The musician and crime novelist, whose latest book is ''Murder Your Employer,'' avoids reading autobiographies : ''If you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion.''

.- What books are on your night stand?

''Haikus,'' by Kobayashi Issa, that most earthborn and humble of the one-breath poets ''Collected Stories'' by Willa Cather; and, of course, ''The Maneuver,'' by Heimlich. Just in case I choke on popcorn in bed.

.- What's the last great book that you read?

I recently decided to reread every novel I was obliged to read in junior and senior high. Each time, I've found myself thinking, ''Oh, so that's what this was about!'' 

The latest is a period piece : ''1984.'' It made me wistful for my youth, when the distant future was something I could barely envision, instead of what I wake up to each day. And yet I also felt the disturbing sensation that I'd been completely brought up to date on current events.

.- Describe your ideal reading experience [when, where, what, how].

Blissfully snowbound near low-burning fire, adrift in any book where a character intones : ''But that means the killer must be one of us.''

.- What's your favorite book no one else has heard of?

An 1873 edition of Dickens's famously uncompleted ''The Mystery of Edwin Drood'' completed by Mr. Dickens after his death [!]  via the spirit-pen of a shameless medium named Thomas P. James of Brattleboro, Vt.

This enterprising scoundrel even announces Mr. Dickens's next novel : ''The Life and Adventures of Bockley Wickleheap.''

.- Besides books, you've also written music - including the hit song ''Escape [The Pina Colada Song]" and the Broadway musical ''The Mystery of Edwin Drood.'' Who are your favorite musician-writers?

I think all good writers are musicians, rendering the sharps, flats, squeaks and clams of their characters in a score all their own - so much so that I find it impossible to read while music is playing.

The resulting cacophony interferes with the author's rhythm and rests, like listening to Beethoven in one ear and ''Roll Over Beethoven'' in the other.

So I appreciate the riffs of Dorothy Parker and Charlie Parker, Agatha Christie and June Christy, Madeline Miller and Glen Miller, Zadie Smith and Bessie Smith.

.- And what are the best books about music you've read?

'' The Agony of Modern Music,'' by Henry Pleasants, altered the course of my life in high school by encouraging me, a classical musician, to embrace the ''illegitimate'' music forms of the day.

.- Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Two books brought me closer to one person. The late David Corcoran, revered editor of the Science Times section of The New York Times he so loved, was valedictorian of our Nyack High School senior class and a friend; that same spring of '65, he played the lead role in the first play I ever wrote.

When my first novel, ''Where the Truth Lies,'' came out in 2023, my publisher had made copies available to Times employees, and David claimed one, called me, and soon we lunched near the Gray Lady, meeting again after nearly 40 years.

This became a recurring event. At this time, he was honing his craft as a port and would often share his latest effort, to which I would always send a three -or four page appraisal, emphasis on ''praise,'' as I'd quickly become a devotee of his captivating work.

In the fall of 2008, David told me he was combating acute myeloid leukemia. The next spring, he entrusted me and a few other friends with his collected poems. I had the dread that he would never live to see their publication nor read any laudatory reviews of his ineffably sensitive work.

So, each day, I sent him a lengthy appreciation of one poem, highlighting its artfulness and haunting spirit.

David wrote back to say these missives had become a rare bright spot in each increasingly difficult day, Toward the end, his wife, Bonnie Stetson [a younger Nyack classmate of ours], took to reading these sincerely felt paeans to him - until Aug 4, 2019.

Thankfully, the collection he'd shared with me was published last year under the title he'd chosen for it, ''Midflight'' [ Four Way Books]. I was privileged to write its foreword. So : two high school students brought closer in their later years by a book each had written.

.- Are there any genres that you purposely avoid?

Autobiographies. If you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion.

.- You're organising a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

1.] Shakespeare, to whom my demand would be, ''Just who do you think you are?'' with the fervent hope of a definitive answer; 2] Robert Benchley, before whom I'd kneel and say, '' How do I begin to thank you?'' 3.] Anne Frank, to let her know her voice would be heard and that she would be remembered.

.- What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

The New York State Driver's Manual. Don't worry, I've never been behind a wheel.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!