Detective Jack Dantzler has no clue why he has been summoned to the prison to meet with the Reverend Eli Whitehouse, a man convicted of committing a double murder twenty-nine years ago.
He is stunned when Eli claims to be innocent and wants Dantzler to prove it. But Eli only gives Dantzler a single clue—look at the obituaries in the local paper for a specific two-week period.
Reluctantly, Dantzler agrees to look into the case. As he does, two more people are brutally murdered. And although Dantzler isn’t aware of it, he has become a target for the killer. Dantzler goes back to Eli and pleads for another clue. All Eli says is, “think of Jesus’s empty tomb.” It will be this whispered utterance that unlocks the mystery and reveals the killer’s identity. But this isn’t just any ordinary killer. This is a man with a dark and bloody past, a man with connections to the highest levels of organized crime. Dantzler is now on the trail of an ice-cold assassin, fully aware that one slip will mean instant death.
Sometimes having too much knowledge can lead to deadly consequences.
And now, our interview.
KG: I enjoyed your mystery, GNOSIS, although I'm not sure that's exactly what it is. I'm guessing it lies between a thriller, police procedural, and suspense. What do you prefer to call it?
TW: You’re correct . . . it does have a touch of thriller, police procedural and suspense, but I’ll stick with mystery, since that’s what is on the cover. Wouldn’t want to mislead my readers.
KG: How did you get interested in mystery writing?
TW: I had started several ‘serious’ novels over the years, only to realize that I didn’t have what it takes to write that stuff. I’m no Norman Mailer or Philip Roth. In 1989, I started a mystery and it took off. It was titled Match Point. It was eventually published in 2006 as The Devil’s Racket, which was my second novel. The first was What Matters Blood. Those two, like Gnosis, feature Detective Jack Dantzler as lead character. I also wrote Heirs of Cain, which is a thriller about a plot to kill the U.S. president and three Middle East leaders, and the hero, Cain’s, attempt to stop it. That book was finished in 1992 and wasn’t published until 2010. So, as you can see, I’m persistent, if nothing else.
KG: Why the cop protagonist? Have you been a police officer? If not, where did you learn police procedure? Have you taken Citizen Police Academy courses? Read forensic books?
TW: Originally, my protagonist wasn’t a cop. In Match Point, the hero was David Gideon, a former pro tennis player. But after failing to get either Match Point or Heirs of Cain published, I wrote What Matters Blood, in which I created the Dantzler character. After that was published, I went back and reworked Match Point by making it another Dantzler novel, which actually made more sense from a realism standpoint. Better a seasoned cop go after a brutal killer than a former tennis player. No, I’m a former sportswriter/editor and have never been a cop. Nor have I taken courses or read forensic books. It all comes from my own sick, twisted mind.
KG: Your protagonist has some unusual views of life and religion. Hence the title, the Greek word for knowledge. Where does Detective Dantzler get his philosophical ideas from? Have you studied this field? Do any of your views creep in?
TW: Dantzler needs only to finish that pesky dissertation to have a doctorate in philosophy. That’s made clear in What Matters Blood. So he’s a sharp guy. I have never officially studied philosophy or religion, but I do quite a bit of reading in both areas. Yes, of course, some of my views creep into the story. But I do try to present things in a fair manner. I never intend to be preachy. In Gnosis, for instance, every point of view stated by Dantzler is challenged by someone else. That way, a reader can choose whichever side he or she agrees with.
KG: I got a kick out of the policeman who is writing a novel and has landed an agent. Is this based on your experience at all? Have you had to change an ending for publication?
TW: I have tried to land an agent since 1989 and haven’t come close to succeeding. That’s a particular sore point for me. Even with four novels and seven sports-related books published, I can’t garner any interest from agents. By now, I’ve given up hope that it will happen. As to the question of whether I’ve had to change an ending, the answer is, no, I have not.
KG: I also got a kick out of a cop who drinks Pernod. It's nice they're not all drinking coffee and eating donuts all the time. Can you tell us what inspired that personality quirk?
TW: You know the answer to that one. Pernod and orange juice is one of my favorite drinks. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for Jack Dantzler.
KG: You've published with more than a couple presses. What can you tell us about your experiences with them?
TW: I’ve had four novels published by four different publishers, and my experience has been a positive one. I’ve been really lucky. All have been fair, honest and professional, which is about all you can ask of any publisher.
KG: Tell us about the Kentucky Basketball Encyclopedia.
TW: The third edition just came out this past March. The first two editions came out in 2001 and 2002. It is an in-depth history of University of Kentucky basketball, going all the way back to 1903 and continuing to the 2010-11 season. It runs about 465 pages, and originally took me more than three years to research and write. If someone is a Kentucky basketball fan, this is a book he or she will love.
KG: What's next for you?
TW: I’m about halfway through my next novel, titled The List. It is a thriller that features Cain, the legendary assassin from Heirs of Cain, and the Dantzler character. I think it is going to be very good, maybe the best book I’ve written. After that, who knows? Keep plugging away, I guess.
Thanks for appearing here today, Tom! Good luck on the future writings.