Thursday, November 13, 2014

John Lutz: My First Novel

By– John Lutz  

My first novel didn’t sell. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to. Several publishing houses had marked the ms with suggestions, coffee stains, spittle… No one proffered a check.

My second novel, THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER, the first one that sold, was a different story (which helped it immensely) and as I recall, it sold pretty fast, and was published as a pb original by Pocket Books. From then on I had good luck.

I was inspired to write this novel by two writers at opposite ends of the continent (I was in the middle and still am), Barry Malzberg and Bill Pronzini. Barry at the time was working for an agent, as was Bill. It was at their suggestion that I attempted another ‘first’ novel. They talked me into it, furnished encouragement and sound advice, and for that I remain grateful.

I didn’t have to look hard for subject matter. Read on and you’ll understand why. We’ll call him Sam. He was a nice guy and the most inventive and imaginative congenital liar I have ever met. That was because it was obvious that he believed every word of his lies. I mean he believed! Sam could speak solemnly about being a champion bronco buster, a close friend of the Dalai Lama, flying missions as Ted Williams’ wing man in Korea, swimming the Rhine River with his friend Patton to show Ike it could be done, living secretly on nothing but apples in a Munich basement after being shot down in a B17, where he counted German troop movements and passed info to the Allies. And on and on… It didn’t happen often, but when he was backed into a corner and was irrefutably wrong, he would refute.

The thing was, I found out that some it was true.  This was, despite his world of fabrication, a man of substance. He didn’t need those lies, and yet he told them, even to himself. He would surely pass a polygraph test.

So I asked myself, what would happen if a Sam was convinced that he’d killed someone? If, while he was running from the law, he little by little came to realize that no one was chasing. Yet still, for his own illogical reasons, he had to keep running.

So I sat down and wrote THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER. But it was all lies.

John Lutz

1 comment:

Ben Boulden said...

That sounds fantastic.