This page will be devoted to questions submitted by you, the reader. Feel free to submit a question here. Upon reviewing your inquiry and with your permission, I will post your question with a follow-up answer.
Who are your favorite authors?
When someone at a party or such discovers that I am a writer, I am often asked which authors are my favorites and which I go back to again and again. While they have naturally varied over the years, the first tdhree have never changed.
- Joseph Conrad. Simply a master stylist of the English language with the ability to create intense images that never leave your mind. From the enclosing menace of “Heart of Darkness”; the personal devastation of Lord Jim; to Victory in which the entire book changes with one sentence on the last page, Conrad is, for me, the ultimate writer. As T.E. Lawrence once observed, Conrad wrote in paragraphs, never sentences. Conrad’s own life is as fascinating as any of his novels or stories, including in 1878 his going broke gambling at Monte Carlo and attempting suicide (Monte Carlo in 1896 is the locale for the second novel in my Adventures in Second Sight Trilogy to be released in 2014.).
- Jorge Luis Borges. Borges, an Argentinean, proves that a great writer and poet does not have to create massive epics to rank high on anyone’s list of unique writers. Any of Borges’ works can probably be read in less than 20-30 minutes, but they cannot be forgotten. The premier fabulist writer of any century, Borges takes what seems a logical starting point then seamlessly creates an utterly impossible and enchanting situation. My first introduction to Borges was many years ago when a retired editor commented after reading a draft of one of my short stories, “The Memory Café”, that the story resembled something like Borges. I didn’t realize at the time that to even resemble Borges was a unique compliment. Needless to say, “Funes the Memorious” was the first Borges story I read and remains one of my favorites as with “The Library of Babel” and Borges’ three masterful mystery stories in which he takes the three famous mystery stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and turns them around, particularly his “Garden of Forking Paths” which is worth several readings.
- Jack London. London was a marvelously gifted iconic American writer whose White Fang, Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf andMartin Eden would make any writer’s lasting reputation; but it has always been his short stories that captured me more than anything. His “A Thousand Dozen” story has been a favorite since my first reading it forty some years ago. Irving Stone’s Sailor on Horseback, remains a great biographical introduction to Jack London. London’s life and struggles are memorable in their own right. I have had the opportunity to visit London’s Beauty Ranch at Glen Ellen, CA, several times which helps to provide some feel for what London saw every day as he labored at his writing, which always came first before the ranch. He would have been a great neighbor. The 1915 photo below taken of London with Harry Houdini and their wives in Oakland before a Thanksgiving dinner has not been widely published (only twice actually). There were three photos taken that morning, two of which I have. The third, in which London and Houdini are just sitting in chairs staring at the camera was found by my late friend, Ed Hill, in a garage sale. London died the following year at the age of forty. Two recent Houdini biographies have strongly suggested that Houdini and London’s widow, Charmian, had a brief love affair with Charmian referring to Houdini in her diaries as “her magic man”. A good friend, the late Tom Tietze, who was president of the Jack London Society told me that he concurred with the conclusions of the biographers. So, I’ll buy it.There has been a new biography of London by Earle Labor just published that has received some great reviews. I look forward to reading it.
Standing from the left Jack London, Harry Houdini. Seated from the left, Bess Houdini, Charmian London
Eliminating the classics, which book that you have read do you wish you had written?
That one is easy. James A. Michener’s 1947 novel, Tales of the South Pacific, a book he wrote when he was about forty. I first read it in high school and can still recall my feelings when I finished it. I re-read the book most recently about a year ago, and it still had the same effect. Michener’s later, 1950, Return to Paradise, complements Tales, giving as it does some of the background to the writing of the earlier book. But it is the structure of the novel using interconnected tales that so captivated me. It was the recurrence of the principal characters from different points of view in different situations, and their changing personae through the book. Though Tales won the Pulitzer in 1948, it wasn’t until Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific, opened in 1949 that the book really took off in sales.
Where did the name Kyame come from?
Kyame Piddington is the young heroine of my historical novel currently on Amazon Kindle, Revelations of the Impossible Piddingtons, and of the Adventures in Second Sight series. I have been asked several times via e-mail and in person regarding the source of the name as no one had encountered it before. Some years ago, I decided to do a scifi short story and put some suitably scifi names together. The hero was to be Ragon Tingi and the heroine’s name was constructed to be as simple as possible, but starting with the letter K. Why that was necessary for the story would take too long to explain. The final name I came up with was Kyame, pronounced Kai’-ah-me (with the emphasis on the first syllable). I dropped the story when it just didn’t come together and went on to other things.
In first plotting the Impossible Piddingtons, the name of the daughter became Kyame as I wanted a reasonably common last name that would be alliterative with Impossible but with a unique first name that would be easy for the reader to remember. Like any author, as the novel progressed I increasingly developed the image of Kyame in my mind; thus while doing research on a non-fiction project related to mind readers of the nineteenth century, I came across an old promotional pamphlet that I flipped through, only to discover on the back page a photographic image that was exactly the image of Kyame staring up at me — particularly the eyes. That photograph is on the dust jacket of the novel.
Who was your favorite television detective?
In a conversation with friends over some excellent Pinot Grigio recently, I was asked as a writer, which of the detective shows in televison’s past did I most enjoy. That would be Remington Steele. It is pure fantasy of the LA of the early 80’s, with some excellent comedy (why the principals, Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist, didn’t do more comedy in other venues is unfortunate. Their timing was great.) and some very imaginative plots. The premise of the show that the hero, Remington Steele, did not actually exist, was inspired, which led to many excellent sub-plots. Doris Roberts was also a key part of the series’ success. No gore, excessive violence, or overload of four-letter words — just great writing, acting and a lot of fun. And who wouldn’t want to watch Laura Holt take on the bad guys every week?