October 20, 2012

The Mystery of Jersey Tomatoes


My copy of Jersey Tomatoes, the first book
Stevens wrote as J.W. Rider.
I've always wondered about the cover design for Jersey Tomatoes. It's so similiar to Way Uptown In Another World. Both books feature the title and author as graffitii on a a brick wall. The main difference is Uptown is gritty photorealism and Jersey is dated 80s cheese. But is it that a purposeful or coincidental similiarity?

Truthfully, it's probably just coincidence. But it feeds the mystery of Stevens' pseudonum. On one hand, Shane registered J.W. Rider as the copyright holder on his P.I. novels. Yet, if you look up the larger record, which doesn't take much effort, Rider is clearly listed as a pseudonym for Stevens. The first line of the so-so Kirkus review of Jersey Tomatoes outs Rider as a pseudonym, but doesn't say for whom.  The book won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. novel. When I spoke to Robert Randisi, he remembered speaking to Shane over the phone. While Stevens was glad to win the award, he didn't want to accept it in person, because he was reluctant to be revealed as J.W. Rider.

By Reason of Insanity made Stevens a name. It sold extremely well. It's still in print today, and it also brought big money from the sale of the film rights. (By Reason is another one of Shane's many unproduced screenplays.) Granted, The Anvil Chorus, despite being a great novel, wasn't the blockbuster follow-up, but I have a hard time believing that no one wanted a new Stevens novel. He sold the first Malone book quick, along with the film rights (another unproduced screenplay), and had the second book finished by the time the first dropped in hardback. Sure, the P.I. novels are different from everything else Stevens wrote, but not that different.

So, why the pseudonym?



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