Thursday, January 21, 2010

John Sandford

I'm humbled.

I wrote about my flux over the John Sandford novel I'm reading (previous post) and his son responded. (If only we could all have such courage and commitment following us wherever we went in life.) Sort of reminds me of the movie Avatar, though I couldn't quite tell you why.

Could be that right now I'm listening to Etta James telling me that "You Don't Know What Love Is."

At any rate, our exchange was honest and true. Here is the warrior's (Avatar hangover) response to my request to reprint his clarification:

Oh, feel free to print it. I just fear it's going to sound really defensive, because... it's kind of defensive. That's the problem with defending things, I guess.
I also have a problem I picked up in academia: lecturing someone is evidently considered "rude" in real life, whereas in academia it's generally acknowledged as a reasonable and very efficient method of rapidly communicating information. Maybe I'm just too sensitive to maybe possibly insulting people unintentionally, but that's only because I've done so many times before. Alas.

So, you get the drift that this kid is cool.

So, when you read his response, it will mean even more:

Just a comment (or, rather, an explanation) here, but let me give you the context first, since that's actually relevant.
I'm the son of John Sandford, as well as his webmaster. Every day (or every other day) I scan the blogs to see who's been saying things about him, and what, and why. It's not for any real reason other than a desire on my part to see what the current "feeling" is about him. Or something like that.
One of the more prevalent things I've encountered, with regard to the Virgil books, is that they were co-authored by someone who's barely credited at all. Some go as far as saying that they were totally written by this "co-author" and just stamped with the JS seal of approval (or somesuch). You didn't do either of those things - you just speculated - but I figured I'd write in and explain what's going on.
If you look at it, the dedication doesn't actually say "coauthor". It says "written with" and that's a lot more ambiguous. "Dark of the Moon" was "written with" Larry Millett, and the next two books in the series were also "written with" people: Chuck Logan for "Heat Lightning" and Bill Gardner for "Rough Country". They didn't actually do any of the actual writing (although Logan TRIED, to his credit, producing a far-too-long and too-detailed outline which got mostly scrapped). They were, in essence, glorified research assistants, doing much the same job I did from 1997 to 2004, when my dad and I shared an office in St.Paul. If the author needs to know about such-and-such a town, the R.A. can go there and check it out and report back. And research aside, there's the sit-around-and-brainstorm bull sessions that really help the book along. Again, the kind of stuff that I did when we shared the same office. But Millett, Logan, and Gardner didn't actually do any of the WRITING.
For the third book of the Kidd series, I was credited in the author's note with helping the book. For the fourth in the series, my sister and I were both credited. I can tell you that we did not do any of the actual writing - that was 100% John Sandford - and it was the exact same kind of work that Millett, Logan, and Gardner did for their respective "co-authorships".
This doesn't stop people from writing in and complaining about it. Or, worse, writing to each other and complaining in a kind of self-verifying echo chamber where there's no chance of The Truth Of The Matter getting out. When you have six people mutually bitching about how the author's sold out and doesn't even write his own books any more, without contacting ANYone to even ask if that's what's going on, you get a perfect environment for rumors to become "fact". Yes, that makes me sad too. There's nothing I can do about it, and a long time afterwards I'll get email from someone saying that they've been on the outs with Sandford ever since he stopped writing his own books.
Anyway... I just wanted to say that the weird scene transitions you've seen in the recent Sandford books ARE all-Sandford, and not "inspired" by the mysterious and un-credited "co-author" so many people have accused him of using as a ghost-writer. Not that you said that they were, but I kind of felt that implication. So... yeah. Now you know.
Also... I'm sorry if this email comes off as sounding really arrogant or mean or whatever. It's not at all intended to be that. I'm just trying to correct a (possibly) mistaken impression out of a (probably) misplaced case of "Someone Is Wrong On The Internet" syndrome. Just so you know.

I'm sitting here right now to tell you that if I was a John Sandford fan before, I'm an even bigger one now. A jerk simply doesn't get this kind of intelligent, committed support.

Think I might even start reviewing some of his books online. Who knows?

All I can say is . . .

Truth is the heart. And when the heart is good, we're all better for it.

Thank you, Ros. I'm in your debt.

CR: Dark of the Moon John Sanford (and Ros, just so you know, I'm a slow reader . . . nothing wrong with the story here).

It's all better with friends.


  1. OK, in addition to penning some masterful books (John Sandford was responsible for some of my shiveriest shivers as an adolescent) he is obviously a heckuva father as well. To have raised such an articulate and self-aware son, and to inspire his kids to want to spend such time with him.

    And Peg--I knew you were famous! Lee Child is totally lurking on your site, and now he knows Jack R. made my short list ;)

  2. Yeah, those lurkers . . . gotta be careful they don't take advantage. Or something.

    I'm with you, Jenny. John Sandord, via his son, just jumped up a few more notches.

    Life is good and the world has righted itself again. Superman can rest.

  3. Peg - very interesting; I never thought Sanford was doing the James Patterson thing and now we know for sure. My son would be the first to nail someone who even hinted of such with my books either. I was being published in the bargain basement paperback world of Berkley Bks. and once asked my editor if I had to wait for Sanford to die before they brought me out in hardcover, and the editor said "That's about right, Rob." My Instinct Series was in the same vein, so to speak. I have always respected Sanford's work; he does a great job. I love his Davenport character. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Robert Walker

    1. I agree, I love Davenport an Flowers, I've read every one. Wish there were more. I have Flowers book ordered coming out in Oct.

  4. From my friend, debut novelist Kelly Irvin:

    Excellent post. Nice that you gave the son lots of affirmation for his loyalty. It’s neat that Sanford gives his kids writing credits for doing research for him. I really like his books, too. Haven’t read the latest. Will now.

    Kelly Irvin
    A Deadly Wilderness, January 2010
    from Five Star / Gale / Cengage
    "A solid romantic suspense debut . . ."
    --Publishers Weekly

  5. Rob, you are a writer's writer. One of these days we are gonna have to meet and share a toast.

    And my friend Kelly, you've gotta read these Virgil Flowers books. Another entire character to get into, with Lucas Davenport as a cameo. How cool is that?

  6. I love John Sandford's work! I still haven't tried the Flowers books, but I intend to. So terrific that his son took time to respond to your post.

  7. Sandford is my number one favorite writer. No one I've read can do dialogue as realistic as him. I love all his characters, especially what a human superman Lucas is. The latest Virgil book is next on my TBR pile. I've been saving it so I can savor it.

    Thanks, Peg, for giving me a chance to say this.

    1. I've read every one of his Flowers and Davenport series and have the one coming in Oct. ordered of Flowers. I dearly love Mr. Sanford's work.

  8. I want more of the Kidd novels too.

  9. I'm delighted to read this post, Peg. I've read all the Sandford books, except the last Virgil and the last Kidd. ALL OF THEM. I did think Heat Lightning started off a bit slow, but it picked up speed as it went along. Virgil is a great character, as is Davenport, although I wish he never married. Glad to hear Sandford hasn't turned into Patterson. Because of his acknowledgements, I wondered. I would have been greatly disappointed.

    Polly Iyer

  10. I've loved all the Sanford books - one of the few writers I've been able to read back to back to back to back(I discovered him only recently so I read them all voraciously). It never occurred to me he wasn't doing his own writing, but that was a great post.

    Julia Pomeroy

  11. Most appreciated. I think all of us can relate to finding half-truths about ourselves or our work on the Internet. This was handled in a classy way. I hope my son would respond the same way on my behalf.

  12. I am a long-time fan, but this defensive (I mean, explanatory) note from the son made me ask: Whose idea is really, really mean antique dealers? (Invisible Prey.) Not working for me.

  13. Who cares if he has three ex-wives and a problem with commitment? Virgil Flowers is my kind of guy--or would be if I were just a little younger and had a little more energy. No matter who contributed or how these stories developed, they feel like Sandford to me.

  14. Who cares if he has three ex-wives, a problem with commitment, and a fishing habit he can't kick? Virgil Flowers is my kind of guy. No matter who contributed to his stories, the primary feel (to me) is all Sandford.

  15. And, as John's editor, I can back up everything Ros says. These books are all Sandford.

  16. Now I wish I would've cleaned up those gerunds.


  17. i love all john sanford books particularly lucas davenport and am now getting into virgil flowers. was so glad to see the new prey book coming i pre-ordered it. keep them coming.

  18. Only recently did i discover Mr.Sandford's books.I now know,"all His books," are much,much better than average. I am a "pro song writer" country music. It's a tough row to hoe, but more than worth it.A great book or song, is really beyond words, it's heart felt and cherished. " LIKE A CHILD." Thanks!

  19. Thanks for posting this. I just started Bad Blood and wondered about the "written in cooperation with" statement. It did make me think that Sandford had gone the route of Paterson, Clancy, et al. Perhaps a less ambiguous acknowledgment at the front of the book would be better, though I guess most readers don't care. It did seem to me that if someone was imitating Sandford, they were doing a heck of a good job - the style was recognizably his.

  20. My favourite author. Now would someone please start a petition to get another Kidd novel written. Seriously underrated character