At what point
in time did you realize that writing was the "thing for
When I was a kid, I
was always writing stories. In junior high school, I read a million
sports novels - the kind where the junior high school kid
suffers through adversity and then becomes the big baseball hero. So
I wrote those kinds of stories myself. In high school, I read a lot
of action/adventure/war novels, and wrote lengthy stories with my
own heroes. Most of them people never read. It didn't matter -
writing them was such a blast, it never occurred to me to show them
What advice would you give to someone interested in
becoming a writer?
Don't think about becoming a writer - start writing now. Today. Get
something down on paper before you go to bed tonight. Turn off
the TV, log off the Internet. Write.
What is the name of your favorite mystery
Chinatown. It's a
classic private-eye story with a knock-your-socks off ending. And
it's got Jack Nicholson!
What other authors do you enjoy
Harlan Coban, George Pelicanos, Michael Connelly, Herman Melville
(hey, Moby Dick is a mystery - what the heck is going to happen to
What other types of jobs have you had?
In addition to being a novelist, I'm a
full-time reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Over the years
I've covered every kind of story, including breaking news, police,
politics, race, corruption, organized crime - you know, the usual.
All the knowledge I've gained goes into my
writing in some way.
As I told my editor at the Daily News, what I put in the books is
everything I couldn't put in the paper.
What led you to write
ago, I spent about six months with a group of cops in Philadelphia
to do stories for my paper. I saw everything, I was a part of
everything. Many of the cops became friends of mine. But I realized
there was no way I could sum it up in a few news articles. So, I
decided to try to portray the cop world I saw in fiction. None of
the events in my books actually happened - but they're the kinds of
things that could happen. Cops who have read the books tell me
they're very real.
Do you read reviews of your books?
Yes. Fortunately, nearly all my reviews have
been very positive. But there have been a few negative comments, and
those affected me far more than I ever thought they would. It's
astonishing how much you put yourself on the line when you write a
book. Pete Dexter, a wonderful novelist who used to be a columnist
for my paper, once told me that he stopped writing books partly
because of the reviews. Even the good reviews, he said, had some
negative things in them, and he just didn't want to deal with that
any more. That's a shame.
How would you like to be
As an honest,
ethical and caring person. To me, that's far more important that
being remembered for what I write.
What do you believe is the highlight of your
career so far?
a Borders bookstore in Philadelphia and seeing my book - for the
first time - on a table at the front. I'd been in that bookstore a
million times before, and I'd always dreamed of that happening. And
you write on a fixed schedule?
I get up at 7 a.m. on weekdays and write until about
12:30, when I have to start getting ready for work (by choice, my
hours at the newspaper are 2 p.m.-10 p.m.). On weekends, I
often write all day Saturday and a half day on
do you come up with plots?
I start with a basic scenario, and take it from there. Four
to Midnight, for example, opens with two white cops getting accused
by beating a black city councilman during a car-stop. When I first
came up with that idea, I had no idea what would happen next. I just
worked it out, one step at a time, lying on my couch, writing on a
legal notepad, over a three week period. When I had worked out
the plot and characters, I sat down to write. Though in the course
of the actual writing, much of the plot changed - including the
entire ending. Writing a book is like trying on clothes - you have
to see how they actually look on you before making a decision. You
don't know whether a plot element works until you see how it plays
you spend your free time?
I love long-distance cycling, which I usually do alone. I
enjoy the solitude, the challenge, the physical exercise, the good
excuse for not writing.
Do you have a message you would like to give to all your
readers out there?
for making my dream possible.