WATCHERS is on PBS’s Great American Read Top 100 list! #GreatReadPBS
Somewhere during the writing of THE SILENT CORNER, I fell in love with Jane Hawk. Fortunately for my marriage, Jane is a fictional character. And many of her best qualities are modeled on those of my wife, Gerda——especially her indomitable nature, her take-no-crap attitude, and her tenderness. And, besides, it was like the love I might have had for an admired and adored sister, if I’d ever had a sister.
I couldn’t be happier that my fictional sister, Jane Hawk, FBI agent gone rogue, the most wanted fugitive in America, will have her story told by the folks at Anonymous Content and Paramount TV. She couldn’t be in better hands, and I’m confident they will produce an intelligent and exciting show.
I’ll finish the third Jane Hawk novel next week, and though I’ve been with her every step of the way, I’m stunned by what she’s done and where she’s gone. And I’m so interested in where she’ll go next that I’ll probably start the fourth book the day after I finish the third, which I’ve never even contemplated doing before. Usually I take a month between books to drink a little Caymus cabernet sauvignon and contemplate the human condition. The Caymus is superb. The human condition——not so much.
Read the Hollywood Reporter story.
Click here to learn more about The Silent Corner.
Dear Faithful Readers,
Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and holiday season from everyone here in Koontzland. Friends and neighbors and relatives have kindly gifted us with 864 pounds of candy, 621 pounds of cookies, 486 pounds of cake, 165 pounds of nuts, 94 pounds of cheese, and one box of marshmallow baby chicks with edible purple ribbons around their necks (from a cutting-edge, avant-garde friend who lives four months faster than the rest of us and is already at Easter). Because we are health conscious and because, nevertheless, we feel obliged to eat gifts given with such sincere affection, we will adjust our diet to avoid weight gain by giving up toast with breakfast and lettuce at all meals.
Ms. Elsa, who has now shared our home for five months, is celebrating her first Christmas with us. She was an assistance-dog trainee who didn’t quite make it through the program and had a “career change,” becoming a family dog. For sixteen months, she was raised by a prisoner who taught her a long series of basic commands——and how to whittle a pistol out of a bar of soap and blacken it with shoe polish——before she went from the stir to the Canine Companions for Independence center in Oceanside, California, for instruction by specialty trainers. She has no patience for wearing her Santa hat, prefers Johnny Mathis’s Christmas albums to those by either Vanilla Ice or Sid Vicious, and is highly suspicious of the authenticity of the Santa Claus at the mall (she’s launched an Internet petition to force him to reveal his birth certificate).
Happy New Year. Expect me to continue annoying you with a stream of books over the years to come. I’m having more fun than ever writing, having fallen in love with the character Jane Hawk, and I am currently writing the third novel featuring her. And by this time next year, I expect Elsa to be earning her keep as a research assistant or, as an alternative, putting her hard-learned prison smarts to work in a series of bank robberies.
Once in a while, a character comes so alive so quickly and with such an edge that I almost feel as if I’ve actually met this person. It often follows that if the character has such an edge, the story moves like an express train, because a character with an edge has surprises up his or her sleeve that I can’t foresee but that I’m delighted to discover in one twist after another.
When I started THE SILENT CORNER, I didn’t know what a rocket-propelled roller coaster I had just boarded. Jane Hawk, the lead of the story, is an FBI agent on leave, who quickly becomes an FBI agent gone rogue——at least in the eyes of the agency. She is 27, incredibly tough, wonderfully smart, and surprisingly tender. The story involves no supernatural element, but it has what I’d call a scientific premise in the Michael Crichton tradition, something that is not futuristic but here now in an early form with a terrible potential. While I knew that the premise would provide for a scary and exciting story, I didn’t realize just how scary and exciting until I began to explore it fully in THE SILENT CORNER.
When Jane becomes the most wanted fugitive in the country, which she is as the story opens, she is not able to use planes, trains, or buses because the security cameras in those venues can be so easily married to facial-recognition software. She cannot drive a vehicle with a GPS, have a laptop, or use a smartphone. She is so intensely hunted that she must be off the grid in a way that no one ever is——not even those very committed preppers of reality-TV fame——and yet must be able to use the Internet and travel freely and get at a series of well-protected people to wring them dry of what information they have. And she must be willing to do and endure whatever it takes to survive.
I had so much fun with Jane that I knew at the end of THE SILENT CORNER that I had only begun to peel the layers of this fascinating character. I have now finished the second book with her, THE WHISPERING ROOM, and I had even more fun with this one. What Jane has to face this time is beyond daunting, beyond just terrifying, and had me anxiety breathing through the last half of the book. Elsa, our dog, had to calm me by giving me belly rubs, a rather embarrassing role reversal.
I will have finished a third Jane Hawk before the first is published in June 2017, and I feel renewed as a writer, as frisky as ever I was when I was much younger. (And I was pretty darn frisky. In fact, I once won the Friskiest Writer of the Year Award three years running.) Anyway, I owe this new friskiness to you, faithful readers, because your continued support and snail mail (all of which I read, though I can’t read all the email because of the volume) energizes and motivates me.
From the heart of Koontzland,
After Anna passed on 22 May, we didn’t expect to be able even to think about another dog until next year. Then on 11 July, along came Elsa, a Canine Companions for Independence release dog, 21 months old and in need of a home. Every dog has its own personality, no two alike, but judging by our experiences with three dogs so far, the difference between them and people is that all canine personalities are winners! Raised by a prisoner, sent from there to CCI Oceanside for months of specialty training, having been recommended for a “career change” because she would rather cuddle than work, Elsa finds everything about her first home surprising and fascinating, most especially mirrors, when she tries to give her toy to the “other” dog.
When Stephen Sommers, the director, told me there was only one person he wanted for the role of Odd Thomas and that his choice was “the best actor of his generation,” I had never heard of Anton Yelchin. I was dubious. Then I educated myself and began to think Steve might have made a good choice. When I saw the finished film with a test audience, within five minutes, Anton had so knocked me out with his performance that I couldn’t see anyone else as Odd.
On that same day, Gerda and I met Anton and spent some time with him, and he was no less impressive as a person than he was as an actor. In a business where ego runs rampant, he was humble, almost shy. Intelligent, sensitive, and kind. We spent time as well with his parents, in particular with his mother, a gracious and engaging lady, and his affection for them was evident and touching. My job requires a vivid and flexible imagination, but I cannot imagine the depth of the pain felt now by those close to Anton, who loved him and knew there were great things in his future, as surely there were.
Bleak as these words of William Faulkner may be, they are also inspiring and true, reminding us of how each of our lives affects others for the better: “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.”
We have posted many photos of our beloved Anna on this website and written many funny captions for those used in our snail-mail newsletter. She was smart, sweet, and joyful.
On 9 May, she was diagnosed with a cancerous mass on her spleen and another on her heart. She was not a candidate for surgery, but she started chemo. Dogs have few or none of the issues with chemo that people have.
Sunday, 22 May, however, the tumor on her spleen ruptured, and began bleeding into her abdomen. Although she was not yet in pain, she began to have breathing problems. Her vet came to the house, but there was nothing to be done other than give her a gentle passage out of this world.
As Gerda and I held her and restrained our grief so as not to alarm her, the vet tech shaved her arm to find a vein. Dogs are smarter than we know. The moment the shaving began, before the first injection of Valium, her anxiety panting ceased. She became perfectly calm, as if she knew that she would be spared further suffering. She looked into her mother’s eyes and into mine——her eyes were golden, like her coat——and we told her we loved her, that she was a blessing beyond all valuation. . . and then a soul of perfect innocence left this troubled world.
My dad was an alcoholic with a tendency to violence, a gambler, a womanizer, who was frequently unemployed or reluctant to work. My mom, on the other hand was a gem. Her name was Florence, but everyone called her Molly. She had a hard life of poverty and betrayal and illness, but she retained her optimism and her dignity.
Growing up in a small town where everyone knows of your father’s misadventures can be endlessly humiliating. In fact, only in the last few years have I come to realize that humiliation was the most constant and formative experience of my childhood and adolescence.
Sometimes we would get a post-midnight phone call from a barkeep who would tell us we had to come collect my father because he was either unconscious or too drunk to drive. He had the only car, so we would walk a couple of miles to wherever he was, get him into the car, and drive him home. I can recall moments like this from when I was five or six until I was well into my teen years.
My mother was well aware of how much this embarrassed me. In the most gentle and confident way, she would tell me that I had no reason to be ashamed, that it wasn’t me on the tavern floor, that I wasn’t the one who had thrown up on himself, and that in time I would come to understand that enduring such moments would give me the strength and the character to handle those times when people proved unreliable, as many would throughout life. Strength and character? I didn’t believe a word of it! And yet I loved her enough to hold my head up during those trips to rescue my dad and during many other dark experiences. She taught me that life was hard for everyone, regardless of our station in life, but that all of us have reasons to be happy, too, and even joyful.
She died at 53, too young, before I had any success as a writer. But every time I write a strong woman character, it’s based in part on my mother, and in part on my wife. I’ve been a lucky man to have such women in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day!