Wednesday, February 14, 2024

David Handler

David Handler is the Edgar Award-winning, critically acclaimed author of several bestselling mystery series.

In 1988 he published The Man Who Died Laughing, the first of his long-running series of mysteries starring ghostwriter Stuart Hoag and his faithful basset hound Lulu. The newest entry in the series is The Woman Who Lowered the Boom.

Recently I asked Handler about what he was reading. The author's reply:
Whenever I’m working on a new novel, which I happen to be doing right now, I rarely read novels by anyone else. It isn’t fair to the author, because my reading window is limited to the thirty minutes that I read in bed at night before I fall asleep. That’s no way to read a novel.

So, quite a few years back, I turned my attention to short stories. My favorite short story writer is John O’Hara, whom I consider America’s master chronicler of the first half of the last century. O’Hara was a very successful novelist who wrote such bestsellers as Butterfield Eight and From the Terrace, but his greatest gift was short fiction. He was incredibly prolific. Wrote hundreds of them – many, but by no means all, for The New Yorker. And he cut a wide swath from Gibbsville, the fictionalized Pennsylvania coal town where he grew up, to New York to Hollywood. He was not considered a crime writer, although there is quite a bit of crime in his short stories. He was simply an ex-reporter who had no illusions about people. He wrote about bad behavior, and its consequences.

His Hollywood stories are my favorites, partly because I grew up there and partly because I spent twenty years in the movie business before I decided to devote myself to books full time. Right now I’m reading “Natica Jackson,” which can be found in a collection called Waiting for Winter. It’s a long short story, practically a novella, that I return to again and again. I can’t get enough of it.

Natica is a young actress whose career is really taking off – stardom beckons -- but she’s lonely, bored and restless. One evening she breaks her standard route home from the studio, takes a street she’s never taken before and happens to get into a fender bender with a middle-aged married man. After they get done being huffy at each other she realizes she’s a bit shaken and asks him if he’d mind driving her home. A quick fling ensues, and that’s that. Except it isn’t. They end up having a serious affair and his wife, who is pregnant with their third child, begins to sense that something is up.

What happens after that never fails to take my breath away. “Natica Jackson” is a truly haunting story. I’m getting goose bumps just telling you about it. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself. I guarantee you it will knock you flat.
Visit David Handler's website.

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2011).

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2012).

Writers Read: David Handler (August 2013).

Writers Read: David Handler (March 2014).

Writers Read: David Handler (February 2015).

Writers Read: David Handler (March 2016).

Writers Read: David Handler (September 2017).

Writers Read: David Handler (March 2023).

--Marshal Zeringue