On August 20, I reviewed Aquarius Falling on Late Last Night Books, and on October 13 Mike will join us here as a monthly columnist..
Q: Most of us have many all-time favorite books. What are a few of yours and why are they among your favorites?
A: It starts with The Talented Mr. Ripley and includes the entire Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith. Her main character, Tom Ripley, is a psychopath, but Ms. Highsmith tells her stories in such a way that you are cheering him on, you want to see him survive and avoid capture. She was an amazingly talented author.
I’ll also read anything by George Pelecanos. I was first attracted to Pelecanos’ work because the action is based in Washington, D.C., and because I like detective/crime novels. He enriches his novels with such detail that the reader feels as though they are driving through the streets of D.C. and eating baklava in one of his Greek cafes.
Both writers have been a significant influence for me, and you can see elements of their style in my novels.
Q: Of books you’ve read during the last few years, tell us about two or three that you would recommend or that spoke to you personally, whether or not you would recommend them widely.
A: Evidence of Things Unseen, by Marianne Wiggins is one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in recent years. Occurring in the years between World War I and World War II, and set in East Tennessee, the protagonist, a veteran of the first war, is intrigued with electricity, bioluminescence, and x-rays, and a strong faith in the future of technology. The story carries the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions as his life pivots between personal successes and failures.
Ian McEwan’s Atonement is another novel that will tug at your emotions. Interestingly, it also takes place between the wars, but opens in 1935 in an estate in Surrey, England. It is the tragic story of a young girl’s lie, and the lifelong impact on the lives of the victims. McEwan wraps childhood, love, war, and class into a tale of shame and atonement.
Q: In Aquarius Falling protagonist Tom Delaney is at moments a boy-next-door and at moments an amoral survivalist. From where in your personality or in your imagination did he spring?
A: Is it at this point that I am required to confess to selling cocaine and running a prostitution ring? There’s that old adage, “write what you know.” Well, sorry to disappoint, I’ve done neither. I did work in Ocean City in the summer of 1964 and I mentally revisited the time and location and then began asking “what if” questions.
Q: You lived through the tumultuous ’60s, as did Delaney. What immediate effect did the Viet Nam War, the draft, and the hippie movement have on you? What long-range effects?
A: I served my country as a Reservist in the U.S. Army, and fortunately I was never activated. I married right out of college and promptly went about earning a living and raising a family, so with a job and my military obligation I wasn’t able to grow my hair long or hang out in my bare feet at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.
It’s really about lessons learned. For me, I learned: war is bad and should be avoided; never get involved in another country’s civil war; a volunteer army is better than a conscripted army; and the hippie movement was more about fashion than values.
Q: You have two Tom Delaney novels published. I loved Aquarius Falling and look forward to reading Capricorn’s Collapse. What’s your current work-in-progress?
A: I’m taking a break from Tom Delaney and his gal pal, Misty Vail, but I do plan to get back to them. The novel I’m working on now is tentatively titled, Their Hearts Were Full of Spring. The story follows the lives of three musically gifted children from terribly dysfunctional childhoods into young adult stardom in the country music business. I’m collaborating with a singer/songwriter and incorporating her material into the novel. We plan to release a CD with the music from the story. It is an exciting and challenging project.