I used to think I was a jinx. If I loved a series of books, it would go out of print and the author would disappear. If I loved a TV show, it would be taken off the air (I still miss Brisco County Jr. and Pushing Daisies) when we are finished with our tivoed episodes of Star Trek: Picard, I’ll miss that too). The Giants lost every time I attended a game. And they hadn’t won the World Series since the year I was born.
But, since there are still Star Trek series on the air, my dear friend Jen Ashley is still writing Captain Lacey novels, The Mandalorian is a bona fide hit, and the Giants have won the World Series several times, I’m feeling pretty cocky. Maybe I’m no longer a jinx.
Well, okay, the jury’s still out on that, but I thought I’d like to celebrate some of the books that I’ve loved and lost. The cool thing is that, while these books are out of print, you can still obtain and read them, and I highly recommend you do that. Some of them are still available as eBooks, or the writers have retrieved their rights and have had them reprinted. Others are just part of the backlist of writers who have not, themselves, quite disappeared, but whose books didn’t have the “numbers” to survive.
I’m going to start with a series of books that I stumbled across in the used bookstore in my old stomping grounds of Grass Valley, CA. Amazing store, too—a tiny old strip mall in which every little storefront was a different section—historicals, mysteries, romance, etc. They had rare volumes too, and bragged that they could find just about anything you wanted . . . and for a nominal fee. Alas, that store is also lost, but back to these wonderful “lost” books that most of you have not read, but should.
My first picks are the Annie Szabo books by Meredith Blevins: The Hummingbird Wizard, The Vanished Priestess, and the Red Hot Empress.
The books follow Annie Szabo, a woman who marries into a Romany family and gets caught up in the magical intrigue. The characters are priceless, the voice is vivid, the mysteries are a marvelous blend of the real and the surreal. Here’s the publisher’s blurbage for the first book:
Suspecting murder, Annie is forced to form an alliance with Madame Mina, her stubborn and powerful mother-in-law, the heart of the Szabo family. Determined to catch Jerry’s killer, the two women must unlock the pattern of a tapestry wild with lawyers, criminals, kink, magic, and even more death. One thing is certain—to catch a killer with a hidden agenda, Annie and Mina must use all of their resources: ancient curses, a talent for petty theft, bizarre love magic, a Gypsy PI, and a strong sense of humor.
The books were released beginning in 2003 as hardback novels and are still available in limited numbers of hardbacks from Amazon. Allegedly you can get some new paperbacks through Amazon as well, but the series never got the attention this reader thought it deserved.
Heck, don’t just listen to me. Read what Romantic Times, Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus had to say:
“Simultaneously kooky and mysterious.” —Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine on The Red Hot Empress
“Blevins succeeds in weaving humor, zany characters, and the occult into an entertaining story with serious undertones.” —Publishers Weekly on The Red Hot Empress
“A madcap dash through San Francisco’s Chinatown and the crumbling Haight-Ashbury district with a cast of bona fide eccentrics.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Red Hot Empress
“Fascinating gypsy lore, unforgettable characters and a wicked sense of humor distinguish Blevins’s highly unusual mystery debut.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Hummingbird Wizard
Despite these glowing reviews, by the time I went looking for the third book, I had trouble finding it. I love these books and I’d love to see them back in print and spawn a Meredith Blevins fan base that would beg publishers for more of her work.
Meredeith Blevins is a wonderful writer who deserves to be popular. Period. So, go to Amazon, buy these books—they are now available for Kindle—read them and pass the word along.
Next time, another set of underrated faves.