Will Leitch writes yet another must-read with ‘How Lucky’ mystery

SAVANNAH BOOK FESTIVAL

Routinely hired by many of the country’s most read publications and websites, Will Leitch is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and a contributing writer for GQ, The New York Times, The Washington Post and MLB.com, among others.

His prowess behind a keyboard was first evident when he burst onto the sports media scene in 2005 as the founding editor and star blogger at Deadspin. The writing in Leitch’s blogs then was simply too good to ignore. By the time he was done at Deadspin in 2008, Leitch had become the undisputed “blogfather” for his trailblazing approach to, as he mockingly puts it, “basically just typing words into a little box and clicking publish.”

“I’m proud of it,” Leitch said when asked if he ever gets tired of answering questions about Deadspin nearly 15 years after he left the site. “I’m proud of everything that we were able to do there, and I would hope my writing has gotten better since then, but I’m still trying to do those same things now at other places.

“I always joke that the further down my obituary I can push Deadspin, the better. Because that is kind of the whole goal, isn’t it?”

It had been 11 years since the release of his last book, but his mystery novel “How Lucky” was worth the wait and it is plenty good enough (see rave reviews by Stephen King, among others) to knock Deadspin’s space in the Leitch obit down a little further.

Published in May 2021, “How Lucky” is one of five finalists nominated for the “Best Novel” at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards, hosted by Mystery Writers of America as the most prestigious award that a mystery writer could hope to receive.

Leitch will be in Savannah on Saturday, February 19th speaking as a featured author for this year’s Savannah Book Festival. Fans wanting to attend Leitch’s session can do so at 9 a.m. at 120 Bull Street in downtown Savannah (Lutheran Church of the Ascension Fellowship Hall).

“How Lucky” is categorized by publishers within the thriller/mystery genres. Leitch discourages trying to place the book into any categories.

“I don’t think of it in that kind of a box as a thriller or as a mystery,” Leitch said in a February 7 phone interview with CONNECT Savannah.

There is at least one way to categorize it without qualms from Leitch – it’s his first fiction novel, and that alone makes it a distinctly unknown territory for the 46-year-old husband and father of two.

“(The book) doesn’t hit all of those traditional ‘beats’ of a classic mystery or thriller,” he said. “I just wanted to follow Daniel around and let that kind of drive the story.”

Daniel is the novel’s protaginist and narrator. The latter title is significant because this narrator is unique in that he can’t speak. A neuromuscular disorder, Type 2 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has confined the 26-year-old to a wheelchair and prevented him from being able to talk without the use of a Hawking-like device.

“My life is nothing but small moments, and so is yours,” says Daniel during his introduction to the reader on the book’s first page. Just like Leitch, Daniel is an Illinois native living in the college town of Athens, Georgia. And, just like Leitch seems to do in his writing about sometimes sensitive topics, Daniel “really does see the best in people.”

“One of the things that I love about Daniel is that he knows there is suffering in the world,” Leitch said. “He knows there are bad people in the world and everything like that. And so, he isn’t like dancing around with balloons and sunshine … but he takes time to notice little things that people go out of their way to do to help each other.

“His optimism is hard-earned, but I think also, it’s very correct.”

But the question gets asked of him often, and he understands why.

How could the self-described “40-something-year-old white male living without SMA,” accurately give a voice to a character who is notably living with SMA and without a voice?

“It’s a tricky exercise,” Hamilton Cain of The Washington Post wrote when pondering this very question while reviewing the novel. “when a writer steps outside his own personal experience to inhabit a character very different from himself.”

This wasn’t a concept lost on Leitch when he first began developing Daniel. He was basing his Daniel character off of his son’s best friend, a boy who was actually living with SMA. “That’s where my journalism background kicked in,” Leitch said of the reporting required to learn as best he could about the thoughts and actions of someone with SMA.

“People will ask me how I could possibly know what is going on inside someone else’s head, especially someone with SMA. The answer is of course, I don’t know. But I talk to people and I ask them. I study and I research and again, I learn by talking to those people who are closest to it.”

Critic Carl Hiaasen gave a perfect description for what kind of rare talent Leitch brings with him to the page and, on Feb. 19, with him to Savannah. He, like his book does, checks all the boxes.

“Not many writers can shift gears from hilarious to heart-rending to harrowing, all on the same page,” Hiaasen wrote.

“Will Leitch does it again and again.”


Leitch Lowdown

NAME: William F. Leitch

TITLE(S): Author, five books since 2003; Contributing Editor, NY Magazine; Contributing Writer at Intelligencer and Vulture magazines, NBC News, MLB.com, GQ, The New York Times, The Washington Post & more

AGE: 46

BORN: Mattoon, Illinois

RESIDES: Athens, Georgia

FOLLOW/LISTEN: Twitter…@WilliamFleitch; Podcasts…Grierson & Leitch (movie reviews), Waiting Since Last Saturday (UGA football)

Read all of Leitch’s writing each week by  subscribing to his free weekly newsletter at williamFleitch.substack.com.


If You Go

WHAT: Will Leitch author session at the 2022 Savannah Book Festival

WHEN: 9 a.m.; Saturday, February 19th

WHERE: 120 Bull Street; Lutheran Church of the Ascension Fellowship Hall (downstairs)

MORE INFO: Visit savannahbookfestival.org



About The Author

Travis Jaudon

Travis Jaudon has been writing in Savannah since 2016 and is host of Hot Grits Podcast.
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