We are a product of our environment. I am an avid reader of thrillers and suspense novels, from authors like David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connolly, Mike Lawson and Brad Thor. My first novel, In Sheep’s Clothing, is a political thriller and I’m certain that it was influenced by the works of these and many other fine authors. But in many subtle ways, it was also influenced by my own experiences: the places I’ve lived, the events that took place, both in the broader world and in my own back yard.
This is my journey.
As a young child, one of my most vivid memories is moving every few years to a new town, to a new house, as my father climbed the corporate ladder. Little did I realize at the time that my own life would follow a similar path.
By rights, I could call myself a southern boy, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I was born in Georgia and a few years later, we moved to Louisiana. My early child years were during the 1960s, a turbulent time for America dominated by the struggle for racial equality and the Civil Rights movement; the growing threat of the Soviet Union, both in the race to the moon and in the race to bear arms; civil unrest and riots in Watts and Newark, and later, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; and by the war raging in South East Asia.
The decade was marred by the growing body count in Vietnam and by the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother, Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King. The British invaded, Beatle Mania swept the nation and while we listened to Rock and Roll, we watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. With the exception of the moon landing, it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned of many of the events that had occurred during what I had viewed as my carefree childhood years. Still, the events of the 1960s, in many subtle ways, would have an effect on me.
By the end of the decade, my father’s job took us to Pennsylvania and as the 1970s began, we relocated again, this time to New Jersey. The turbulence continued with the still-unexplained shooting of innocent students at Kent State, the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of a president, and the final withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. All three would weigh heavily on the nation for years to come. Oil embargoes left us waiting on long gas lines, the Beatles broke up and Elvis, after a long public struggle to escape his personal demons, finally did.
Life moved on and, even in the midst of a rash of kidnappings and hijackings, technology leapt forward with the introduction of microprocessors and computer chips, VCRs and floppy disks, and the start-up of something Bill Gates called Microsoft. As the decade ended, a peanut farmer from my birth state became president and his only notable accomplishment was brokering a peace accord between Israeli and Egypt. Meanwhile, students in neighboring Iran stormed the US embassy and took Americans hostage.
Despite having moved so many times as a young child, most of my childhood was spent in the Garden State, less than an hour from New York City. My life consisted of Little League baseball in the spring, Pee Wee football in the fall, summers at the town pool and winters sleigh riding. On Thanksgiving Day, we stood on 34th Street in Manhattan and watched the parade in front of Macy’s. On July 4th, we watched the fireworks over the East River.
Outside of school, life was trouble free and I spent many hours biking around town, hiking, playing in the streams near our house and building forts in the woods. In high school, my athletic pursuits switched to soccer and ice hockey. Long gone was my thick, southern accent.
I attended college in New York during the 1980’s, which began somewhat prophetically when a group of kids my own age defeated the seemingly unstoppable Olympic Ice Hockey Team from the former Soviet Union, ending their twenty-year Gold Medal streak. Suddenly, there was a renewed pride in America ending the collective funk from Vietnam, Nixon’s disgraced presidency and the stagflation of the Carter years.
For me, nothing exemplified America’s renewed strength better than President Ronald Reagan, who shortly after he took office, defied an assassin’s bullet and, despite being seriously wounded, walked into the hospital unassisted. Reagan survived and, several years later, challenged the Soviet Union again, not to hockey this time, rather to tear down a wall in Berlin. By the end of the decade, the wall, symbolic of the Iron Curtain, did fall, and with it, one by one, the communist governments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as well.
As I began a career in accounting and finance, writing was far from my mind. Although I had written a short story or two in both high school and college, earning praise and publication in school anthologies, I never thought of myself as a writer. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to wonder whether something was missing from my life.
I met my wife shortly after college. Strangely enough, we had attended the same school but it wasn’t until a Halloween party several years later that we finally met. We married and not only worked full time in our respective careers, but we both attended Grad school at night as well. Starting a family was put off, but kids soon joined us and while my wife doted on them, I continued my journey up the corporate ladder.
Our journey took us from New York to Michigan to Illinois, then back to Michigan again. One day, after we had been in our house for about a year, my youngest, in his third house in four years, asked if it was time to move again. Little did he or I know at the time, but, several years later, we did, this time to Mexico.
We lived in an old colonial city several hours north of Mexico City where we met many fantastic people and enjoyed the country and the culture in a way that a tourist never could. Although Mexico was, and still is, embroiled in a war with drug cartels, and security has become a growing concern, it was a wonderful experience for me, my wife and my three children. Three years later we were back in Michigan again and, by this time, I was a senior executive for a Fortune 500 company.
I was living the American dream: wonderful wife, great kids, nice house, rewarding career. Still, when I thought about my life, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something I needed to do, a creative urge I needed to explore. In my chosen field, accounting and finance, bouts of creativity are usually followed by a prison sentence. I don’t look good in prison stripes, or so I kept telling myself, so one day, I decided it was time to do something different. With the support of my family, I began writing.
It has been a long, rambling journey full of many unexpected twists and turns while the broader events of the world seemed to unfold on their own around me. All of this somehow found its way from the dark recesses of my brain to the pages of my book. I hope you enjoy the read.
I have three published novels, two of which are part of the Matthew Richter Thriller Series. My first book, In Sheep’s Clothing, was published in 2015 and reached the #1 spot on three separate Amazon bestseller lists. In Sheep’s Clothing has received a silver medal for best mystery/thriller e-book in the 2017 IPPY awards. My most recent publication, The Devil’s Due, is a standalone novel, an historical thriller set in Ireland during the 1920’s. Not one to sit idle, I am currently working on several other projects including the third novel in the Matthew Richter Thriller Series. Stay tuned…