|Welcome to New Faces, wherer we are delighted to introduce some of the newest mystery authors on the shelves. We know you'll enjoy meeting Henry Mazel, whose debut mystery novel Murderously Incorrect is now available.
Tell us about yourself.
Well, I was born in New York after the war, but please don't ask which one.
I've lived in Los Angeles, Syracuse, and Southern New Jersey, where I hosted a
local TV talk show -- but my heart belongs in New York City, and I'm back here
in Manhattan to stay. In between my sojourns, I did my undergraduate work at
Syracuse University, and followed up with a Masters in television and film,
earned a grad degree in psyche from Fordham University, and dropped out of law
school. For the past dozen years I've been writing and doctoring screenplays,
and briefly wrote the Sunday television column for The New York Times when
they couldn't find anyone else to do it.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
Yes and no. As I mentioned, the past dozen years have been spent in and out of
the trenches of L.A. writing and doctoring screenplays (Primary Evidence;
White Cargo; Scandal, for Miramax, among others) so writing books was a
natural transition for me. Right now, I'm focusing on the publicity for
Murderously Incorrect and working on the second Alex Rada mystery. I do
maintain a small psychotherapy practice working with actors, writers, and
people in the arts, and I'm adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice at the City University of New York. Having said that, most of my time
is spent writing.
What led you to write mysteries?
Ever since I can remember I've been intrigued by mysteries. I started reading
them when I was quite young. And seeing films, too. There was something about
film noir that really got to me – the notion of the flawed character, I
suppose. Mysteries are a wonderful form to express ideas about the human
condition, about human frailty, which interests me very much. I don't like to
think of mysteries as genre writing. When I started writing screenplays, I was
naturally drawn to mysteries. From there it was a small step to writing books.
I'm still influenced by film, though. Murderously Incorrect is quite visual.
It doesn't dwell too much on the inner ruminations of the characters. You get
an understanding of that through their behavior.
Tell us about your road to publication.
Well, I suppose, for me, it was easier than most. Don't forget, I'd been
around the business in some fashion or other for quite some time. Agents are
always a problem. I recall an agent in Hollywood telling me, "Drama is life
with the boring parts cut out, kid." It was great advice -- only it was not
his line, but Alfred Hitchcock's. That about sums up my relationships with
In my whole career, I've had one that I genuinely appreciated, and who
was completely candid. He was from Vienna, very old-world, used to have lunch
every day at the Russian Tea Room in New York. Unfortunately, he retired. Now
I use an entertainment lawyer who is very good and knows the business. We both
agreed that first novels are a tough sell. And I didn't want to wait around
for a few years to sell the book -- so he suggested I get in touch with a
small publisher, Crime and Again Press. They liked Murderously Incorrect and
were quite straight forward about what they could do. They would publish the
book and give it a push, but I would have to do the heavy lifting. So far it's
worked out very well.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
Fortunately, as a prof. at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I had access
to a terrific police science library, as well as to colleagues who are law
enforcement officials in New York. John Jay also has one of the best Forensic
Psyche programs in the country, and I was able to ask questions of experts in
the field. Although Murderously Incorrect is not a police procedural,
obviously I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. Plus, the protagonist,
Alex Rada, is a former police officer so I needed to know what the life of a
detective was like.
The book following the next Alex Rada mystery will be an historical novel set
in 1920s New York, and based on a true incident. The John Jay library has some
wonderful original research material of that period, and it should be really
exciting to delve into.
Who are your influences as a writer?
I suppose I could be flippant and say Kafka and Mickey Spillane. It wouldn't
be far from the truth. Certainly there's that strain of alienation in
Murderously Incorrect, as there is in much detective fiction, and the
grittiness of Spillane. I very much enjoy Hammett and Chandler, of course.
Growing up, I was influenced a great deal by Steinbeck and John Dos Passos.
And I enjoyed reading humor: S.J. Perelman, Dorothy Parker, and the Canadian
humorist, Stephan Leacock. Dorothy Parker, in particular, was a gloriously
sharp wit. I hope I've given my P.I., Alex Rada, a bit of that flavor.
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?
Hell, now that's really a tough question. Most of those close to me are quite
supportive. Occasionally we'll make a day of it and go around to the chains
and mystery bookstores in Manhattan to check stock, see how the book is
selling, then go to dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I'm a bit
dissociative about seeing the book on the shelves -- it seems a bit unreal to
me, as though it were someone else's work.
Well, I did say most, though, didn't I? There are one or two in the family
who have a wee bit of trouble with the whole thing -- a kind of sub rosa 'when
are you going to get a real job?' kind of attitude. But I think I better stay
clear of that one or I'll get myself into trouble.
Tell us about plans for future books.
I'm contracted for another Alex Rada book, with the working title of Red
Wave. It's due out at the end of this year. There'll be more of Alex's
history -- the backstory -- in
Red Wave. I mentioned before I have an idea for a stand-alone, too. An
historical detective novel set in New York in the 1920s. The research stage on
that one will take a while; I'd really like to recreate the feel of the era,
get it exactly right. I'm very much looking forward to it.
How can readers get in touch with you?
I always enjoy hearing from readers. There are several ways they can contact
Visit my web site: http://members.aol.com/hfmhfm/index.htm
Contact me by e-mail: Hfmhfm@aol.com
Or write me snail mail at:
P.O. Box 20108
London Terrace Sta.
New York, NY 10011
Thank you, Henry, and best of luck! Readers, we have a review of Murderously Incorrect.
March 1, 1999