By Jeri Westerson
Early in June, Amazon will feature a new Kindle book that may be the first major e-book charitable fundraiser.
Prompted by the disaster in northern Japan, Shaken: Stories for Japan, is a collection of original, exclusive, Japan-themed short stories by some remarkable writers: Gar Anthony Haywood, Naomi Hirahara, Ken Kuhlken, Cara Black, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Jeri Westerson, Gary Phillips, Kelli Stanley, Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Brown, Jeffrey Siger, IJ Parker, Wendy Hornsby, Vicki Doudera, Adrian McKinty, Debbi Mack, Meredith Cole, Rosemary Harris, CJ West, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hong Kong film historian Stefan Hammond and Edgar-nominated author Tim Hallinan, who is editing the collection.
One hundred percent of all writer royalties for this book will be paid directly into the bank account of Japan America Society of Southern California, which has already raised more than $1 million for the relief effort.
I think this is the first time anyone has taken advantage of the rapid turnaround time possible on the Kindle and the monthly direct-deposit of royalty payments to raise money for a major charitable enterprise. This actually probably wouldn't have been possible before the advent of the ebook. (We're exclusive to Amazon only because of their payment policies, which are prompt and automatic, freeing up money as it's needed, not at the end of various bookkeeping quarters.)
When Tim Hallinan approached me about this project in late April, it was really a no-brainer. First off, I live in southern California and am intimately acquainted with earthquakes to the point where I can guess the Richter scale size of it just by the feel. That’s too intimate!
Most of the quakes that roll in from time to time are minor or come from far away (a big rolling feeling means it comes from afar, and you can hear those coming, too. A hard, building jolt means that the epicenter is quite close, a few miles or so.). But it’s like living on a precipice: Get too complacent and bad things can happen.
We don’t know when an earthquake of devastating proportion will strike and we don’t know what will happen to us and our community when it does. I live pretty far inland, so a chance at a tsunami is zero, but you don’t need a wall of water to destroy life as you knew it. The earth moving can take care of that.
I would have to say that empathy was the biggest factor that encouraged my participation in this project. But getting a chance to have a story alongside this talented array of authors was certainly another big factor. I haven’t read any of the other stories and am just as excited to get the book as anyone else. It’s a great chance to do some good and get a great collection at the same time. That seems like an easy decision for mystery readers.
Jeri Westerson, the president of the Orange County chapter of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the Crispin Guest medieval mysteries. The newest title in the series, The Demon's Parchment, was nominated for the Reviewer's Choice Award for Historical Mystery from Romantic Times magazine and the Bruce Alexander Award for Best Historical Mystery. For more information, see www.JeriWesterson.com.