The Author Photo: a work in progress

Part of February’s celebration of A Grave Talent, the Edgar-winning first novel that started a writing career.


If you have ever tried to take a good picture of yourself—not just a grinning selfie with friends but the kind of photo that says “thoughtful, intelligent person with a trace of humor and wit”—well, all I can say is, it’s a lot cheaper to try it now than it was when every click of the camera cost money.

I had a friend who took nature photographs, and they were nice, so when St Martins Press asked me for my very first author photo, I thought, Well, she has a camera. So we took a few photos, and one of me at the blank wall of the house wasn’t completely awful, so there it went, onto the cover flap of A Grave Talent.

I didn’t quite realize that converting our color shot into black and white would make it look as if I was standing in a lineup, so for the next one, I asked the photographer who’d taken my daughter’s high school photos. And ended up with something that looked rather like a high school photo. (Don’t you love those 80s glasses?)

Next came a photographer who arranged to meet me in San Francisco for some location shots, and told me not to worry, he’d touch up the chin. I later discovered he told every one of his clients this, even the size 2 women. (Men with full beards maybe got out of it.)

At some point I graduated to color photos, and did a photo shoot with a crew of three—photographer, assistant, and makeup person—that took up a huge amount of the day, made a sore place on my cheek where the makeup brush had tried its hardest to get rid of a mole, and left me with a stiff face the rest of the day (and a lot of curious glances) when I had to rush off and pick up the kids from school with foundation and powder and mascara and the lot. This one I couldn’t find a copy of, but if you spot it in one of your books, stick it into the comments.

Then, my daughter had a friend who was setting up a photographic business, Red Bat, so she was next. I liked hers a lot.

(She took a few with the cat, as well, which I didn’t use because he didn’t look terribly happy with the entire-grab-and-clicking-lady routine…)

There have been others, but the one I use now, by Josh Edelson, still looks like me, just with different glasses. I’ll probably keep that one for a while.


Read about A Grave Talent (with order links), see the other Martinellis,

or order a signed copy.


  1. Joan Walsh on March 23, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    These are lovely, Laurie, and I laughed out loud at your comment about a lineup. Perfect!

    • Laurie King on March 24, 2023 at 8:47 pm

      The things you don’t consider….

  2. Terry Odell on March 23, 2023 at 6:58 pm

    My son’s a photographer, although he’d call himself a nature photographer. But I’m The Mom, and when I need a head shot, I call in favors. As we did the last round of pictures, he was on the phone with a friend/colleague who DOES do portraits and getting advice between shots. I don’t know which of us dreads the process more, but I figure it’s something I do only about every five years (I skipped my blue hair phase), we can get through it.
    (BTW – enjoyed seeing you on panels at Left Coast Crime)

    • Laurie King on March 24, 2023 at 8:47 pm

      Yes, I’ve had the whole spectrum of photographers, and I suppose I should start thinking about the next one..
      (LCC was fun!)

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