First some praise: over the past couple of years, PM Press has published revised and expanded editions of my Edgar Allan Poe Award-nominated series of crime novels featuring Ecuadorian-American investigator, Filomena Buscarsela. [Cue: Thunderous applause for the folks at PM Press]
This is a politically engaged series featuring a detective who champions the cause of marginalized people, including industrial workers poisoned by toxic chemicals, undocumented immigrants struggling to survive, and working men and women being forced out of their homes by greedy landlords.
While doing the publicity for the latest book in the series, Blood Lake, which is based on my experiences reporting from Ecuador, we encountered this frustrating attitude of: “It’s his fifth book, so how come we haven’t heard of him?”
I’m here to explain to all the big media people out there just why you haven’t heard of me:
• Chance (right place, wrong time). What author Anna Holmes calls the “unfairness and arbitrariness of the writing profession” in terms of who makes it big and who doesn’t (“Bookends” NY Times Book Review, 21 June, 2015: 27). Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.
• My refusal to change my weird Polish-Jewish name, Wishnia, to something more “marketable” (just ask Jon Stewart Leibowitz, Michael Ian Black [Schwartz], and Winona Ryder [Horowitz]).
• But mainly, if you write about marginalized people, as I do, be prepared to be ignored by the custodians of culture in the mainstream media who generally ignore those very same marginalized people.
If you write about the ruling classes, they will shower you with attention. Even if you write bad things about them, you’re still confirming how important they are and they will reward you for it. This helps explain why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is often held up as the one-and-only great American novel in a field of hundreds of contenders–because he’s writing about the ruling class. Even though he’s exposing their dirty laundry, it’s still a form of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Don’t You Wish You Could Live Like This?
More recently, witness the reception of Primates of Park Avenue, a book purportedly about the mega-rich wives of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This book has received TONS of coverage in the New York Times, at least half a dozen full-sized articles and reviews within two weeks’ time, and the Times reported on 6/17/15 that the movie rights have been bought by MGM.
And that’s why you’ve never heard of me.
So strike a blow against the fetishization of all things rich and powerful, and check out one of my novels, which you can find right here on PM Press’s web site. Or you could Google “Kenneth Wishnia.” I assure you that no one else on the planet has that weird Polish-Jewish name.