Ed Goldberg says, "I have always been a writer."
My first work for "publication" was when I was 6 years old. It was a Purim play for my class in Yeshiva in the Bronx. I wrote it in Hebrew, and gave myself the juiciest part: The Narrator. It closed after one performance, but I had been bitten by the bug.
I wrote execrable poetry in Junior High, and again later in my thirties. Awful stuff. That bug never got its mandibles in me.
I wrote for my high school paper, and for an "underground" paper created when the establishment started censoring articles and cartoons we submitted. I chose the pseudonym Fulano, a kind of Spanish John Doe.
I wrote for my college paper, news and opinion articles, and even "lifestyle" stuff. But, it was later in the 60s that the two threads that define my novels entwined. I discovered detective novels, and the personal essay.
I had read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories as a kid, avidly, but that wasn't where I found my inspiration. My muses were Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, especially the latter. In the 70s and 80s, I wrote music journalism (heavy on the punk rock) and criticism, adding jazz and theater after a short while. But, I still had no idea yet that I would write novels. I did some short, short stories, some essays.
I was reading the newspaper one day, and there was an article about an incident in New York. A concentration camp survivor was walking down the street and he saw coming toward him a man who had been one of the Nazi guards at the camp, a particularly brutal one. The old camp survivor grabbed the savage guard by the throat and strangled him to death right there.
It being New York, and the circumstances being what they were, the old guy got that one free.
This, I said to myself, is an idea for a book. I started to write it; it sucked, and I put it in a drawer.
We moved to Portland in 1991. I couldn't get work, and my wife said, "Why don't you finish that novel?"
By this time, I had read all of Chandler's detective fiction, and his essay entitled The Simple Art of Murder. The classic lines from that essay are: "down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean... He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor--by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it."
The character I was looking for popped into my head, informed not only by Chandler's criteria, but by my own experiences in New York in the 60s. An idealized version of myself, flaws and all, but a man of honor.
I named him Lenny Schneider, the given name of one of my heroes and idols, Lenny Bruce. I set the book in a fictional projection of my old neighborhood on the Lower East Side. I gave Lenny the snotty sense of humor I inherited from my family, and the sense of fair play I developed in the kid culture of the streets, including a soft spot for the underdog.
I gave him a military record as an MP that I didn't have, because I wanted him to have some cop skills. (Preceding Lee Childs' Jack Reacher by 3 years.) I gave him an ex-wife and a few friends based on people I knew, including Bruno, a free-lance knee-breaker for the mob, who also played jazz piano.
The book, Served Cold (as in revenge), was picked up by a local small press, and won a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Two more followed, Dead Air and Red Flags. There may yet be another, some day.
What Ed didn't tell you was that we'd read Served Cold before we ever thought of becoming publishers. So when we did become publishers, we asked him if he'd consider letting us turn it into an ebook. To our great delight, he agreed, and offered us Dead Air and Red Flags, as well. All three are gripping mysteries, on the hard-boiled--and somewhat noir--side. The characters are complex, well-rounded and believable. The narrator, Lenny Schneider is, underneath a prickly, somewhat cynical exterior, an honorable, admirable man.
Ed is on the staff of our favorite radio station, AllClassical.org. Along with hosting shows on weekends, he occasionally interviews writers for his podcast. Look for the link to his "Author, Author" feature on the station's website.
Next month we'll introduce you to a new writer and a tender, moving romance, with music. Until then, keep your distance, wear your mask, and be safe!
Jude & Star