Athol Dickson was a novelist waiting to happen. A former architect by profession, he was also a self-proclaimed murder mystery junkie. I asked him how many he had read before he tried his hand at his first novel and the answer astounded me. “I’ve probably read about a thousand.”
Like most authors I represent (though not all), he came by way of referral. It seems Simon & Schuster was showing interest in his book and he was going to need an agent. A friend told him to give me a call. After a “get to know you” appointment, he sent me his manuscript. “I’ve spent a good two and half years writing and rewriting,” he mentioned. Hmmmm. That’s a good sign, I thought.
For the next week or so I took the manuscript pages with me everywhere. I was standing in a crowd of about 40 people at my son’s karate practice as the book was heading quickly toward the climax. It was about page 330 of the 350-page manuscript and I still had not figured out whodunit. When the plot twist become obvious I yelled out “No way!” I got a lot of odd stares, but paid them no never mind as I finished the book. I still think it’s one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read.
I had not been a huge murder mystery fan when I read Athol’s book, but I was certainly an Athol Dickson fan after that. I sent the manuscript to several publishers and had a good amount of interest from several. When Dave Lambert at Zondervan effused about the story, the writing… and made a two-book offer, Athol’s writing career was off. Zondervan titled the book Whom Shall I Fear?