My parents slipped a copy of Stephen King’s Misery into my hands when I was thirteen. I tore through it in a matter of days and decided shortly thereafter I wanted to be a writer. Taking it upon myself to read King’s other books, I thought—early on—that I’d want to pen horror novels. Then, I discovered Ian Fleming. After reading my first Bond novel, Moonraker, with its wonderful descriptions of gambling, heavy drinking, sex and violence, I decided I wanted to write thrillers.
Jump ahead several years . . .
While majoring in journalism in college and studying the history of mass media, I stumbled across a New York Times article headlined, “Insurance Murder Charged to Five; Tale of Horror is Told.” Dated May 13, 1933, the article detailed the plight of one Michael Malloy, a Depression-era Rasputin-type who survived multiple—and increasingly outrageous—attempts on his life without ever realizing a gang of thugs was trying to do him in. The material struck me as being ideal for a book, and I copied the article and saved it . . . but it took me another seven years before I actually decided to do anything with it.
I started writing On the House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy in 2002, traveling from the Bay Area to New York for research whenever I had a few vacation days accrued at my newspaper job. It took a year to complete the project and 14 publisher rejections before the Berkley imprint of Penguin decided to run with it, releasing the book in October 2004. The following year, I sold The Killing Skies to British publisher Spellmount (I had taken a year off work in 2001 to research and write the book in Europe). In November 2006, Berkley published In the Dark, which was also released in hardcover as The Blackout Murders in the UK.
Having sidelined my plans to write thrillers, I started work on my next book in April 2007 for Union Square Press. War of Words: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder, my first American hardcover, hit stores in May 2009, detailing the early and violent history of the San Francisco Chronicle, and the scandalous events that lead to the assassination of founding publisher Charles de Young.
My most recent book is the Penguin release Human Game: The True Story of the ‘Great Escape’ Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen.