A few words from the author . . .
The Lost Testimony of Bones LeBeau is my first historical novel (although NOMAD/Y was firmly grounded in history). Anyone who studies the Kennedy assassination will quickly find himself completely immersed in facts, snippets of truth and conflicting theories. The information is overwhelming. It took a bull session fueled by red wine and strong coffee to sort it out one night. But at the end, the motive was crystal clear. Then came the problem of presenting it. The solution was to wrap it up in the fabric of the 1960's and relate it through the eyes of a witness – who later responded to the FBI request for information. If writing a suspense novel is like downhill skiing (which it can be), then writing a historical novel is like the slalom event. The pace must be fast, but there are all these gates (facts and dates) you must go through. About halfway through, I abandoned the project and began writing another suspense novel. But it wouldn't be still. The idea was too strong. When I realized I needed a summary from the KGB investigation to tie up the loose ends, I went back to work. The result is unlike my two previous novels, but perhaps more satisfying to those who wonder why JFK was shot.
All the Targets. In the midst of writing The Lost Testimony of Bones LeBeau, I received a very cordial, but firm, warning not to finish it. It was not a threat. But I was reminded by someone who was connected that certain government agencies and mob interests had actively discouraged such endeavors in the past. It was enough to make me start a new project, which turned out to be All the Targets. But about halfway through it, I decided to finish Bones LeBeau. No repercussions so far. When I returned to All the Targets, I was surprised to find that some of the fictional events I had written had become historical facts. Among them, two American automobile manufacturers had been nationalized and Palestine had declared independence unilaterally. These were major elements in the novel that were removed or changed significantly. I fully expect that further changes will occur that in the near future that will compromise minor elements of the story. This is a risk inherent in writing about current world events. Because of the time that elapsed between the start and the completion of this novel, I deemed it prudent to eliminate the year from the date at the beginning of each chapter – although the year can still be determined by matching the day of the week with the date of the month. If there was ever a story that wrote itself, this was it. Writing without an outline or destination, I was constantly surprised by the directions it took. Only after it was written did I attempt to provide cohesion through a long editing process. I'm not sure why this novel contains so much destruction and mayhem. It seemed to fit the story at the time, and still does. Predictably, Hollywood finds it to be "cinematic."
I've found that when you place a few interesting characters in a situation where they have to interact, they will do so in unpredictable ways. Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs, put it this way in his forward to Red Dragon:
None of my novels to date ends as I had originally expected. To achieve this spontaneity from my characters, I tend to write in dialogue rather than narrate the story. I refrain from detailed physical descriptions of the characters for the same reason. I guarantee that you will not be prepared for the ending of any of my novels.
SUSPENSE IS BEST SERVED WITH A TWIST!
Do I know any of these people? Surprisingly, none of the characters is based upon a single real person. My own point of view as a solo attorney is expressed by Grace O'Higgins, but we are not similar. What about the raccoon? Yes, there was a Snooks, who took up residence in our backyard.
Some of you want to know why I write. I have always written just for the pleasure it gives me. This may be due to some gene that appears once every century, because there is little in my family history to explain it. When I get an idea that I think would make a good story, I make notes about it and give it a working name. (I have dozens of these.) Once I have started writing a story, I know that it will take unexpected turns. So, although it sounds strange, I complete the novel in order to find out how it ends.
The American educational system is not designed to discourage reading for pleasure. That is simply the unintended result of forcing students to read depressing literature that has no relevance to modern society. And even Shakespeare would have scoffed at the idea that his plays be read. Don't get me wrong. I have voluntarily read many Charles Dickens novels and consider A Tale of Two Cities to be one of the finest books ever published. But you can't force people to read The Mayor of Casterbridge and Death of a Salesman and expect them to want to read again. (My own formal education required three readings of Death of a Salesman. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself.)
Shortly after NOMAD/Y was published, I gave a copy to a friend who did not read for pleasure any more. Over a course of several years, she would tell me what part she had reached and I would emit encouraging sounds. One day she announced that she had finished it and was looking forward to the next one. I took this to be mere politeness, but I did give her a copy of The Doorstep of Depravity when it was published. Three weeks later she told me she was ready for the next one. Now she reads a novel every couple of weeks. That, my friends, is gratifying.
After years of reading law books, I too had stopped reading for pleasure. Then I discovered Ian Fleming's James Bond books and quickly exhausted them. Friends got me reading Alistair MacLean's intriguing spy novels. Then I discovered John D. MacDonald, who excelled at everything from Travis McGee to science fiction.
Now I read mostly fiction, but occasionally great non-fiction like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Boomerang by Michael Lewis, Havana Nocturne by T.J. English, or The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. Favorite novelists (and favorite books by them because some are inconsistent) are Nelson DeMille (Mayday, Night Fall), Clive Cussler (Night Probe, Sahara), Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The Great Train Robbery), Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Cat's Cradle, Slapstick), Len Deighton (Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match, in that order), Martin Cruz Smith (Havana Bay, Gorky Park), Ken Follett (The Key to Rebecca, Eye of the Needle, Night Over Water), Carl Hiaasen (Native Tongue, Stormy Weather), Randy Wayne White (Sanibel Flats, Shark River), Donna Leon (Death at La Fenice) and the rest of the Brunetti series, in order, and, of course, Dan Brown (Angels and Demons). I also recommend Spirit Horses, the first novel by Alan S. Evans. This list is not exhaustive.
I always get questions about the songs mentioned in my books. In the 1930's there was a weekly 15-minute live radio show in Columbus, Ohio, called Ken & Lou, the Singing Two. My father was the Ken component of the Singing Two. He sang and played the ukulele. I once asked him what they were paid. A confused look came over him for a moment. Then he said "We weren't very good. We called it square." Thus was born a family musical tradition of singing and playing stringed instruments with little talent, inadequate preparation and nominal compensation. I did my part, as evidenced by the songs in my novels and the dozens that lie in wait for unsuspecting future novels.
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