No One’s Pushover by Dianne Emley

Very happy to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog, though I’m a touch saddened by the realization that her post today about Pushover actually brings us to the end of her retrospective on the Iris Thorne series, which was originally published in the early-mid 90s prior to being reissued recently. Whether you knew Iris back when or have discovered her for the first time through this series, I hope you’ve enjoyed the wonderful trip down memory lane Dianne has provided.

Dianne EmleyThank you, Elizabeth, for hosting my guest posts about my experiences revisiting my first mystery series which featured Iris Thorne–a single, sexy, and savvy Los Angeles investment advisor. The books were originally published by Simon and Schuster in the nineties. All five Iris Thorne Mysteries—Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover are available for the first time as e-books and trade paperbacks.

This post is about Pushover, the fifth and mostly likely final Iris Thorne Mystery (although never say never), and thus the last entry in this blog series.

When I sat down to craft Iris #5, I was weary of writing about an amateur sleuth. I was tired of finding ways for Iris to stumble over dead bodies and outsmart cops. I was tired of Iris’s job and the office politics. Even after the series debut, Cold Call, was sold in a two-book deal and I learned I was writing a series (yes, I was that naïve), I strived to make the subsequent books darker. Once I pitched my editor the idea of Iris as a murderer and was quickly (and rightly) laughed down. I pitched the idea of setting an Iris book in another location such as New York City, San Francisco, or, how about the Caribbean? My editor tartly responded, “So is this ‘Iris Takes a Vacation?’” I was feeling more than a little trapped.

As I was evolving as a writer, Iris was changing too. Through the series, she ages in real time. In Pushover, she’s more mature than when we met her in Cold Call. She’s battled her way up to the manager’s corner office, she’s bought a beach bungalow, she’s in a serious relationship, and she’s left many of her girlish ways behind.

By Book 5, Iris and I were both ready for something new and we did it. I changed the location of the book to Moscow, but just for the opening chapters. When I wrote the book in 1998, post-Soviet Russia was a wild place where fortunes were being made and bloody rivalries were being played out in the streets. My inspiration for Pushover was a true story about an American businessman who was machine-gun downed on the steps of a fancy Moscow hotel. I also tested my thriller-writing chops in Pushover. I started the discipline of outlining with Iris #4, Foolproof, and continued this with Pushover, really focusing on plot, folding in lots of reversals, betrayals, and twists.

Pushover by Dianne EmleyBefore reissuing the first four Irises, I polished them a little but resisted the urge to make major changes, wanting to respect the books as they had been published. I mostly cleaned up language and punctuation.

However, with Pushover I let my editing pencil run free. Since the book would be new to my primary market (it had only been published in the U.K.–a story for another time), I felt free to edit it hard. I fixed bad writing habits that rankled when I saw them in the first four Irises but didn’t change in the reissued versions. I cut about 20,000 words from Pushover and it wasn’t a long book to begin with. Most cuts involved a subplot that added nothing to the main story. I also pared down lengthy descriptions. The result is the leanest book in the Iris series. I think it’s the most page-turning.

After Pushover was published in 1999, I took a break from writing. I resurfaced in 2006 with the publication of The First Cut, the first in my Detective Nan Vining series. I was finally writing about a professional sleuth and I could make those books as dark as I wanted.

I couldn’t fully let Iris go. Fans would ask me about her, so I gave her a cameo in The First Cut. Nan Vining is investigating a murder and happens upon Iris’s house when knocking on doors in a tony Pasadena neighborhood near where the victim’s body was found. Iris gives Nan information that helps Iris nab the murderer. When I turned in my manuscript of The First Cut, my editor, who’d also edited the Iris books, asked me, “What happened to Iris? It’s like Nan’s at the house of a crazy woman.”

I reread that chapter. My editor was right. I couldn’t believe it. Had I lost my connection to Iris? I tore up that section and tried again until I got Iris right. And there she is, happily married to Garland, living in a stately Pasadena manse decorated with plastic pink flamingos, running her own investment firm, delighted to help Nan Vining with a murder investigation, bristling when Garland’s colleague calls her a “trophy wife,” and still driving her beloved Triumph sports car. She’s in a good place and she’s our Iris.

Dianne EmleyI’ll always love Iris. I still can’t part with artifacts of her life that I own—her “Budgets are for Wimps” mug (how 80s!) and her 1972 Triumph sports car. I’m so happy that readers are discovering the Iris Thorne Mysteries for the first time or having fun reading them again.

I’m giving away a copy of Pushover (choice of e-book or trade paperback) to one of the commenters on this post, so tell me what you think!

Dianne Emley is a Los Angeles Times bestselling author and has received critical acclaim for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and the Iris Thorne mysteries (Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover). Her short fiction has been published in Shaken—Stories for Japan and Literary Pasadena. Her books have been translated into six languages. A Los Angeles native, she lives in California with her husband. To learn more about Dianne, visit her website.


  • No One’s Pushover | Dianne Emley

    September 16, 2013 - 6:26 PM

    […] continuing my blog series at Elizabeth White’s Book Reviews about revisiting my first series, the Iris Thorne Mysteries, originally published in the 1990s and […]

  • Elizabeth A. White

    May 3, 2013 - 9:17 PM

    Elaine Ash was selected via as the winner of the free copy of PUSHOVER. Congratulations, Elaine!

  • Elaine Ash

    April 30, 2013 - 2:21 PM

    I want to win a copy of this book. (And if I do’t win one, I’ll buy one). Sign me up!
    Elaine Ash

  • Connie Archer

    April 16, 2013 - 11:27 AM

    Loved your post, Dianne and laughed out loud! Years ago I bought a book called Aupres de ma Blonde only to discover the author killed his protagonist in this (last) book. I was devastated. Needless to say, I had to backtrack and read the earlier ones.
    I’d love to read Pushover!

    • Dianne Emley

      April 16, 2013 - 12:43 PM

      Connie, I guess that’s one way to end a series! I couldn’t do that to Iris. I gave her a happily ever after. Thanks for your comment!

  • Lauren Smith

    April 16, 2013 - 1:41 AM

    I love books in a series. I haven’t read any of these, but I have put them on my list of books to read, so thanks for the review! It looks like there is a big fan base here. I can’t wait to read them!

    I just finished up the book, “Stop Playing Safe: Rethink Risk. Unlock the Power of Courage. Achieve Outstanding Success” by author Margie Warrell. The book covers topics such as, “Stop procrastinating to make the changes and take the chances you’ve always wanted in your work, career or life.” LOVED IT!

  • Charles Emley

    April 16, 2013 - 12:37 AM

    The best of the Iris series saved to the last! Maybe another one is out there somewhere in the future

    • Dianne Emley

      April 16, 2013 - 9:45 AM

      Thanks,hubby! PUSHOVER is your favorite of the Irises. Like I said, never say never.

  • Charles Emley

    April 16, 2013 - 12:34 AM

    Saved the best of the Iris series for last – maybe there’s another one lurking out there in the future!!

    • Elizabeth A. White

      April 23, 2013 - 4:57 PM

      It’s my favorite as well…followed very closely by Fast Friends.

      • Dianne Emley

        April 23, 2013 - 6:11 PM

        My favorite is SLOW SQUEEZE although all the Irises are dear to my heart.

  • Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    April 15, 2013 - 5:41 PM

    Dianne, you’re so funny. Saying “shameless” gives one the idea there should be something to be ashamed of! Anyone with the hang of fiction writing you do HAS to know that you’re just helping people who want good reading find it! (-:


    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Excited about how much the new edition of the Frugal Book Promoter (expanded! updated!) can help writers with the tried and true and the new media, too. Now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right ( it the original edition was also a Reader Views winner and an Irwin Award winner.

    • Dianne Emley

      April 15, 2013 - 5:51 PM

      You’re right, Carolyn, I’m helping mystery lovers find something great to read! Thanks for your comment and congrats on the success of the Frugal Book Promoter.

  • Sally Carpenter

    April 15, 2013 - 4:04 PM

    Hi Dianne, here’s some comment love coming your way! I’m not familiar with your work but I love how you were willing to let your writing mature and you took risks with an established series character rather than crank out “more of the same.” Best of luck on the Nan Vining series! I’m only on book two of my series so I have a ways to catch up.

    • Dianne Emley

      April 15, 2013 - 4:30 PM

      Congrats on your success with your series. I did take a lot of risks with the Iris Thorne character. Who knows? I might have had more success if I cranked out “more of the same.” Thanks for the comment love!

  • sabrina ogden

    April 15, 2013 - 12:49 PM

    Wonderful post, Dianne. I’m a reader that falls in love with my characters… they become like family to me and it’s hard for me to let them go when a writer has “moved on”, so to speak. I’m sure it’s nice to have fans of your work begging for a character’s return. though. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Dianne Emley

      April 15, 2013 - 1:40 PM

      Thanks, Sabrina! Yes, it’s wonderful for readers to want the next book in a series. Thanks for your comment.

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