Today, Hartford Books Examiner extends virtual greetings to David Handler.
Handler is the author of “The Lavender Lane Lothario”—the eleventh Berger and Mitry Mystery—out tomorrow (2/23/16) from Minotaur Books. He has also written eight titles featuring celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag (including the Edgar and American Mystery Award-winning “The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald”), two novels about growing up in Los Angeles (“Kiddo” and “Boss”), and a recent series featuring teen runaway tracker, Benji Golden. Handler’s short stories have earned him a Derringer Award nomination and other honors. He was a member of the original writing staff that created the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Kate and Allie and has continued to write extensively for television and films. Handler makes his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
Early response to “The Lavender Lane Lothario” has been enthusiastic. Publishers Weekly praised: “Two Dorset, Conn., families collide in Handler’s entertaining eleventh mystery … Mitch’s usual banter about food and films camouflages the ace crime-solving talents that will help point Des to the real killer.” Further, Booklist noted: “Effectively straddling the line between mystery and comedy, this is a solidly plotted, fluidly written story that keeps the reader entertained from the get-go.”
From the publisher:
Every year, the Gant family performs an annual ritual desecrating the tomb of Aurora Bing. The Gants have held a grudge against the legendary silent film star for almost eighty years, but for Sherm Gant and his son, things have become personal. Aurora’s only grandchild, Hubie Swope, has shut down Sherm’s notoriously rowdy beachfront bar, and refuses to allow The Pit to reopen until Shem undertakes expensive upgrades. This means war. And when The Pit catches fire and Hubie Swope’s charred remains are found in the rubble, it also means murder.
Who killed Hubie Swope? Crime-fighting duo Mitch and Des have no idea. Not only are Sherm and his son prime suspects, but so are the women in Hubie’s life. To their surprise, Mitch and Des discover that Dorset’s building inspector, a quiet widower who repaired cuckoo clocks in his little house on Lavender Lane, was secretly juggling four girlfriends at once. And then there’s Gaylord Holland, a builder who had a beef of his own with Hubie. Dorset is in turmoil, and only New York City film critic Mitch Berger and Connecticut State Police Resident Trooper Des Mitry can put it back together.
This is the eleventh in David Handler’s original, hilarious and charming series featuring the engaging biracial couple that fans love.
Now, David Handler reveals a few pages from the book of his life …
John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?
David Handler: Actually, I was something of a renaissance nerd – a bookworm who was also an avid playground jock. I loved to play sports almost as much as I loved to read. Baseball, football, basketball, you name it. Unfortunately, I was also something of a renaissance klutz. By the time I was twelve I’d managed to break my right leg, my left wrist and my nose. Now that I think of it, I broke my nose three times. My broken leg forced me to miss an entire semester of school. Pretty much all I could do was lie in bed in my huge plaster cast and read. That was when I gave in and went over to the dark and squinty side. From then on, my broken nose stayed safely buried in a book at all times.
JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?
DH: The Hardy Boys, for sure. I had a complete set of all of the Frank and Joe novels that were in publication at that time, I believe there were 42, and I must have read the entire series from beginning to end at least six times. I also loved Sherlock Holmes. “The Hound of The Baskervilles” was a particular favorite of mine. So was a Holmes short story called “The Red Headed League,” which was my introduction to the art of misdirection. I also devoured anything and everything by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I loved their books.
JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?
DH: I’m currently treating myself to Phillip Kerr’s latest Bernie Gunther novel, “The Lady from Zagreb,” and my initial impression is that it’s every bit as fascinating as Kerr’s other Bernie Gunther novels. Gunther is an honest Berlin homicide cop who is trying to do an honest job during the darkest days of Nazi Germany. No protagonist in crime fiction is forced to cling to a tinier piece of moral high ground than Gunther. It’s one of the best series that anyone is writing these days.
JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?
DH: I would have to say “The Fools in Town Are on Our Side” by the late, great Ross Thomas, since it’s my favorite novel by my favorite crime writer. Not only a gripping page turner of a thriller but hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad. Truly a great, great novel.
JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?
DH: Wow, John, that’s a hard one to answer. It makes me feel as if I’m declaring that one of my children is my favorite while the others are strictly meh. I guess if you were to hold a gun to my head – and please don’t because I scare easily — I would have to suggest my third Stewart Hoag novel, “The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.” It’s considered to be my best novel and therefore will serve as the best introduction to my rather offbeat fusion of hard, soft, humorous and deadly serious. Actually, my writing style is so offbeat that I’ve been called a cult figure. I’ve also been called an annoying pest, but we don’t need to talk about that right now.
JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?
DH: Would you believe “Peyton Place?” When I started working on my first Berger-Mitry Dorset mystery, “The Cold Blue Blood,” several friends and neighbors in my quaint little New England village said to me, “So I hear you’re going to turn Old Lyme into another Peyton Place.” And it dawned upon me that I’d never actually read “Peyton Place.” I’d seen the potboiler of a movie with Miss Lana Turner and watched the TV series but I’d never read the blockbuster bestselling book, which was written back in 1956 by a young, previously unknown author named Grace Metalious. I loved it! Her insights into small town New England life are razor sharp and it’s one hell of a yarn.
JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?
DH: I just mentioned to you that the late, great Ross Thomas is my favorite writer. Back in 1992 when I was making some bookstore appearances in Southern California to promote a Stewart Hoag novel called “The Boy Who Never Grew Up” I was scheduled to hold a signing event at a wonderful mystery store in Orange called Book Carnival. A few days before I flew out there Bantam’s publicist called me to say that the bookstore’s owners wondered if I’d be willing to share the spotlight with a fellow author that day because they’d had a scheduling conflict. When I asked who this fellow author was the Bantam publicist said, “Someone named Ross Thomas.” For real! It was an amazing experience. Once Ross and I got past our mutual embarrassment of me slobbering all over him we had a great conversation and he was the nicest guy in the world.
JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?
DH: Winning an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for “The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald” would certainly have to rank as my “I’ve made it” moment. It was just my third attempt at a crime novel, and at that point I still wasn’t entirely sure that I had the slightest idea what I was doing. Okay, that’s a lie. I was positive that I didn’t know what I was doing. When I went sprinting up there to accept my statuette from Stuart Kaminsky I realized that I did know what I was doing because the pros – the people who actually know what’s good and what isn’t – had just told me so. Huge. That was huge.
JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?
DH: My greatest literary ambition is to check into a cozy little hotel in Paris, sit down at the desk in my room with a pad of paper and a pen and write an entire novel in one weekend the way that Georges Simenon used to be able to do. I guess that doesn’t really qualify as an ambition. It’s more of a fantasy. But where are we without our fantasies?
JV: Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.
DH: Must reading, preferably while in the nude.
With thank to David Handler for his generosity of time and thought and to Shailyn Tavella, Associate Publicist at St. Martin’s press, for helping to facilitate this interview.