RARA-AVIS: Tom Kakonis

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 13 Mar 2001

When I first joined this group, a couple of years ago, one of the questions I asked was "What ever happened to Tom Kakonis?" He had written a handful of very fine hardboiled novels in the late Eighties/early Nineties, most memorably the excellent MICHIGAN ROLL and CRISS-CROSS, which I'm convinced is going to go down as a neglected classic, one of those collectibles you're going to have spend big bucks for at trade shows in the future.

Well, Mr. Crider and a couple of others told me that he published a couple of novels under a pseudonym and then promptly dropped off the radar screen. Imagine my surprise the other day when Mr. Kakonis himself emailed me! The internet -- you've gotta love it. :) Messages have a life of their own.

Here's an excerpt of his message to me, posted here with his permission:

"In 1993 I published the third and final novel in the Waverly series, entitled SHADOW COUNTER (set in Las Vegas). The publisher was the same as for DOUBLE DOWN, i.e., Dutton, and S.C. fulfilled my two book contract obligation to them. My agent next negotiated another two book contract with Hyperion, but Dutton had a ten percent topping clause they chose to invoke, so I was stuck with them for those subsequent two novels. A Dutton editor, who shall remain nameless, insisted that I publish those novels under a pseudonym, using the implied threat of no promotion if I balked at this idea. Consequently, and foolishly, I agreed and those books came out under the name "Adam Barrow": FLAWLESS, 1995, and BLIND SPOT, 1997. Meantime, the whole publishing industry was undergoing a sea change which I, a Midwestern waif, was utterly unaware of; that is, we mid-list writers were being dropped like bad habits in favor of the big and bankable names. As a result, neither of the Barrow books received any promotion whatsoever and both died quick and painless (to everyone but me) deaths, though FLAWLESS did somehow make it to People magazine's
"chiller of the week" status.
  Anyway (and to wind down this melancholy tale), after that debacle all of my proposals and sample chapter ideas were summarily rejected, as was the fate of a novel written in silence and desperation and completed in the summer of 1997. By then I guess I felt that the game was no longer worth the candle, in the words of the old saw. Of course, when I see a message like yours (forwarded to me by a nephew, by the way) I'm almost tempted to get back into the fray one more time, and I do thank you for the kind words on my earlier novels. I'm particularly pleased that there's at least one other person out there who enjoyed CRISS CROSS, which I believe, on reflection, may be the best work I've done."

So Mr. Kakonis is yet another victim of the midlist crunch. You know, I still occasionally get messages from people who are interested in Mr. Kakonis's work
--I really believe he still has an audience. Perhaps somewhere out there is a publisher who feels the same way.

If anyone would like to get in touch with Mr. Kakonis, contact me off-list and I'll provide you with his email address.


===== Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com

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