The Noir Life of Douglas Anne Munson

The LA Times’ Scott Timberg has an in-depth piece about the life and career of Douglas Anne Munson, who wrote mystery novels as Mercedes Lambert. Though Munson died in 2003, her final manuscript, GHOSTTOWN, is only published this month by Five Star Press:

Her advocates describe her as a potentially major figure, ahead of

her time for her hard-bitten female protagonists and her portrayal of

multicultural L.A. in love and squalor. Jonathan Kellerman calls the

book “one of the most evocative L.A. crime novels ever written,” and

such writers as Hubert Selby Jr., Kate Braverman and Carolyn See

championed her early work.

The first two books in the trilogy,

long out of print, will be reissued next spring by Stark House, with an

introduction by acclaimed Galway, Ireland, detective writer Ken Bruen.


hard not to read the tale of her life as that of a gifted artist, a

literary martyr, destroyed by a heartless publishing establishment. But

like a Raymond Chandler plot, it’s not really that simple. “She

wrote mystery novels,” said Michael Connelly, who never knew Munson but

called her first novel, “El Niño,” and the bruised idealism of its

protagonist, a major influence on his work. “But she was probably the

biggest mystery of all.”

I’ll have more to say about GHOSTTOWN in the not-too-distant future but there’s one comment by Munson’s agent, Anne Borchardt, about the book’s rejected publication by Viking that requires comment:

“When you have a series, you can’t take one of the books

to a new publisher,” Borchardt said. Potential publishers, she said,

wonder why a book in a series needs a new home. Viking told her that

there was too much time in between volumes in the series and that the

previous books hadn’t sold especially well. The book, then, was


Well, no. Some authors, most recently Chris Grabenstein and Alex Berenson, have done just that. Going back a few years, Janet Evanovich left Scribner and landed at St. Martin’s Press where bestsellerdom found her. I’m sure many other examples can be cited in the backblogs. The other reasons Borchardt cites – most notably the lack of sales – has more to do with it than merely shifting the series to another publisher after only two books.