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The Sirens of Suspense


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Dianne Emley is a Los Angeles Times bestselling author and has received critical acclaim for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and the Iris Thorne mysteries (including Pushover out in 2013). Her short stories have been published in Shaken—Stories for Japan and Literary Pasadena: The Fiction Edition (2013). Her books have been translated into six languages.A Los Angeles native, she splits her time between L.A. and the Central California wine country.

"Emley masterfully twists, turns, and shocks." —Tess Gerritsen

Find Dianne on Twitter and Facebook.

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Thank you, Chantelle and the Sirens of Suspense, for allowing me to share your blog today. I’m discussing my experiences republishing my first series, the Iris Thorne mysteries, which were originally published in the 1990s and were long out-of-print.

Iris Thorne is a savvy, sexy, and sassy investment counselor who prowled the streets of Los Angeles in her red Triumph sports car in the “greed is good” late 1980s and early 1990s. There are five books in the series. The first four, Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, and Foolproof are on-sale now for the first time as e-books and trade paperbacks. The fifth, Pushover, published in the United Kingdom but never in the U.S., will be out in 2013.

Before republishing the Iris Thorne books, I decided to first reread them. After all, I hadn’t looked at them for nearly two decades. Of course, rereading the Thorne books inevitably led to some “gentle” editing. The passage of time let me see the books with fresh eyes and I learned some interesting things.

Cold Call holds a place in my heart as not just my first published novel, but it was also the first novel I’d ever written. While toiling in business middle management, I harbored a faint yet persistent dream to be a novelist. I wrote Cold Call over three years, writing from 4:30 to 6:30 on weekday mornings before I went to my day job and on weekends. When the book was sold at auction to Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster, it was a dream come true.

Like most first-time novelists, my first book was a smidgen autobiographical, but I’d deny friends’ claims that Iris is me. Of course, we shared traits. We were both thirty-something women, freshly minted MBAs making our way in the then very chauvinistic business world. We were both single, blonde, clothes horses with active social lives. Oh, and we both drove a 1972 Triumph TR6. Rereading the books through the lens of time, I have to admit that, yeah, Iris was me--but more of a superhero version of me. She had a better job, made a lot more money, lived in a hipper apartment, was bolder, savvier, and always had great comeback lines. If only real-life dialogue could be edited to perfection.

It was interesting to encounter this doppelganger of my younger self. Was I really such a slave to fashion? Did I really have my finger so acutely on the pulse of trends? Did my social life really consume so much of my time and energy? Some of Iris’s materialism stems from the go-go era she inhabited, but it’s also a generational thing. She was young, single, carefree, and enjoying her life in what was a more innocent time. Good for you, Iris.

Another realization was the looming tsunami of high technology. In Cold Call, the brokers in Iris’s firm use phones with cords. Few people had “car phones.” Iris’s computer monitor has a blinking green cursor. Her phone message machine at home has a tape. When I first started editing the books, I thought I’d update these technological references. But the books are so of their era, I mostly left them as is.

When I wrote Cold Call, I saw it as a stand-alone and intended to follow-up with a completely different type of book. My editor thought otherwise. Sue Grafton was early into her Kinsey Millhone books and mystery series featuring strong female protagonists were rising in demand. I learned I was writing a series and I bristled. I set out, somewhat naively, to make the subsequent Iris books as different as possible within the confines of a series. I didn’t appreciate that readers want series books to have continuity, of course, but also be similar in tone.

The second Iris, Slow Squeeze, is much darker than Cold Call. In it, Iris and a co-worker fall for the manipulations of a skilled grifter. Troubles in Iris’s personal life make her vulnerable. Her frailties cause her to do some unflattering things. When Slow Squeeze came out, a bookseller called me, outraged, and demanded, “What did you do to Iris?” I got both my glowing best and my blistering worst reviews for that book. Rereading Slow Squeeze, I loved it all over again. It’s a little noir gem and a terrific Los Angeles novel, IMHO, and just maybe my favorite Iris. I give that young writer a pat on the back for her audacity.

When I was writing the third Iris, Fast Friends, traumatic events in my personal life led me to revisit a troubling period of my past. I mined those experiences and folded them into fiction. Fast Friends is a story of friendship, innocence lost, and long-buried secrets that pollute the present. Rereading it, I was surprised by its bare emotions. It’s many people’s favorite Iris.

In book number four, Foolproof, Iris again confronts the responsibilities of friendship, but this time the setting is the burgeoning computer gaming industry. This was something I knew about from the inside as my longtime day job was with a small software company. Again seeking to push the envelope, I broke a cardinal rule of writing a mystery. I thought I was being bold. Rereading Foolproof, I loved it, but have to admit that rule-breaking plot thread unnecessarily complicates the book. Still the friendship aspects shine through.

Revisiting my first books, I came to realize that while I’m a more skilled writer now, back then, I was a more fearless writer.

While the Iris Thornes are far from cozy, I wanted to go darker. The Irises were prologue for what would come next, writing about a real-life sleuth—Detective Nan Vining—who inhabits a dark world indeed. Reading the Iris Thorne novels with fresh eyes let me appreciate how fun they are. How fun Iris is. They are great books. I’m delighted to introduce them to new fans and enjoy them again with Iris’s original fans.





HAS YOUR WRITING OR HAVE YOUR READING HABITS CHANGED OVER TIME? Tell us, or ask Dianne a question by commenting below or visit us and share your thoughts on our Facebook page. and be entered to win a trade paperback of your choice of the four republished Iris Thorne novels!

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