Over the past twelve years (since I retired at the age of 59), I've written nineteen novels, four novellas, four non-fiction books, and seven anthologies, all of which you can find in the Kindle Store. Instead of writing a biography of myself, which seems rather irrelevant, I would prefer to write a biography of my books. Here, in the order in which they were written, is a brief sketch of the plots, themes, and subject matter of these books.
1/ The Voice of the Victim describes a series of murders in a small city. I've always felt a great deal of empathy for the victims of violent crimes, especially those who are murdered by guns. What, I wondered, would these people say to us if they could speak? When reading this book, it is important to remember that my intention, from first page to last page, was to present the voice of the victim. And, to me, this voice is not a straight-line accusation of weapons and murderers but tends to veer to a pervasive mockery and total indictment of modern culture. This novel is much different than anything else I have written, and there will be many who will object to what the "voice" is saying.
2/ Some Things Are Sweeter than God is somewhat along the lines of a classic murder mystery but is certainly not one of those books where the conclusion is some wild revelation that no sensible reader could ever discern beforehand. The protagonist is a forty-year-old woman lawyer who, in her role as a public defender, is required to represent a man who is accused of brutally murdering his ex-girlfriend.
3/ The Road Map to the Universe is a well-constructed novel--at one time, I was a tournament chess player, and this book required a great deal of planning and analysis. Essentially, it's a highly unusual murder mystery, but the perceptive reader may be able to identify a standard plot theme lurking in the background. The Road Map also examines an interesting philosophical question: In a universe of four billion galaxies, what relevance, if any, does the human being have?
4/ The Great Barrington Train Wreck, a truly offbeat social commentary, includes a unique type of murder mystery and is one of my favorite novels. Although I almost never include anything from my own life experience in my books, I was, just like the protagonist in the Train Wreck, homeless for many years. So I'm familiar with the lingo and attitude that some of the homeless have. This is a catchy, captivating book where the plot seems to materialize out of thin air until it becomes the elephant in the room. Also, to my mind, this tale could describe what happens to Holden Caulfield, the anti-hero of the Catcher in the Rye, as he approaches forty. It's not all peaches and cream! Especially when he falls in love with the daughter of a millionaire, and even more especially when he ends up on death row.
5/ Your Kiss Is Like the Sweetest Fire describes a teenage romance between Jaime and Renee, who were adopted at a young age into the same family. It seems illogical to me, but in almost all states, the law views a sexual relationship between adopted siblings who live in the same family as a crime of incest--exactly as if they were related by blood. So Jaime and Renee have this difficulty to contend with, and also, their mother and father are both rather repulsive characters who are totally incapable of helping them. Wait until you meet Renee--I love her.
6/ Requiem for the West is partially based on an apocalyptic poem that I wrote during the 1990's. Ten thousand hours is a lot of time to spend on a seven-hundred-word poem! Requiem is also an examination of some apparently abstract themes that seem highly relevant to me: 1/ The pervasive role of explicit sexuality in our culture and the very different ways that people react to it; 2/ The often farcical, Dilbert-like nature of the modern workplace, in this case a college; and 3/ Is doomsday just around the corner? The 1960-2000 version of myself considered a nuclear apocalypse to be inevitable, but nowadays, I'm ambivalent.
7/ Frontier Justice was easy to write because once Adriana Jones arrived on page 10, she took over the book, and all I had to do was keep up with her as she overpowered every obstacle that crossed her path. I hadn't intended for that to happen, but that's the way life goes sometimes. Do I agree with, support, condone, or advocate Adriana's way of doing things? Difficult questions. Adriana is my creation, so I have to take some responsibility for her, I suppose, but I look at it this way: To be true to a character, one has to let the person speak and act in a way that is appropriate to his or her personality. I just can't legislate them into political correctness! Adriana didn't just overpower the other characters in Frontier Justice--she also overpowered me. I really like this book--I wish, as a writer, I could think of more characters who are as dynamic as Adriana.
8/ A Tale from the Blackwater River is a novella that is meant to be a satire on a certain kind of story that is showing up far too frequently nowadays, but on another level, it's just kind of a humorous tale that was a lot of fun to write. This book is written in the first person by a forty-two-year-old woman named Alanda Streets. I almost published it under the pen name Alanda Streets because I thought some people might say that no woman would ever write a story like A Tale from the Blackwater River, but for those who feel that way, I hope you will ask yourself this question: If the name Alanda Streets had been on the cover of the book, instead of mine, would you have felt that a woman couldn't have written it?
9/ The Blackwater Journal is another Alanda Streets novel--this time, she is only sixteen. I couldn't seem to get away from Alanda--she does have a spunky survivor's attitude towards life that appeals to me. In this book, she has to call on all her resources when her evil father imprisons her in a room and tells her that she has only a week left to live. As the days pass by, the terror mounts on her own personal death row. Does Alanda escape? Maybe so, maybe no.
10/ Love Letters (Soaked in Blood) is another murder mystery that has a humorous undertone, which many will probably miss. The problem with writing a murder mystery is that anything that can be thought of has already been done about a thousand times. The only original idea left would be to have the most obvious suspect turn out to be the murderer. Think of it--that's probably never been done! And so...maybe you can guess the rest.
11/ The Book of the Dead is about a man who goes to his 25th reunion and meets his high school sweetheart. The two of them embark on an impulsive twenty-four hour car ride that will take them through three southern states and bring them face-to-face with death. This is a tale where the boundaries of ordinary reality are stretched out a little bit! I'll leave it to you to decide whether The Book of the Dead is a fantasy or a reality.
12/ Destroyed by Malice sees the return of a character who played a minor role in The Voice of the Victim. He's the world famous novelist Barker Drule, but unfortunately, he (and his wife) exit the book on page 1 when they are gunned down in their driveway. It isn't long before detective Jeff Willard is convinced that the murderer is a member of the Drule family. Perhaps it's Lenore, the older daughter, who was, years ago, secretly raped by her father; perhaps it's the beautiful Raylene, who wrote a novel about a rape victim that her father managed to have the publishing industry blackball; perhaps it's Ricky, the cocaine-addicted son who is desperate to get his hands on his father's money; and perhaps it's Dalton Drule, Barker's irascible eighty-two-year-old father who just happens to own the gun that was used to murder his son. In the end, when the truth finally comes out, there will be very few left to tell the tale.
13/ How to Write an Imaginative Novel takes you through the whole process of writing a novel and then uploading it to Kindle. Among the many things covered are: Where will you find a plot? What is the best way to find names for your characters? How important is it to punctuate your book correctly? Is there a quick way to learn punctuation and sentence structure? What is the best way to write dialogue? What kind of things should one avoid in a novel? What is the significance of the first draft and why is it so important? How does one begin a book so that it immediately commands the reader's attention? How does one revise and edit a novel? Is it possible to create the cover for your book without spending any money? How does one convert a book to the correct format so that it can be uploaded to Kindle? And finally, how does one upload a book to Kindle?
14/ I Ching 2015 contains a complete translation (minus the Confucian commentaries) of this ancient Chinese classic. Also included are detailed instructions on how to consult the I Ching using either yarrow stalks, coins, or dice. (For those who have been using coins, one should be aware that a significant error has crept into the method that many people use to cast an omen. This error, which involves using either three or four similar coins will seriously affect the accuracy of the omens you receive.) Additionally, there is extensive advice on how to interpret an omen. By using the correct method of interpretation, you will be surprised at how much clearer omens become. As part of this advice, I have posed a number of questions to the I Ching and have then interpreted the omen I received. Finally, for each hexagram, as well as many of the lines in each hexagram, I have included my own observations as to the essential meaning of these hexagrams and lines.
15/ Blood and Blackmail is an elegant murder mystery with an unusual plot twist that took me some time to piece together. For those readers who enjoy the challenge of solving a crime before the final chapter arrives, this novel should provide you with a truly interesting puzzle. I doubt many people, if any, are going to see the underlying deception that runs throughout this tale because...if I say anything else, I might help the reader unravel this mystery, and I certainly wouldn't want to do that!
16/ Fairy Tales by Martians takes a humorous look at the theory of evolution. Science, of course, claims that the human being originated from an amoeba that eventually became a tadpole that eventually became a frog and so on and so forth. However, I just can't conceive of the fact that ten million years ago, two frogs mated in a swamp and because of that event, I eventually arrived on the scene. What kind of a genealogy chart is that? Neither does the seven-day religious version of events appeal to me, so what I'm left with is a very cynical view of both the religious and scientific theories concerning the origins of our existence.
17/ The Book of Dreams repeats a very old idea that has been used in many a novel. But here, in this murder mystery, the idea is taken to another level entirely and contains a twist that not many will see coming. The clues are there, starting with the poem in the Preface.
18/ The Dark Side of the Moon is a tale about an attractive high school teacher who falls in love with one of her students. However, Carolyn Black is nervous that her sexual liaison with the student will ruin her career. Eventually, she tries to break off their relationship, but when he threatens to commit suicide, Carolyn is faced with an excruciating dilemma.
19/ The Murder of Nora Winters was inspired by John Dickson Carr who wrote a number of locked-room mysteries. In this type of mystery, the murder victim is found in a room that does not allow the killer any means of exit. The doors and windows are all bolted from the inside, and it's considered very poor form for the author to create a room where there are sliding walls or secret panels. The solution to the murder of Nora Winters is, I think, relatively simple, but I've woven in enough deceit and misdirection to confuse all but the most astute readers.
20/ The Vanishing Victim is a tale of a psychiatrist and a troubled woman who comes to him for counseling. What she reveals to him proves to be a confession to a brutal crime, but he is unable, because of the doctor/patient privilege, from revealing this crime to anyone, including the police. But even more troubling is that the woman's confession, although it contains a number of factual inaccuracies, turns out to have a terrifying reality of its own.
21/ The Fatality Game follows a series of innocuous crimes in a rich neighborhood that seem to be more pranks than anything else. But when a woman is murdered in her bed, Detective Cody Barnes realizes that there is something evil lurking under the placid veneer of swanky mansions that are inhabited by millionaires. And when Cody becomes romantically involved with one of the earlier victims, the beautiful Lucinda Kane, the case begins to take on a life of its own that will eventually lead to the deaths of three more people.
22/ How to Write an Intelligent Murder Mystery describes some of the adventures I encountered while I was writing murder mysteries (of my twenty-one novels, thirteen are murder mysteries.) This is a somewhat unusual instructional book that attempts to relate the problems encountered in the writing of a murder mystery to the more general problem of writing fiction in today's market where any new novel is almost instantaneously buried under an avalanche of new novels.
23/ The Real Meaning of Life is definitely one of my favorite books. It's written in the first person by Patrick Devlan, a twenty-seven-year-old guy who writes murder mysteries. But his father, who is dying of pancreatic cancer, wants Patrick to write something that will take his readers to a "better place." Patrick decides to follow his father's advice, but a few days later, his roommate's pregnant girlfriend is murdered, and Patrick becomes entangled in a real-life murder mystery. Eventually, after his roommate is convicted of the crime and sent to death row, Patrick is faced with a dilemma that will lead him to the discovery of the real meaning of life.
24/ Flight 9525 is a non-fiction book that attempts to answer the question as to why there is so much suffering in the world. For the most part, this book bypasses the usual political, psychological, and social reasons for suffering and examines the following: If God is real, then why do human beings suffer? Why would an all-merciful, all-loving, and all-powerful Being permit its creations to suffer? The usual explanations, such as the hypothesis that God granted man free will, don't answer the question at all. In fact, this is a question that's never been answered satisfactorily.
25/ The Scriptwriter is the tale of a man who becomes entangled with three different women. There's the incredibly beautiful woman, the incredibly rich woman, and the incredibly homeless woman. Which one will he choose? Events, mishaps, and character flaws lead him to an interesting decision.
26/ The Murder of Marabeth Waters contains a considerable amount of subtle black humor and describes the investigation that ensues after a prostitute is found strangled to death. Detective Devin Driver is quickly able to focus on a suspect; not only did this man send a threatening note to Marabeth, but also, her blood is found in his car. As it turns out, the real murderer lurks elsewhere, and unfortunately, Devin isn't a particularly perceptive detective, so it isn't surprising when the wrong person is convicted of the crime. However, even if Devin had been Sherlock Holmes on steroids, he undoubtedly wouldn't have solved this murder.
27/ The Trial of Shada King--a district attorney in Hartford, Connecticut, is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of the man who had raped her ten days before the shooting. Shada claims that she acted in self-defense, and since she was wearing a recording device at the time of the shooting, her claim of self-defense seems to be valid. But why was she wearing the recording device? The prosecuting attorney is convinced the crime scene was an elaborate stage production that was intended to deceive those who would be listening to the tape and that the victim was murdered in retaliation for the rape.
28-34/ Finally, I have seven anthologies on Kindle that combine complete versions of many of the books listed above: Four Novels, 5 Novels, Four Murder Mysteries, The Blackwater Novels, Dark Tales, Six Novels, and Five Murder Mysteries. The purpose of the anthologies is that it gives the reader a chance to buy, for instance, five novels of mine at the rock-bottom price of $2.99.
I spend a great deal of time revising my books. After finishing the first draft, I go through the book at least eight more times--first page to last page. Each journey through the book is slow and painstaking--no less than three hours and no more than thirty-five pages a day. From my experience, the kind of errors that pop up on some of the later readings can be rather surprising, if not downright alarming! I particularly look for inaccurate punctuation, lackluster sentence structure, and inaccurate or repetitive vocabulary. I also do not permit confusing sentences to stand--I can't imagine that any reader will want to read a sentence twice because I couldn't find a way to explain myself clearly.
Finally, I would ask you all to keep an open mind about novels by an author who has no brand name. I am quite unusual because I do not advertise myself in any way, shape, or form (outside, I guess, of this little biography). My books are well-written, entertaining, and thought provoking, but they are often truly original, and I worry about the page-six syndrome. That's the point where some readers abandon a book by an unknown author because of a single sentence, idea, or attitude that seems amateurish to them. Have faith that there are some genuine diamonds in the Kindle arena and have faith that your instinct to buy one of my books was a good instinct. If you read any of my books to the finish, I think you'll feel that your time was not wasted because these novels are not cheap imitations--they are real creations.