Thursday, October 29, 2015

David Cole: R.I.P.

David Cole: R.I.P.  10/21/15

David Cole was a fine writer and a true friend. Over the years we met at Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, Literary Salons, and in Berkeley. We had animated, meaningful, political and literary discussions. David called me "Curly".  I will miss him.

Here's an article David wrote for the Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 15:4) with updates. "In his words..."

On the Borderline by David Cole

My first book, Butterfly Lost (HarperCollins, 2000), is a dark mystery with a completely unexpected view of the contemporary American Southwest. Laura Winslow, my central character, is a half-Hopi, Ritalin-abusing computer hacker, living on the run while battling the demons behind her own anxiety disorder. Laura inhabits social, psychological, and geographic borderlands, and continually tries to solve the ambiguities of Native/non-Native identity, the ties and terrors of personal commitments, and the seedy backstreet life of the US/Mexican border region.

My second book, The Killing Maze (Avon, February, 2001), is set in Tucson and on the Tohono O'odham reservation, and deals with large-scale insurance computer fraud involving native Americans. My third book in this series, Stalking Moon (Avon, 2002), continues my focus on political and cultural issues of Hopi and Tohono O'odham tribes in Arizona. The main plot centers around the international and illegal trafficking in women to the US (50,000 in 1999). My main themes revolve around the culturally and politically difficult lives of people of color (i.e., non-gringo) on either side of the US-Mexico border.

UPDATE: Scorpion Rain, my fourth book, is pretty much a straight-ahead thriller of kidnapping and revenge. Dragonfly Bones returns to Native American themes, particularly the issue of repatriation of native artifacts and bones. Shadow Play (due in July, 2004) deals with traditional Navajo issues, particularly the cultural problems caused by skinwalkers.

For six years I have worked for NativeWeb, Inc., a non-profit corporation offering Internet services and information to Native and Indigenous peoples of the world. I am one of the founding members of the collective, and our website at currently averages about 6,000 visitors a day. NativeWeb was chosen as one of the top twenty Humanities sites on the Internet by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) EDSitement website.

UPDATE: Now in my eleventh year with this non-profit - NativeWeb draws approximately 7,000 daily visitors and now hosts websites for nearly sixty non-profit websites, primarily from Central and South America.

My youthful isolation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula tends to push me towards creating characters who are outsiders, caught between enjoying their small town lives and wanting to be somewhere else. This inevitably colors my writing, so that bright moments are set against a darker side. Few boys I knew in high school liked the emotional complexities of movies or literature or classical music, so I grew up with girls, and in later years, women, as my best friends. This has always influenced my preference for women as strong central characters.

I taught English in college and at an alternative high school, and worked for many years as a technical writer and editor. A political activist since the late 1960s, I founded a political theatre troupe in California during the 1970s. At other times, I've worked in computer support and website design, as a short order cook, patent engineer, and lead guitarist and vocalist in a rock and roll band! I now live with my wife and cats in Syracuse, am building a harpsichord.

UPDATE: The harpsichord project, alas, never ended, so I sold all the parts. At one time we had six cats, we're now down to four. My wife, Deborah Pellow, is a Cultural Anthropology professor at Syracuse University, specializing in West Africa (Ghana), gender issues, AIDS, and the various usages of public space. We also have a place in the desert near Tucson, Arizona, where I spend eight to ten weeks a year writing and researching.

UPDATE: Currently I'm working on the seventh Laura Winslow mystery, a "cozy" set in the music/theatre world of Austin, Texas, and a standalone set in New York City, Syracuse, and Ottawa. I am also working on Jasper, Texas, a non-fiction book about hate crimes, wrapped around a narrative of the heinous 1998 dragging-to-death murder of James Byrd. This book will be published in spring, 2005, by the University of Texas Press.

Among contemporary mystery writers, two people stand out among my favorite writers. T. Jefferson Parker and James Lee Burke. Jeff Parker's Silent Joe set new standards for literary quality of procedurals; his Merci Rayborn books are lessons to anyone who tackles procedural thrillers. Jim Burke has been a major influence in terms of his extraordinary descriptions of people and places. Burke puts more in a single paragraph than other writers do in a page. David Lindsey's earlier books taught me that I could write about dark characters and political situations. Elizabeth George continually teaches me that readers will thrive on well-written, yet intensely complicated characters and plots. Tony Hillerman's love for the southwest, and for Navajo culture, has always been important. And I've enjoyed watching Michael Connelly's career take off big time with his carefully crafted, straight-ahead plotting, and his many nuanced characters.

NOTE: More recent writers I've admired include: Ian Rankin - A Question of Blood is maybe his best work, a great novel; John Harvey and Peter Robinson, especially for their weaving of music throughout the stories; Henning Mankell, extraordinary Swedish writer; Robert Wilson, who brings the hardboiled PI to complex stories set in West Africa; and finally Eliot Pattison, who brings a whole different milieu and talent to The Skull Mantra. I should also add that I've always been influenced by the hyper-urgent, somewhat neurotic yet fluid suspense writing of Elliston Trevor, as Adam Hall, writing the Quiller novels. Nobody matches this writing for sheer continuity of thrills from the very first page.

Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park was an important book for me. When asked how long he'd lived in Russia, because he seemed to know Moscow so well, Smith is reported to have said he'd never been there. It was all research and rewriting. Whatever the truth of this comment, it has been one of my lodestones. Know what you're writing about, polish it as best you can. This is even more complicated and difficult for me, since I am neither a woman nor a Native American, yet these are the characters that most fascinate me.

My writing has always been politically motivated. Quite frankly, I chose the mystery format because it was a good-selling market, and I could wrap my politics around the plot. And in a very real sense, mysteries are one of the last remaining genres where morality plays a central role. I want "good" to triumph. As much as I admire Elmore Leonard's talent, I often have difficulty separating the moral centers of his characters who survive from those who don't.

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