from Greece

Walter was my love, my husband, and my friend.Ηe kept in contact with me over the years and I will miss him dearly.Ηe loved Greece and everyone here loved him.
from Lelli Rallis

Walter was a very dear friend. We loved his imagination and his energy. We loved also his good heartedness and remarkable wit.

from Maria and Hercules and children Titi and Marios, Lelli`s and Walter`s close friends in Athens


Some of Walter’s wise and witty bon mots

-I like mysteries because writing them gives me—theoretically, at least—an opportunity to demonstrate how clever I am. 

 -I needed to understand [my characters] first as people: to recognize the complicated—sometimes sloppy—uniqueness of their individual lives. And I think that doing this, in the act of fiction or the act of living, is kind of a nifty thing, and may even be important.

-The problem with theater is there aren’t enough close-ups.

-I hate email because I can never be as charming or witty as I can on the phone…

On being chastised for walking naked in front of a large window: -Well, if they haven’t seen one before, they won’t know what it is.

Other answers to Ernie Bulow’s question about what he wanted written on his gravestone: –Somebody else’s name…or maybe ‘He paid his bar tab.’

Q from a Goodreads fan: What’s the best thing about being a writer? – A: Fast cars and fast women.

From Wall of Glass: -In any other American city this size, the road would have been paved. But in Santa Fe, raw earth is as chic as raw fish.

From Accustomed to the Dark: – I passed a large painted mural that displayed the huge faces of women peering out from beyond banana fronds. The faces were stylized and impossibly beautiful, the faces of what a friend once called `feral women’ — abandoned at birth and raised by fashion photographers.

From New York Nocturne: -‘Brave?’ Mrs. [Dorothy] Parker laughed, sounding somewhat frayed. ‘My sphincter was plucking buttons off the car seat.”

-Consciousness is what the universe uses to find out how things are going. 

When he knew he was dying: -We were going down a small hill and I could see, at the bottom, two directional arrows painted on the asphalt…One arrow pointed straight ahead, the other pointed to the right…

The thought suddenly came to me: ‘We all follow arrows.’

And abruptly the stuff that had been weighing me down just disappeared.
And I smiled. I’ve been smiling off and on, every day since.

About that photo…

of Walter on the home page

I’ve long thought Walter’s interest in Zen was very much a mutual relationship: He disproportionately wound up in the right place at the right time. Sure, occasionally, he may have overstayed a welcome, but he always was just in time getting to the next place he needed to be. Intersecting Circles of Life. Zen Venn diagrams.

In 1973, I visited Walter in Portland. I was starting an indeterminate wandering of the West Coast, having spent two years prepping a van, filling it with camping stuff, and two weeks of circuitous driving across the country. My first night there, someone broke into the van. They stole everything. Every. Thing. I was staring at a surprisingly generous insurance check, contemplating which way the wind blew, when Walter suggested “Greece”. Now, when push came to shove one night in our little house on Karpathos, he would deny ever inviting me, but to his credit, he did assume responsibility for “disturbing the peace” when we were invited down to the police station the next day. So yeah, after navigating assorted ‘other’ Venn diagrams, we settled in, mostly, on the yet-to-be-travel-writer-discovered island of Karpathos. It was a good news bad news kind of a thing, tending more toward the latter during a long dreary winter. On the good side, there were only so many places to drink Ouzo and Retsina, and one night Marilyn (who became a big rainbow-colored circle in the Venn diagram) was ensconced in one, glass in hand.

I returned in 1980. The travel writers had made up for lost time. I went back to the now crowded hotel Walter and I had originally stayed at. Annazula was still managing it, still dressed in Olympos of Karpathos garb. You can Google that. She gave me a room to myself with three of the typical cots you’d find in better-lesser establishments at the time. The next day she tapped on my door and asked if I’d consider sharing my room with a couple from France. I hope that my lack of enthusiasm was not apparent as I said “But of course!” Later, I passed Jacky and Maite in the street, “Greetings!” I said cordially, and the next thing I know we were spending nights and then weeks in some of those same places that serve Ouzo and Retsina.

 I did, on occasion, try that “Greetings!” salutation in other situations …not so much.

In ‘82 I was living in a “day-light apartment” in Albuquerque. I’m pretty sure I was still under covers, my girlfriend, drinking coffee, in her slippers (yes, just her slippers) and absentmindedly staring out the only actual day-light window, called out, “Um Mark! There are two strange people staring in the window.” I wrapped the sheet around me. There stood Jacky and Maite, cracking shit-eating grins, staring in the window. Their stay was a-whole-nother story, but as they were leaving to drive their rented Pacer back to New York City I said, “Stop in Peoria. Visit my friend Marilyn”. They were dubious. “Trust me”, I said. “Marilyn. Peoria”. I was not at all sure they’d actually go — they had a limited number of days left on their trip, and a long list of druthers. They spent three days there.

It is possible, even likely, that a barbeque and a party into the wee hours might have happened in any event. Marilyn lived in a converted mansion along with chefs, artists, professors, writers, ne’er-do-wells, and an abnormally large group of friends passing through.  Jacky and Maite probably had a beer or glass of wine in their hands before anyone said “Hello”. 

Glasses, plates and people were half full, and everybody was minding everybody else’ business, when a lone rider, in black leather, erupted into the yard. All six foot three, plus the cowboy boots, you can’t forget the cowboy boots, climbed off the motorcycle.  (Well, OK, it was a BMW, so maybe he didn’t exactly “erupt” into the yard).

He climbed off that same bike at my place in Albuquerque about a week later. He had mentioned staying for two or three days; it was more like eight months. Which would be about two months longer than my girlfriend at the time. Neither of which would probably surprise anybody. He eventually (just in time) moved on to Santa Fe, and the rest is his story. 

Well, until ‘96, when Walter mentioned he was heading back to Europe for a book tour, with a stop in France. I suggested he visit Jacky and Maite in Pau, but his itinerary was not that flexible. So, Jacky and Maite went to Paris. They’d arranged to meet Walter at the Catacombs, but they were concerned they wouldn’t recognize him after the intervening years. Not to worry. He was the tallest person in the queue, with or without cowboy boots. The picture of Walter, and Maite, un-cropped, was taken in the Métro.

Simple as that.

submitted by Walter’s brother Mark

The “Trailer Trash” Tour


A mystery writer, quite a novel character, embarks on a do-it- yourself tour to promote his latest, Masquerade. It’s no time to be humble or serious.

by Jean Heller, February 2, 1999

© St. Petersburg Times – St. Petersburg, Fla.

Snowflakes splatter the windshield in nearly white-out driving conditions, and ice builds along the window frame beyond the reach of overmatched wipers. Slush with the skid characteristics of bat guano coats the chewed up pavement of Interstate 15 where a 19-year-old Winnebago lumbers up an incline, its carburetor gasping for air.

“Poor beast,” the driver laments. “She’s not set up for performance at this altitude. She’ll do 0 to 60 in a day and a half.”

He is Walter Satterthwait, self-proclaimed International Lunch Whore and author of a dozen acclaimed mystery novels, now turned reluctant itinerant pitchman on behalf of his own books.

It is one of the cruel truths of the publishing business that the advertising and promotion bucks flow to the Stephen Kings and Tom Clancys of the world, whose names alone would sell a gazillion copies if not even a single dollar were spent to help. The rest, like Walter Satterthwait, do their own book hype or go without.

“I feel like I have to do it,” he says. “And if I have to do it, I might as well have some fun.”

Satterthwait, whose driver’s license and Winnebago registration say he is a resident of Indian Rocks Beach, bought the motor home from a Pinellas County man for $8,000 last fall. He said it was 30 feet long. Then he called back with a correction.

“I want you to get this right because you know how guys are about length,” he said. “It’s 33 feet long.”

He had the Winnebago overhauled and turned it over to an exterior decorator.

When he got it back, emblazoned along the side was a 5-foot-high copy of the cover of his latest book and its title, Masquerade. The book’s bar code filled the 3-foot wheel cover in the rear.

His wife, Caroline Gordon, redid the interior in black and gold with fake leopard-skin accents. Friends added a pair of red fuzzy rear-view-mirror dice that light up when plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Thus decked out, Walter Satterthwait launched the Masque-Mobile, a.k.a., the Walter-bago, on a six-month journey across our fair nation to help boost book sales.

“I’m not a big believer in writers promoting themselves,” he says. “But I decided blatant self-promotion is okay if it’s low-key, tasteful and elegant.”

To ensure the tasteful and elegant part, the 52-year-old author makes his promotional appearances in black denim pants, cowboy boots and a gray sweat shirt that reads: “Graduate, Famous Writers’ School.” He’ll throw a white silk scarf around his neck, too, if you ask nicely.

Satterthwait is, in short, his own event.

None of this schtick is on his mind as the motor home crawls away from Salt Lake City, which is rapidly becoming paralyzed by the season’s first big storm.

If the weather weren’t enough, Satterthwait – in the ultimate act of masochism – has chosen the stressful beginning of the book tour as a time to quit smoking. He is into his fourth week and has made a serious dent in the world’s supply of Nicorette gum.

“What if I get addicted to the gum?” he asks. “No, never mind. I don’t want to talk about anything to do with smoking. It makes it harder to quit. I know. I’ve quit hundreds of times.”

Farther south, two hours later, the snow gives way to 50 mph crosswinds pounding out of the Mineral Mountains. They jostle the Winnebago until the duct tape holding the glove compartment shut comes loose.

“Just stick it back on,” Satterthwait says. “Greatest invention in the world, duct tape. I made three trips across the country on a motorcycle. Without duct tape, I never could have done it. Only trouble with duct tape is you can’t use it on ducts.”

What in the world possessed Satterthwait to make this trip?

“I had written a short story, a mystery, about a guy driving around in an RV, and he picks up a hitchhiker and stuff happens,” he says. “And I thought, why not try it? It gives me a chance to get my books better known, see friends, see the country, hang out and learn new skills, like driving a 12,000-pound house.”

Satterthwait doesn’t really want new skills. He is sufficiently absorbed by the one he already has, writing award-winning mysteries that sell big in France and Germany but not well enough in the United States to lift him into the ranks of James Lee Burke, Dick Francis or Elmore Leonard, where he thinks he belongs.

The Masque-Mobile tour could change all that, although gearing up for it has cost Satterthwait a lot of money. He has paid all the expenses himself, using funds from the publisher who bought the German rights to Masquerade. His American publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is solidly behind the promotion effort but says the economics of the book-publishing business make it difficult for the house to offer its author financial help with it.

“We’re in a Catch-22 situation,” says Reagan Arthur, Satterthwait’s editor. “The profit margin on a book is so small, if we advertise and promote and it doesn’t sell, the profit disappears. On the other hand, if we don’t spend the money, an author who deserves to might never rise to the level of a James Lee Burke.

“We don’t always say no, but we have to make choices. What Walter is doing is terrific. He’s such a personality, and the book is so good, this might work for him. I hope it does.”

To break out, Satterthwait must develop new readers. His Salt Lake City book signing was attended almost exclusively by those who already knew and liked his work.

But at a two-day book fair in Las Vegas, more than 50 people who had never read him walked away with copies of his books.

It is impossible to compartmentalize Satterthwait’s work, except to say there is a deadly mystery at the heart of each book, wrapped in laugh-out-loud humor. Miss Lizzie chronicles an aging Lizzie Borden as she teams with a young neighbor girl, Amanda, to solve, of all things, an ax murder. Wilde West follows the travels of Oscar Wilde through the American West with a serial killer in his entourage.

Satterthwait wrote his five-novel Joshua Croft series based on a modern private investigator in the Southwest. Though many of his fans have begged for another Croft book, Satterthwait says he thinks he’s through with the PI.

His latest series, Escapade and Masquerade, follows the adventures of Pinkerton agents Phil Beaumont and Jane Turner through 1920s Europe. Both books include heavily researched real-life characters: Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

“The next Phil and Jane novel will be in Germany, before World War II,” he says. “I have to get a copy of Mein Kampf and read it. I looked for it in a used-book store when I was in Albuquerque. They usually have about four copies. But the owner said they sold out for Christmas. Can you imagine? ‘Here’s a copy of Mein Kampf. Merry Christmas.’ “

Setting a book in Germany should only help Satterthwait’s usual strong sales there.

“The Germans are paying for this tour, every penny,” Satterthwait says. “I don’t know why they do it, especially because of all the nasty things I’ve said about Germans all my life. I take at least some of it back.”

The tangerine-colored business card Satterthwait hands out on his journey calls it the Terrible Trailer Trash Tour, though the author hastens to clarify that he is the trailer trash, not his readers. He also carries a card identifying himself as an International Lunch Whore, an exclusive club of one. He earned his membership, he says, when he successfully proved, contrary to modern convention, that there really is such a thing as a free lunch.

Back in 1977, when he sold his first book, he began eating with his agent and with editors, who always picked up the checks. When he started selling foreign rights, free lunching became an international activity.

He had to go to Greece to rent a house in 1994. Instead of flying, he took a train to Paris and had a free lunch with his French publisher, then went to Milan for a free lunch with his Italian publisher.

“When I added up the transportation and hotel costs, I figured out those two free lunches cost me $1,275,” he says. “But when it comes to free lunches, money is no object.”

Satterthwait, who never graduated from college, supported himself for two decades tending bar and managing clubs while trying to catch on as a writer. He would move overseas, to places like Africa or a Greek island, where he could live on a few thousand dollars a year while he researched and wrote books. When he ran out of money, he would get back behind a bar.

“I always wanted to be a writer,” he says, “from the first time I figured out that writers are cool people who get to hang out with beautiful women and don’t have to own alarm clocks.”

Now that he’s a writer, he wants to be a famous writer and make a lot more money. He has no life or health insurance because he hasn’t had a steady income to pay the premiums. The Walter-bago is his only home, and will be for as long as the duct tape holds up.

And how would he sum up his cross-country quest for new fans?

“Quixotic,” he says. “Definitely tilting at windmills. That’s a good way to put it. But it’s also tax-deductible.”

Excerpts from MASQUERADE

by Walter Satterthwait

I sat down on the sofa, a large piece of upholstered furniture decorated with an elaborate blue floral print. She sat down in a matching chair and leaned toward me, her spine straight, her knees together and turned gracefully to the side. I noticed that she had very good legs. She noticed that I noticed this, and I noticed that she noticed that, and both of us pretended that we hadn’t noticed a thing.

She smiled. “Tea?”

I heard the gun crack three or four times, maybe more, and I heard the ping and wail as slugs ricocheted off the pavement, and I heard someone scream, a woman, high-pitched and terrified, and then I heard the roar of the engine as the car raced away. I was still rolling but I hadn’t felt the hard fast punch of a slug, and I decided that I was

probably alive and that I might as well get up from the sidewalk.

He and the floozy were talking to Miss Stein when Mr. Hemingway, attempting to demonstrate the correct way to perform some intricate bullfighting movement, a toreador or a corridor or something, brushed his arm against the table again, with more force this time. The table swayed for an instant, then swung away from the wall and hurtled to the floor. Statuary rolled helter-skelter across the carpet – Mr. Picasso, I saw, was struck in the ankle by a bust of Hadrian.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

10 December 1989

Dear Sir or Madam,

Mr. Satterthwait wants me to assure you that this is not merely a form letter.

First of all, every single one of these is being typed out individually by me, Doreen, his personal private secretary with my very own two hands! (There is some sort of doohickie on this machine that you can push, a button or something, I guess that’ll automatically make copies, but golly, I don’t know where it is exactly, and Mr. Satterthwait specifically instructed me to do these all one at a time so they’d all have that personal touch—isn’t he wonderful?)

Second of all he wanted me to make it very clear that each and every one of you — relatives, friends, drinking partners, business associates, former wives, former lovers, former high school teachers, vascular surgeons, one night stands, nearly one night stands, chance acquaintances, and the three lucky strangers whose names he picked out at random from the Manhattan phone book —that each of you has a very special and totally unique place in his heart, and that over this Holiday Season he’ll be hoping that each of you has just absolutely the most wonderful and scrumptious Holiday ever! (And that goes positively double for me too! Because even though I don’t know you from Adam, I guess you’ve got to be a pretty terrific person, all right, for Mr. Satterthwait to take the time from his busy schedule —yesterday he spent two hours getting fitted for Porsche Carrera sunglasses —to ask me to sit down and write to you!)

Anyway, to bring you up to date on Mr. Satterthwait’s career, he’s still writing his new book (and just between you and me, it’s absolutely fabulous and I’m sure he’ll get some sort of really valuable award for it!). He’s also working now in some sort of top-secret hush hush consulting position where he has to privately interview a lot of Swedish tourist women for the Greek government, and they (the government, I mean) told him they don’t even want me to know what it’s all about, if you can imagine! Whatever it is, he comes home late in the morning just so tired and bedraggled it would make your heart break!

He’s also helping the Mayor of Paros by conducting negotiations for him with the Countess Mathilde De La Mole, from Paris, France. The Mayor, Mr. Satterthwait says, wants the Countess to build a big sausages-making plant here on Paros (she’s in sausages in France), and Mr. Satterthwait has to be up at the Counters’s villa at all hours of the day and night talking to her. I don’t really trust this Countess person, she’s one of those slinky foreign type women with dyed hair (and not even dyed blonde!), but whenever I say anything about her to Mr. Satterthwait, he just smiles and tells me not to worry. He’s so trusting and open. (But honestly, sometimes I think a person can be too trusting, don’t you?)

Golly, I see I’m running out of space so I’ll close this up by hoping, for Mr. Satterthwait, that you have a super Christmas or Chanukah or, if you’re of the pagan or Buddhist persuasion, a really nice weekend!



from Jeanie K. Smith

A dear college friend passed away recently– Walter Satterthwait was an accomplished award-winning author, notably of mystery novels and historical fiction, but also of short stories. He was also extremely Cool– in the hip, savvy, unflappable sense of the word– and one of the wittiest people I’ve known. We were at Reed College at the same time, for a while; then his life’s journey took him to New York, France, Greece, Santa Fe, all over Europe, Florida, and more, finally to Washington state where he left this world on February 26. We corresponded occasionally over the years; more, recently, as he neared the end (and knew it was coming).
Thank you, Walter, for the great memories, the great books you left us, and for all that fun and laughter. Stay cool, and be at peace… 

via Facebook

from Bryan Smith

My friend and literary mentor Walter Satterthwait passed away on Feb 26. He was a great writer and author of more than a dozen novels. Walter gave me advice on an unpublished novel I wrote, and [a] copy of Perfection that he published with St Martin’s. RIP.

via Facebook

from Deron Bissett

I first noticed Walter Satterthwait walking up a dirt road in Santa Fe, on a cold winter day. He glanced at me, and I returned his gaze, but we were headed in different directions, so did not connect…until 8 years later in north Austin where he appeared at Mysteries and More to sign his book, Masquerade. We chatted about his early books, and agreed to sit down and visit the next time we were in town, his or mine. The next time came when we both attended Bouchercon 2003 in Las Vegas. Walter had a new book out, Cavalcade, and so we sat in the bar to catch up. As he signed several of his earlier books, he shared stories about travels to Wichita, London, UK, and a few other places. He drank another beer, and thanked me for bringing them along.
He said he was thinking of moving to Florida. I wished him well as we parted that afternoon. We kept in touch on social media, but never met again. I now hope he found peace as his heart gave out. He wished for time to write a final book. I hope that wish will be granted by those who supported his wish.

via Facebook

from Ruth Jordan

Walter Satterthwait, a terrific human and a man who expanded my love of mystery through his words. With protagonists running the gammit from Houdini to Lizzie Borden, I loved it all, these many years. Penned, typed, w.p.ed and scribed on the computer? Each book? The best book yet. The early ones are still the ones nearest and dearest.

21 years ago when this dude named Jon Jordan and I started dating I sent him a copy of Wilde West and told him, “If you don’t like this book, we don’t need to spend “in person” time with one another.

So thank you Mr. Satterthwait. One last time for all your words have given me and mine. Go gently into the night and know you will always be remembered and read by me and mine.

via Facebook

from Sharan Newman

Did I know Walter? Not really. Were we friends? Absolutely. We met at mystery conventions and occasionally popped up in other countries at the same time. I always enjoyed seeing him. He represented another side of the writer’s life: peripatetic, diverse, full of interesting people I would never have found on my own. I was rather envious of his way of going anywhere at a moment’s notice, always sure of finding a couch to sleep on and a new adventure. One of my best memories is of the time he and Sarah Caldwell arrived from London to see me in Paris. I met them at the Gare du Nord and joined in a moveable feast that wandered through back streets, brasseries, fifth-floor walk ups, with a cast that could have come from Cabaret. (Considering Sarah’s parentage, that was most appropriate) It was wonderful. The next morning I staggered up, packed my laptop and went to the BN to continue my research. When I got home, I found that Walter and Sarah had come looking for me to repeat the party. I have regretted being such a studious stick in the mud ever since.

Above all, Walter was a brilliant writer. Books like Miss Lizzie and Wilde West are iconic in their choice and treatment of the subject. I gave my aunt a copy of Masquerade and she said it was Paris in the 1920s just as she remembered it. When Miriam Grace Monfredo and I were doing Crime Through Time anthologies, we immediately tracked Walter down and demanded a submission. He responded with “Murder One”, which has already become a classic. My favourite story of his was the one about cassoulet and I can’t find it! He took an Edgar Allen Poe-ish plot and gave it his usual surprise twist. I told him that I will never be able to eat (or cook) cassoulet without thinking of him. If anyone can remember where it was published, please let me know. [editor’s note: it’s in The Mankiller of Poojegai and Other Stories]

I liked Walter very much. He sent me e-mails from places I may never get to. He was fun. Did I know him? No, but I’m not sorry. I think I’d rather keep my fantasy of Walter Satterthwait, the magical pied piper, wandering the world followed by those he enchanted then vanishing only to appear again in another guise to spin tales. I’ll keep a lookout for him, just in case.

via Facebook

from Mystery Fanfare

Mystery Fanfare blog

Mystery author Walter Satterthwait passed away on Sunday after a battle with COPD and congestive heart failure. He was 73. Besides being one helluva writer, Walter was a clever, funny, and quirky guy. I always enjoyed talking with him at conferences. He also contributed to Mystery Readers Journal. Although it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him, he’ll always have a place in my heart. I’ll miss him.

from MBTB’s book blog

Walter “Cool Walt” Satterthwait was more than a mystery writer to some of us at MBTB (Portland). We went to Reed College in Portland with him. He earned his sobriquet there because, well, he was cool.

We were thrilled when he got his mystery books published. There were five books in his Joshua Croft series, set in Santa Fe. There were three in his Pinkerton agent series. There were standalones and a couple of Lizzie Borden books. (One of his works was edited by the redoubtable Sarah Caudwell.)

In the end, Walt struggled to write as various ailments overtook him. Many fans, friends, and fellow writers contributed to a GoFundMe account to let Walt finish what he knew would be his last book amongst the inspiring scenery of Greece. Alas, his stay did not last long, as medical needs sent him back to the U.S. In the end, he was still trying to write, still trying to communicate with the group of people who continued to call and write him….

MBTB mourns a friend, an accomplished writer, and a free spirit.

Peace, Walt.

Murder by the Book’s book blog

Remembering Walter

Tributes are starting to come in via social media and from around the world. You can read some of the comments on Walter’s pages on Facebook, of which he had two (as a result of not being able to keep track of logins and passwords towards the end of his life):

And see what others are saying about him:

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