Being born and raised in Boston was a distinct advantage in getting to know intimately all of the streets and restaurants and hang-outs frequented by the main character of Neon Dragon, Michael Knight. Six years at Boston Latin School, the oldest school in the country (1635), and the school at which my dad taught for thirty-five years, gave me a wonderful grounding in all of the tools a writer needs, from the basic tool – the English language, to a love of history which is, at base, story-telling.
Just as Boston Latin School became the first feeder school for Harvard College, which was founded the following year, I was fortunate in following the same path, with a further honing of the tools through a major in Latin and linguistics.
The next adventure was three years in the United States Air Force as a radar and radio director of fighter aircraft in the Air Defense Command. Four weeks before being discharged from the Air Force, and without a clue as to where I’d go from there, the Lord provided an answer in the form of a fellow lieutenant and skiing friend who was a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Bob Johnson invited me to attend a trial in which he was defense counsel for a sergeant charged with incest. I sat as a spectator in that courtroom for three days (working the midnight shift each night), and on the fourth day, I applied to law school.
My first position after three years at Boston College Law School was as law clerk to the finest gentleman who ever sat on the Federal District Court bench – Judge Anthony Julian. He made it the consummate graduate course in law and ethics and in finding the humanity behind the legal issues. It was also like an introduction to “central casting” of a movie studio in that I gained a catalogue of characters for future stories by way of both the lawyers and their clients who appeared in the Judge’s courtroom.
Many more in my personal catalogue of characters and situations came from work as a trial lawyer with the firm of Burns and Levinson in Boston. That led to two of the best decisions of my life. The first, and clearly the best, was to ask Lois (then McLane) to become my wife, my partner-in-everything, and my very best friend for a lifetime.
The second best decision was to follow my dad’s example and become a teacher. After going to Harvard Law School for a Master of Laws degree in order to see some of the varsity team of law professors practice the art, I was fortunate in taking a position as professor of law at Villanova Law School. Lois and I moved to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where we have been for the better part of our lives and where we raised our son John. Needless to say, bits and pieces of character traits for use in stories have abounded in the form of my many colleagues and students over the years.
Some fifteen years ago, in order to be with Lois while she took an evening course in tennis with the Main Line Night School, I opted for a course in Creative Writing with a wonderful writer of children’s fiction, Jean Berg. As an assignment, I wrote a short detective story involving a blind professor as the sleuth. By some miracle, it sold to Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine. That set the hook.
Once set, the hook holds – even through enough rejection slips for future stories to paper a small ballroom. Eventually – in fact, because of the rejection slips – I learned the hidden parts of the trade of story-telling well enough eventually to sell a story to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. That one was followed by about twenty-five short stories in both Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
At long last, in March of 2007, I was fortunate in breaking through that most difficult barrier, and my first mystery/legal thriller novel was published. It allowed me to partner with my two favorite characters, Michael Knight and Lex Devlin, to weave an adventure through the streets of Boston’s Chinatown. God willing, Michael and Lex and I will share future adventures in those wonderful haunts of Boston that I spent the first thirty years of my life learning to know and love.