Like his detective characters, Stuart M. Kaminsky was a modest and somewhat unassuming person capable of turning his sense of humor on himself and his work. His novel settings include the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and Russia. From 1977 until his death in 2009, he kept his reading audience engrossed in and entertained by his fictional homicides, which include hilarity at various junctures. Kaminsky made being a Jewish writer writing about Jewish detectives and Jewish culture acceptable. In his works, he explored the Jewish faith and its morality and used the contrast between social and moral justice to make philosophical points about issues. His Jewishness endeared him to many others in the American Jewish community largely because of the dialogues he opened and the sympathetic way in which he presented Jewish characters to a Gentile audience.
Kaminsky was often nominated for various mystery awards, and in 1989 he received an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for A Cold Red Sunrise (1988). In 2006, the same organization named him Grand Master in recognition of a lifetime of achievement. Kaminsky’s works include more than sixty books plus screenplays, textbooks on film and television writing, and a number of biographies of film stars. With all of these accomplishments, Kaminsky had one unrealized ambition: Although he received good reviews, respect, and awards, and his works have always sold well, he never had a book on a best-seller list. He hoped that having been named Grand Master would help him achieve this goal. He was called a writer’s writer and an excessively nice guy.
One reason that Kaminsky was so successful is because he broadened the definition of mystery. He felt that there is a mystery in every good novel in that there is always some question that the main character must answer. When he wrote the first Toby Peters book, Bullet for a Star (1977), he altered the format of the classic, hard-boiled detective novel by using a lighthearted approach that earned him a special place in the pantheon of mystery writers.