More About the Author
People tell me they laugh when they read my books, even though I don't try to be funny. I write comic thrillers set in California and nonfiction books about golf, basketball and how to count cards and win at blackjack.
I started my writing career as a police reporter in Chicago and Denver and then moved to California and became a playwright, and wrote one of the first episodes of Miami Vice. My first novel, Bird Dog, was published by Pocket Books and was nominated for the Edgar and Anthony mystery writers' awards. Later, I became an undercover car salesman and wrote the online sensation "Confessions of a Car Salesman." I am currently an editor at Edmunds.com, in Santa Monica, California, and I often appear on NPR and national television talking about cars. I hope by now you are interested enough to read more. So here's the expanded version of my life and background.
When I was a kid I had trouble sleeping, so I read late into the night. Anyone who loves reading will harbor dreams of writing their own books. And that's exactly what happened to me. I wanted to have adventures and write about them, like my heroes Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Ernest Hemingway.
I have an older sister and two younger brothers. My father is an inventor and my mother is very artistic. We moved around when I was small: Minneapolis, New York and Indiana. When I was in second grade we moved to Concord, Massachusetts, the home of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. I used love going to the public library where there were marble statues of these literary lions that had lived within walking distance of my house.
When I was in 8th grade my family moved to Oxford, England, for a year. I was on my school's rugby and cricket teams and during lunch we played soccer with an old can. For a week I attended mountain climbing school in the Lake District, climbing mountains in the driving rain under the guidance of strict guides. I was famished all the time and allowed only to eat an apple, a piece of cheese and a date bar for lunch. The other boys threw the date bars at the sheep but bartered for the extras and ate them all, despite the taste. In the summer, I built a raft and floated down the Thames River like Huckleberry Finn. Unfortunately, I found out that there is little current on that river so we would sit for hours in the same place.
Back in the good old, U.S.A. I entered high school and found I was a horrible student. I was more interested in reading books, playing sports and fixing old cars. I was on the soccer, tennis, lacrosse and fencing teams. My fencing team toured the eastern seaboard competing against college teams such as MIT, Harvard, Yale, NYU and Rutgers.
Due to my poor grades, I attended a junior college in Massachusetts. By this time I was interested in writing but had little actual success at it. My English papers were entertainingly written, but were poorly focused and had many typos. However, my junior college soccer coach recommended me to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I went there sight unseen for two reasons: it was the alma mater of Thomas Wolfe and they actually admitted me.
In my last two years of college I finally started to knuckle down and try to get good grades. Interestingly, when I was a senior, pondering the great unknown beyond college, I had one professor who told me my writing skills were very weak, while another thought I was an entertaining writer and could make a living at it. I took the second professor's advice.
The end of college saw the beginning of a long string of offbeat jobs. I became a chauffeur for a rich Bostonian in her summer home on Cape Cod. I was a room service waiter in Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel where I met Jimmy Carter, Scoop Jackson and the actor Ben Gazara. During this time I sold a few articles to the Christian Science Monitor. With these clips, I was able to land a job at the City New Bureau of Chicago as a police reporter.
For two years worked the night shift covering murders, robberies, fires, bombings, train wrecks, freak accidents and suicides. It was a real shock for a kid from the suburbs to see real life unfolding on the mean streets of Chicago. But I began to feel I was gathering information that I could someday use as a mystery writer. When a tipster called one night about the murder of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, who broke a prison scandal, I began writing my first novel. That, along with many others, were never finished.
One day while walking through the campus of the University of Chicago, I met a woman named Vivian I had known at UNC. We began to see a lot of each other, spending most of our time at the movies or talking about books.
Meanwhile, my parents moved to Denver, Colorado. Ever since I read those adventure stories as a boy, I had dreamed of going West. When I visited my parents for Christmas, I fell in love with the Rockies and soon moved there with Vivian. We were married on a ranch high in the mountains overlooking Denver.
I continued working as a police reporter, this time on the staff of The Rocky Mountain News, a morning tabloid. I drove around the city in a car with a police scanner and a two-way radio. Sometimes, I arrived at shootings before the police and paramedics got there. I also covered at least two dozen murder trials which was a new perspective from covering crime on the streets. Again, I felt I was getting more grist for the mill so I could someday write mysteries.
While I worked, my wife, Vivian, wrote screenplays. One of her scripts caught the eye of a Hollywood agent. We decided to move to Los Angeles and take a shot at writing for movies and TV. However, when I arrived, I landed a job as a theater critic for The Hollywood Drama-Logue. For two years I reviewed three plays a week. Soon, I arranged the production of my first play, True Blues, which I also directed. This led to a writing assignment for "Miami Vice."
My other plays were "Boondoggle" (produced on a double bill with Vivian's "Rat Race"), "Vacancy in Paradise" (co-written with Vivian) and "Nightside." I also wrote for TV's "Beauty and the Beast" and "Probe." Later, I wrote many screenplays, some of which were optioned.
In the 1990s I came full circle and wrote my first book, a how-to guide to car buying. This led to other non-fiction books on automotive and computer subjects. I also wrote the autobiography Candidly, Allen Funt. During this time, we had two sons, Andrew and Tony.
Using what I learned in the Allen Funt biography, I decided to make the jump to fiction. In 1997 Bird Dog was published, followed by Low Rider, in 1998. In 2001, The Marquis de Fraud was released. A stand-alone thriller, with the working title Off and Running, will be published by Brash Books in 2015. Also, a non-fiction book called A Piece of the Action; My year counting cards with a professional blackjack player, a priest and a $30,000 bankroll will be published by Skyhorse in the Spring.