Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pro-File: David Handler

David Handler has written six Connecticut shoreline mysteries featuring the mismatched crime-fighting duo of Mitch Berger and Des Mitry. His first, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and a BookSense Top Ten pick. His newest, The Shimmering Blonde Sister, will be published this fall. He is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including the Edgar and American Mystery Award--winning The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald. His most recent novel, the thriller Click to Play, was published last December. David lives in a two-hundred-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Tell us about your current novel (or project).

1. My latest novel, CLICK TO PLAY, was published in December by Severn House. It’s a bit of a change of pace for me – a kick-ass, turbo-charged thriller about a renegade D.C. political blogger who discovers that the man who is about to become the next president of the United States may be responsible for the most famous mass murder spree in Hollywood history. It’s truly the sickest book I’ve ever written. I had so much fun I still get goose bumps.

Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

2. I’m currently at work on my eighth mystery featuring the mismatched crime-fighting duo of Mitch Berger and Des Mitry. They take place in a historic New England village on the Connecticut Gold Coast called Dorset. Dorset is not-so-loosely based on Old Lyme, which is the village I actually live in. He’s a tubby Jewish New York film critic. She’s an alluring black Connecticut state trooper. They are both outsiders in this little slice of WASP Eden. They are both emotionally scarred. And, somehow, they have fallen madly in love. Prior to moving to Old Lyme I had only lived in big cities – Los Angeles and New York. Being an outsider myself, I am continually fascinated by small town life. There are nuances, rhythms and layer upon layer of interconnected family histories that make for wonderfully textured murder plots. Or at least I think so.

What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

3. My writing career has given me many exquisite moments, such as winning an Edgar award for my third Hoagy novel, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. And I never, ever get over the thrill and amazement of holding a new book in my hands – even though I’ve now published nearly 20 of them. But the greatest pleasure is waking up every morning knowing that I get to spend the whole day doing exactly what I want to do. That, for me, is the ultimate definition of success.

What is the greatest DISpleasure?

4. I absolutely detest meeting someone at a dinner party or cocktail party and when I allow as how I’m a writer they say, “Have I ever read anything you’ve written?” I’ve been a writer my whole adult life and I’ve never known how to answer that question. On a more cosmic level, I’d say the greatest displeasure is how much time a novelist has to spend alone. I started my career writing for newspapers and sitcoms. There’s a lot of day in day out feedback and sharing. A lot of laughter. When you write a novel you are on your own – which is great but also leaves you thirsting for human contact. It takes a long time for me to write a book, sometimes a whole year, and staying focused and energized without any feedback or encouragement along the way can be very challenging.

If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

5. The digital revolution is already here. Get out in front of it, and fast, or we who write books for a living are all doomed.

Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

6. A lot of the writers who influenced me when I was first getting started, such as Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich, remain iconic figures. But many of them are forgotten now, which is a real shame. Geoffrey Homes and Horace McCoy leap to mind, as do Gerald Butler, David Goodis and W.R. Burnett.

Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

7 . My first novel, KIDDO, wasn’t a crime novel at all. It was a traditional Jewish coming of age tale. This was back in 1986. My agent in those days, Roberta Pryor, had a terrible time selling it. It was turned down by 24 publishers over a span of nearly a year. Quite honestly, I had pretty much given up hope that I would ever sell it. And so had Roberta. One morning I was sitting in my living room reading Bernard Malamud’s obituary in The New York Times when the phone rang and it was Roberta calling to tell me that Bob Wyatt of Ballantine wanted to buy KIDDO. To this day I remain convinced that there was some whacked-out spiritual connection between Malamud’s death and my literary success. It was as if there were only so many chairs at the Jewish writer’s table and someone had to leave before I could be seated. That someone was Bernard Malamud. Weird shit.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Ed. Nice to see something on David Handler, one of the great writers of the last twenty-five years, and woefully under-appreciated. One of the few things I miss about not having a bookstore is the pleasure of putting his books into the hands of customers. And making them buy.


Anonymous said...

I have read every Hoag book David wrote. He is gifted and I would really like to know his thought process when defining his character and the dog. What a delightful combination. Well done, Mr. Handler.