The Burden of Silence

I was born in Baltimore in 1954, nine years after the Shoah, one of signature events of the 20th—or any—century. That I recall, throughout my early childhood no one in my community spoke much about it. During the Israeli Bond drives of those years, the rabbi would sometimes invoke a gruesome image or two—but nothing […]

A funeral held over FaceTime blends the ancient and the modern

This piece ran on Quartz.com on October 5, 2013. Absence is a common, if painful, theme in human affairs, and when my younger son left Boston to make his way in Seattle, I had a category for his travels. He would be like the Phoenician sailors who plied the Mediterranean, trading cedar and linen for […]

Is There an Expiration Date on Evil?

This piece on whether or not alleged, aged German camp guards should stand trial ran on The Daily Beast on November 17, 2013. On September 3rd of this year Kurt Schrimm, Germany’s special prosecutor for investigating Nazi-era crimes, recommended bringing charges against 49 men and women who allegedly served as guards at Auschwitz. In the […]

Foreword to the French edition of All Cry Chaos

I just received the French translation of All Cry Chaos, and the publisher, Cherche Midi, commissioned a Foreword from the Director of the Poincaré Institute of Paris, Cédric Villani.  This mathematician won the Fields Medal (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 2010.  Here’s what he says about my character, named after the great Jules […]

Tearing the Sky Apart

I was five when the lady making me a grilled cheese sandwich cocked her head, listening to a distant rumble.  This was in Baltimore, where summer thunderstorms are a near-daily occurrence.  “They’re coming,” she said.  “Dinosaurs.”             “Huh?”             “Dinosaurs fighting.  What do you think thunder and lightening are?”             In school a few years […]

Why a Prequel?

I pretty much cemented the necessity of writing a prequel when I set my first novel at the end of my main character’s active career as an Interpol agent.  Henri Poincaré is 60 years old when I leave him in All Cry Chaos.  While he discovers a good deal that redeems him in that novel, […]

On Fictional Characters and Real Emotions

People sometimes ask about the emotional content of scenes.  How as a writer do I invest the lives of characters with joys or griefs that make them come alive? I can see the process more clearly when I re-read than when I write.  What happens, I think, is that I graft characters and situations from […]

On Expectations

Three weeks ago, my publisher and publicist mailed two hundred preview copies of my second novel, The Tenth Witness, to media outlets, asking each to schedule feature coverage or a review. Let the games begin! There’s no denying that my dreams as an author track those of many authors: best seller lists, awards, and a […]

Harold, His Purple Crayon, and the Writing Process

Readers frequently ask novelists about the writing process.  These questions come in many flavors, but here’s a common one: When you’re stuck, which authors inspire you to get going, to break free?  At a recent writer’s conference, the panelists ahead of me pointed to Shakespeare, Flannery O’Connor, and John Gregory Dunne.  When my turn came, […]

The Environmental Disaster as Portal

Why do disasters, real (think Titanic) or imagined (2012, when the Mayan calendar unspooled), demand our attention?  The less generous reason is that we’re rubberneckers at heart, curious about the suffering of others and relieved we’re not among the victims.    Psychologists offer a less damning motive: our fascination prepares us to respond should our own […]