hurry to stop and say hello. I’ve been reading about how he helped other writers, how he loved dogs, how he adored his wife and his close friends, and I wish I had been able to know him more fully. I just read his latest book, The Blues Don’t Care and most of all I wish I had had the chance to tell him how much I enjoyed it.

Paul's Dogs

Catriona McPhersonI feel incredibly lucky on account of one of those random hang-outs we sometimes get at conferences, where suddenly it’s late and most people have gone to bed, and there’s a comfy corner in the hotel lobby.

This was Left Coast Crime, Monterey, and on the other comfy couch that late night were Paul and Amy Marks. It might have been the first time I met Paul face to face; it was certainly the only time I spent so much time talking to him. What did we talk about? California - well, LA; cats and dogs; books and publishing and awards and awards dinners; blogging and traveling and . . . life.

Since then, I never managed more than a quick-ish check-in as we passed en route to different panels but Paul was one of those people you’re always deeply pleased to see. He was never ragged or hyper, even as the rest of us wore out over the course of a convention weekend; never gushing or bragging in a sea of self-promotion. He was always just listening, smiling, thinking (plotting, probably), self-contained without being reserved, self-assured, apparently without judging anyone else’s insecurities, and utterly genial. An out-and-out good guy. 

Brenda Chapman: While I never met Paul in person, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know him through his posts on 7 Criminal Minds and as friends of Facebook. Paul and I occasionally offered each other kudos and thumbs up on Facebook posts and I enjoyed our interactions, virtual as they might have been. The things I learned about Paul were first and foremost his love for Amy and their dogs; his fascinating screenwriter past in L.A. movie circles (his post about being in Gene Kelly’s house to drop off a screenplay is the stuff of movies); his deep knowledge of movies and the industry; and his enjoyment of being in the outdoors. I was particularly happy for his recent writing success and know this was a boost as he was receiving treatment. In his last posts, Paul stayed positive and strong through what I know was a very difficult time both physically and emotionally. My deepest sympathies go out to Amy and all of Paul’s family and friends, and I hope that all the good memories will help to sustain you through this terribly sad time. 

Dietrich Kalteis: I first met Paul, and his lovely wife Amy, at Bouchercon quite some time ago and we stayed in touch over the years. He was always very supportive and generous, and a friend who I will truly miss.

Here’s a quote from an interview we did together where his depth of spirit shines through:

“They say “write what you know,” but if we did that what we could write about would be from a very small frame of reference. But we all share the human experience and that, both the good and the bad, can be filtered into any character. There’s a lot of division in society today. People want to break you down into this group or that group. But something I find really interesting is how, in my opinion, we have more things in common than we do things that separate us.” — Paul D. Marks   

Journey well, my friend.

Buy links and nominating details:

WHITE HEAT (Shamus Award winner)




COAST TO COAST: Private Eyes From Sea to Shining Sea 

COAST TO COAST: Murder From Sea to Shining Sea 

  • (Suspense Magazine's best of 2020)
  • eligible for the 2021 Anthony Award for best anthology.
  • "Nowhere Man" eligible for the 2021 Anthony Award for best short story


  • (Suspense magazine's Best of 2020)
  • eligible for the 2021 Anthony Award for best paperback original


Lisa Ciarfella said...

Reading this, I'm overwhelmed at this loss to so many. Paul was one of a kind. A real gentle soul, treasured in the writing community. He was so kind, encouraging and cool to me as a new-iah writer. Always had time for me when I needed help with the writing.
Miss u already Paul!

Amy Marks said...

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Paul. He always tried to be supportive of other writers. I think he felt he owed the writing community for all the people who helped him along the way and he wanted to pay it forward. I'm comforted by knowing that Paul made an impact and was loved by so many. He would be so happy to read this.