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THE PRIVATE EYE IS NOT DEAD!

Some people have suggested that modern technology has made the traditional private eye – the dogged hero of so many wonderful novels and films – largely irrelevant. In this era of smart phones, the Internet, GPS and drones, how hard is it to nail your cheating spouse? Your next-door neighbor’s kid could probably get the goods for you. OK. You may not want the little snot to know your personal business, so you might hire a private detective (or, more likely, an “investigative service” with dozens of ex-cop operatives working on their fifth and sixth pensions). What used to take 50 pages in a thriller now takes a few strokes on a keyboard. Case closed. Here’s your bill. It’s unlikely that the electronic “detective” will uncover the obligatory murder or other mayhem that would fill out the other 150 pages. It’s hard to stumble over a dead body when looking at a computer screen.      Moreover, if there are any crimes, the super-sleuth police detectives working at the city, state and Fe
I am often asked if a novelist should inject his or her political leanings in a book. There is no easy answer other than to say nothing should stop the flow of a narrative.  Most readers are interested in murder and sex. It would be highly inappropriate for a couple locked in a steamy sexual encounter to stop what they are doing to reflect on the mid-term elections.   Sometimes an author has to give a character an unpalatable opinion, usually in a conversation. Such conversations define the character as a racist, a bigot, a chauvinist, a sexist pig, ax murderer, pederast, serial killer, or even a Red Sox fan.   But authors don't inhabit an ethical vacuum. My protagonists are basically moral people, who usually know right from wrong and are offended by injustice. When they offer an opinion, you can be pretty sure it’s one I hold. Interestingly enough, some of the villains in my books also have a moral code, and I like them to express it on occasion.  In fact, I think that coming fro
Here, in no particular order, are wells of inspiration that have “inspired” me. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:  Yes, I know. Many authors, even those who write vampire novels, weave personal experiences into their work. Hopefully, not too personal, since there are laws against sucking blood from people, unless you work for the IRS. In my case, all my books are heavily grounded in my past as a police reporter, columnist, financial editor, corporate executive, director of a nonprofit, sex therapist, and various other personas—basically someone who couldn’t hold down a steady job. (I made the sex therapist thing up, by the way; just wanted to see if you’re paying attention.) TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES:  TCM runs a lot of black-and-white movies from the mid-1930s starring great actors with plots that somehow predate the use of LSD. I do not  steal  the plots, but they do send my mind racing. There was one film in which Fredric March or William Powell (it was early, and the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet
This year marks  the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather”. There are plenty of “Godfather” reminiscences, but I think mine are unique. I was a reporter for the Staten Island Advance when director Francis Ford Coppola brought his crew to the borough's posh Emerson Hill neighborhoods to film several scenes of the movie. The location was at the dead end of Longfellow Avenue, and the film’s staging area — where equipment, costumes, and the like were stored at night — was about a mile away at what was then Staten Island Community College. I was very familiar with Longfellow Avenue because one of my pals, Ed Maloy, lived almost adjacent to the compound where “The Godfather” wedding scene was shot. The Maloy lawn was commandeered by the film crew for equipment brought up from the college. The family was heavily compensated for the length of the shoot, which I recall lasted a full week. Also, a year earlier, I had attended a real wedding reception in the “Godfather” house and compound when
I read a lot. Probably too much. It is keeping me from my household chores, like taking out the garbage. (Hmm, maybe I should read even more.) Magazine-wise, I get the New Yorker, People, the Week, Vanity Fair, Florida Sportsman (it has great pictures of fish I can’t seem to catch), Golf Digest (another magazine that highlights my inadequacies), and one or two others that I don’t recall ordering. I also get The New York Times , because I used to work there, and because in my ultra-conservative neighborhood in Florida I like to piss people off. (I must remember to tip the delivery guy at Christmas; my home must be his only local stop!) I also read books in print. Some suggestions: Where the Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens;  The Splendid and the Vile  by Erik Larson; Black Smoke , by Adrian Miller (which has a great recipe for “Old Arthur’s Pork Belly Burnt Ends”; The Martian and Project Hail Mary , by Andy Weir. The last two, by Weir, are of course science-fiction. But th

NOVEL OR MEMOIR?

A young Marine P.F.C. on a Navy plane flying to Guantanamo in 1968 chatted with a fellow jarhead sitting next to him. They struck up a friendship, which continued at the base. Some months later, the Marine’s “new friend” was mysteriously shipped stateside well in advance of the normal one-year tour. Soon after that, the P.F.C. was sleeping in his top bunk when he smelled smoke and discovered that his mattress was on fire! The man in the bottom bunk had inserted a lit cigarette in the mattress above. It was a “fragging” incident without the grenade. Although possibly meant as a warning, the Marine couldn’t be sure, so he confronted the man with the cigarette and found out that the “new friend” he’d met on the plane was a Criminal Investigative Department agent, sent to Guantanamo to uncover drug use. The C.I.D. man had asked one too many questions and had been found out. He was quickly sent home for his own safety. Unfortunately, it was assumed that the young P.F.C. had helped in the C.

SOME OF MY IDEAS ARE ALL WET!

I’m about a third of the way through my latest thriller and have found it a harder slog than usual. It might have to do with spending so much time trying to procure a covid-19 vaccination. Here in Florida, the same people who run the unemployment website apparently run the pandemic website. I think the plan is to have everyone die of old age before they get a check or a shot. Luckily, I rarely suffer from writer’s block. In fact, my fevered brain is almost always coming up with new plots or ideas to fit into an existing one. Often, the ideas occur to me in the most awkward moments. I’ve found myself in the shower when an inspiration or a piece of dialogue hits me. I’m at that age where if I don’t get my thoughts down right away, I risk forgetting them. There have been occasions when I’ve left the shower dripping wet, wrapped myself in a towel, and raced to my den. If I’m lucky, I can sit at the computer and jot something down. If I’m not and I have to boot up the computer, I run the ri