From all the
books you have written, do you have a favorite?
I love them all equally
and differently, as you would children. I've always had a soft
spot for The Blue Hour.
At what point in time did you realize that
writing was "the thing for you"?
I was forced to read Catch-22 by my high
school Mythology and folklore teacher, Miss Page. When I'd
finished that book I was hooked. I couldn't believe how hip
and funny and subversive it was. I made up my mind to be a
writer, and thought that if I could bring readers 1/1000 of the
pleasures that Joseph Heller brought me, I'd be happy.
would you give to someone interested in becoming a
Read lots of good books and write plenty. Pay attention
to the world around you. There's really nothing else you have
is the name of your favorite mystery movie?
authors do you enjoy reading?
Elmore Leonard to Thomas
McGuane; Jim Harrison to John le Carre; Barbara Kingsolver to
Michael Chabon. I enjoy non-fiction very much: Carl Safina,
John McPhee, Kevin Starr. You name it. Anything that's
normally do a lot of research when writing a
Just enough to get what I want. Sometimes I've done too
much; sometimes not enough.
What other types of jobs have you
Oh, man -- boxboy, janitor, busboy, dishwasher, waiter, animal
hospital night attendant (worst one ever), library dude, landscape
guy, door-to-door salesman for a cutlery company named CutCo (see
The Blue Hour for what I did with that experience), reporter,
technical writer. Then Laguna Heat was published and I never
had another job.
Do you attend conventions and
Yes. I enjoy them for the most part. Great
to meet your readers.
Is there anyone, in particular, who
Mom and Dad. Mr. Tossey at Columbus Tustin
Middle School. Mr. Sims, Miss Jones and Miss Page at Tustin
High. Larry Carlson at OCC and Al Wllecke, Frank Lentricchia
and Bob Peters at UCI. Don Stanwood, the first young writer
who befriended me. And of course, every good writer I am able
led you to write mysteries?
I started reading Chandler and
John D. MacDonald when I got out of college. I liked them
because they were concise and funny and capable of elaborate but
believable stories. I wrote a young man's literary novel
first, but never got it published. An editor at Delacourte
Press, Morgan Entrekin, told me I had talent and to write something
that everyone would care about. I figured murder was something
everyone cared about.
Do you read reviews of your books?
believe the good ones.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a good mystery
writer with a literary flair.
What do you believe is the highlight of your
writing career so far?
Winning the LA Times Book
Prize and the Edgar Award in one week, that will be hard to
Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you
wait until thoughts come to you?
I work everyday from 7 or so
until 5 or so. It's not all writing but a lot of it is.
You can't really wait very long, can't wait until you have all the
answers. You have to go out there and find out what's worth
writing about for you. There's always something that you're
curious about, something that's gotten under your skin, something
that's mystified you. Those are the things you write
How did you get started in
By copying my heros. Hemingway, Borges,
Chandler, Joseph Wambaugh. Finally you realize you can't be
them, so you settle for being yourself. That's called finding
your voice. That's where it all starts.
How do you come up with
You make them up as you go. Sometimes you
understand a lot of the story ahead of time; sometimes you have to
finish to realize what it is you're trying to write. It's a
puzzling process sometimes. You need faith and stubborness and
hopefully a little good humor to do the work.
Did you take any classes on how to
A few. Mostly poetry in college. I was too
shy to write a story for anybody.
Do you ever get writer's
Writer's block, to me, is another way of saying you
don't know what happens next. So yes, I get it
sometimes. There's always some fairly rational, often mundane
reason you can't figure out your own story. It's hard. I
mean, for a movie they'll get three writers to adapt something
that's already written down -- that's how much brainpower it takes
to get a story told sometimes. A single little author?
There's some head-banging. It can take time. Then the
light goes on and you say, "why didn't I think of that
earlier?" Live and learn.
What are your hobbies and
Tennis, fishing, hunting, reading. I love to
How do you spend your free time?
Mostly with my
family, doing what everybody does. I enjoy my boys' athletic
events. I enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant with my
wife. I like watching the World Series and the U.S.
have a message you would like to give to all the readers out
No -- I'm not a message guy. I hope you enjoy my
stories, and thanks for reading them.