Readorama: Mystery author Sara Paretsky holds writing workshop

Mystery writer Sara Paretsky will lead a mystery writing workshop for young adults Tuesday, July 28, at the Woodneath Library Center.
Mystery writer Sara Paretsky will lead a mystery writing workshop for young adults Tuesday, July 28, at the Woodneath Library Center.

Sara Paretsky, head of Mystery Writers of America since January, wants to use her influence to maintain and increase diversity among mystery authors.

“We’ve seen a huge amount of conglomeration in the industry,” said Paretsky, who graduated from the University of Kansas in 1967 and today lives in Chicago.

“As the companies have merged, the big owners are demanding ever-higher profit margins and are dropping a lot of writers who are profitable but are not turning the big numbers that they want. It’s a challenging situation for all writers, but I’ve noticed that black, Hispanic and Asian writers, along with lesbian and gay writers, tend to get cut first.”

Just as she and other authors organized Sisters in Crime in 1986 to promote women mystery authors, Paretsky thinks she and Mystery Writers of America board members can more actively engage booksellers and library district officials on behalf of diverse authors.

“We want to make those writers better known to readers and force the industry to start paying attention to them.”

Paretsky’s latest mystery featuring private investigator V.I. Warshawski is “Brush Back.”

Paretsky will lead a mystery writing workshop for young adults at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Woodneath Library Center at 8900 N.E. Flintlock Road, in Kansas City, North. For info, call 816-883-4900.

Buckley vs. Mailer

In September 1962, conservative commentator William F. Buckley faced off against liberal writer Norman Mailer in a Chicago debate.

The debate promoter scheduled the event two days before a fight between boxers Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson and advertised it as another heavyweight bout.

Some among the 3,000 ticket-holding spectators scored the match a draw, which outraged Mailer, who thought he had won by knockout.

What both writers agreed on was that the two of them, in epic forensic combat, generated a marquee value that neither might have on his own.

For much of the subsequent decade the two would stage a running dialogue, matching wits on television and in print.

That partnership is detailed in “Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties,” by Kevin Schultz of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Although the politics of the 1960s may have been just as polarized as today’s, that didn’t prevent Buckley and Mailer from achieving a level of discourse perhaps not possible in 2015, Schultz said.

“Here were these two people with completely opposite political perspectives, and yet they could bridge that gap and take each other seriously,” Schultz said recently.

The dialogue was more than just showbiz, he added.

“At its root it was a serious debate about how Americans might find the greatest fulfillment in their lives and how they could best honor the country’s highest principles,” Schultz said.

Both men were World War II veterans, which Schultz believes is important.

“It reinforced how even though both men were critical of their country, they both loved their country and both understood the other as loving their country.”

Both men also saw their influence fade over time, Schultz said. The closest contemporary equivalent to the Buckley and Mailer act, he added, has been the occasional encounters between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart.

“There’s the conservative Catholic and the secular Jewish lefty,” Schultz said. “But I don’t think either of those two engaged with the same seriousness that Buckley and Mailer did.”

Mailer died in 2007; Buckley the following year.

Schultz speaks at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

Liberalism too intolerant

One local conservative remembers when William F. Buckley was the only conservative on television.

“Today you have Charles Krauthammer or George Will, but back then Buckley was the face of conservatism,” Jack Cashill said.

“He was obviously a blue-blood and it was hard to identify with him, but nonetheless, he was our guy.”

Cashill has published “Scarlet Letters: The Ever-Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism.” It takes notice, he said, of the rigid rules of rhetoric that he thinks liberals increasingly are operating by.

“I was watching a documentary about Jim McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor, and he walks past a sign that reads ‘Jesus liberates us from the sins of sexism, homophobia, racism and classism.’

“It dawned on me that liberals have lost their sense of liberalism. They are so quick to publicly shame people who disagree with them.

“Hester Prynne of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ wore her scarlet ‘A.’ But today you can get a scarlet ‘I’ for ‘Islamaphobe’ or ‘D’ for climate change ‘denialism.’”

Cashill speaks at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, also at the Central Library. For more info about both Schultz and Cashill, go to

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to