A month after Austin Police Officer Russell Smith was in a near-fatal car crash on his way home from patrol, I reached out to a community of people for help.
People who, on an a normal day, create the kind of mayhem and madness that Officer Smith deals with on a daily basis. People with evil in their minds, people who deal out death and destruction to the innocent and guilty, to the young and the old. Ruthless, murderous people.
People, quite frankly, who possess ginormously loving hearts and incredibly generous spirits.
Oh, let me back a moment and introduce you to Russ. My family had lunch with him and his wife today and he let me take his pic, neck brace and all.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Russ on the job and he's so professional, so respectful when he deals with members of the public, and I'm proud to call him a friend and colleague. You guys don't know him, but trust me when I tell you the world needs more police officers like Russell Smith, and whether he's back on patrol or behind a desk he'll make a difference to our community.
One other thing to know about Russ is that he's an avid reader. Fiction, non-fiction, history, crime, he loves it all. I found that out over several ride-outs in his patrol car, and over several meals we've shared. Right now he's on a Hemmingway kick, just so ya know.
Anyway, it struck me that a reader who's facing a long lay-off and a lot of rehab could almost certainly use a few more books. Just a few. So I put out one, solitary appeal on Facebook to see if a writer friend or two might be able to sign and send a book.
Yeah, well, this happened:
To save you having to count, that's fifty-three novels, from more than twenty writers, readers, reviewers, and my own wonderful publisher, Seventh Street Books. And that was in just two weeks, I know there are more on the way. As well as books, people sent get-well cards, a coffee mug, and several gift cards.
Oh, and a copy of Playboy. Seriously. My friend Steve Weddle has an article published in this issue so he kindly mailed it for the collection. Which will make Russ the first person to say, "I'm reading this for the articles," and not be a big, fat liar.
Now, I have the pleasure of interacting with my colleagues in the crime fiction community at a conference every year, and sometimes our paths cross on the book-signing trail. Every experience has been a wonder, their kindness and generosity has always blown me away but never more so than in their rush to help Russ Smith.
There's a lot of bad news in the world these days. And I'm sitting in my local library while a storm rages outside, which should portend evil. But not today. Today I loaded three boxes of books into the trunk of a friend's car, books written by other friends.
A good day for everyone.