Two authors-turned-book publishers are poised to shock mystery fans the world over when Brash Books, a company specializing in mysteries, police procedurals, thrillers and spy novels launches in September.
The company is the brainchild of Lee Goldberg, a writer and producer of many successful television series and the author of more than 40 books; and Joel Goldman, a former trial attorney who went on to write a number of highly successful and award-winning thriller book series.
Before founding Brash Books, the two had enjoyed success in self-publishing original and backlist titles for years. “We both entered the self-publishing arena about the same time,” said Goldberg, “and between the two of us over the last 3-4 years, we’ve sold about 800,000 copies of our books. Friends have come to us and said, ‘guys, can you tell us how to do this? ‘And Joel said to me, ‘we’re on to something here. This could be a business.’ Instead of giving all these authors advice on how to publish books, we could publish them. The more we thought about it, the more we realized we had something special.”
Goldman began his career as a writer in the early ‘90s. “When I was practicing law, I was in a phase where I was reading every mystery I could get my hands on,” he said. “One of my partners came to me and complained about another partner and asked me for advice. I said, ‘Well, let’s write a murder mystery and kill the son of a bitch off in the first chapter, and spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it.’ And so I did, and that was my personal epiphany and I never looked back.”
Goldberg’s professional work in crime drama led him to a deep respect for the genre. “I’ve done a lot of work in television,” he said. “I’ve had an opportunity to work on a lot of other kinds of dramas and I’ve always migrated back to crime. That’s because crime and mysteries have a natural narrative engine. They have a dramatic drive that I think most drama doesn’t have. For me, there’s an energy in mystery writing, and a crackle, and a conflict and a fire that’s often missing in straightforward drama. For me, crime is a story engine, and a really effective one.”
“The great thing about the crime genre is that it holds up a mirror to everybody and to everything in society,” said Goldman. “It’s a great way to provide readers not only with an escape, but also with a way to explore whatever issue or issues are important to an author, whether it’s greed, lust, sin or family dynamics. Anything you can do in fiction, you can do in a mystery, and you can give people a terrific time as readers.”
Giving their readers a terrific time is the goal with each novel that Brash Books publishes. “We’re being very careful to carve out our own niche,” said Goldberg. “We’re curating our titles. We’re only going after award-winning, highly acclaimed books that have been influencing authors and have been enduring favorites with readers for the last 30 years. We’re publishing the best crime novels in existence. That’s a brash claim, but we think our authors back it up.”
Giving new life to great backlisted titles—books that have fallen out of print and vanished from the shelves—has become a passion for both men. Republishing these books “is one of the most satisfying aspects of what we’ve been doing with Brash Books,” said Goldman. “Not only is it satisfying to us to introduce these books to new audiences, but it has been so meaningful to the authors, and in the case of authors who have passed away, their families.
Goldman tells the story of one such author whose career was revitalized by Brash Books. “Tom Kakonis, whose book Treasure Coast is our lead title for our September launch, is in his mid-80s,” Goldman said. “When Lee reached out to Tom about his backlist, Tom was just thrilled. And then Tom said, ‘You know, I’ve got this book in a drawer. Do you think you’d be interested in that?’ Lee just about fell out of his chair. And I loved it; I think it’s one of the best crime novels I’ve read in a long time. And in Tom’s dedication of that book, he thanks Lee for rescuing him. When you see something like that from a terrific author who thought his writing career was behind him, it gives me goosebumps.”
Brash Books is also looking for new voices in the realm of crime fiction. “What we’re looking for in new material,” said Goldberg, “are books that dare to be called the best crime novels in existence—that can hold their own with the backlist titles we’re publishing that have already won wide acclaim. They have to be in the same league and at the same level, but also offer something fresh and exciting and new.”
The two hope that with the freedom offered by electronic and print-on-demand publishing, they will help authors share in Brash Books’ success. “There’s never been a better time to be a writer, because of all the opportunity and control that writers have over their careers,” Goldman said. “The writer/publisher relationship up until the last four or five years was only nominally an arm’s length transaction. Unless you were one of the top best-sellers, you really had no negotiating power. You took whatever the publisher offered you and you genuflected with thanks. Those days are over.
“It’s always been a labor of love,” Goldman said. “We always loved what we do as writers, and to have the opportunity to create a publishing company that treats authors the way we know authors want to be treated is really a privilege for us. It’s just been an absolute blast.”
With the right blend of new works and time-tested tales, the two men believe they have cracked the mystery of what it takes to succeed. “We’re going to continue to be very selective, to carefully curate, but make sure that great voices in crime fiction, whether they’re from the past or the present, have a real platform,” Goldman said. “That’s where I think we’ll be.”