|As we now know from current education theory, people learn in many distinct ways. Though as a musician my most important tools are my ears, strangely enough I’m most comfortable as a visual and tactile learner. That is why when I was a child the quickest and most comfortable method for me was to copy things by hand, whether books or music. Thus my introduction to “writing” was to copy, word for word, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which, in the process, I memorized verbatim at the age of seven.
That being said, none of what you read above is true. Actually, I just like to write, and as you see, fiction comes most easily, though one important turn in my writing career was the result of being a contract negotiator for the musicians of the Boston Symphony and Utah Symphony. In drafting agreements (theoretically nonfiction) with management it was paramount that every word was universally acceptable and understood. Ambiguity in wording inevitably led to disagreements, which could be both devastating to the morale of the whole organization, let alone very expensive. My father, Irving, liked to write letters to the editor of his local papers, inflaming the public’s conscience on social and political issues, and I’ve followed in his footsteps in that regard. He also liked to write witty poems, every pair of lines having to rhyme and having the same sing-song rhythm. These he read with great gusto, but I’ve never gone in that direction.
Rather, I’ve gotten into writing murder mysteries. I’ve always enjoyed reading mysteries and suspense novels. I have an older brother and older sister, and as soon as I was able to read I devoured Artie's Hardy Boy adventures and Stell's Nancy Drew collection. Mysteries take me away from the daily grind, and when well-written, are as thought-provoking as the most scholarly tome. Some of my favorite authors in this genre are John LeCarre, Walter Mosley, Lawrence Sanders, and Dick Francis.
My road to published authorship has been very circuitous and could be the subject of a novel itself. But suffice it to say the books I’ve written, about the seamier sides of the classical music world, are, though fiction, nevertheless steeped in reality, dealing with issues of ethics and integrity as well as murder and mayhem. And by writing about murder in the classical music world, as opposed to carrying it out in real life, I’ve saved myself substantial amounts of prison time. The protagonist in each of my novels is a curmudgeonly, blind violin teacher named Daniel Jacobus, and he inevitably gets drawn into life-threatening situations against his will and somehow manages to make things a lot worse before they get better.
I am indebted to Simon Lipskar at Writer's House, Josh Getzler at Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency, my editor, Michael Homler, and my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for having the confidence in my stories.
In 2009 I was honored by Barnes and Noble, who selected Devil's Trill for their Discover Great New Writers fall catalog, in which was written: "Rich in music detail and featuring a fabulously roguish cast, Devil's Trill will delight music lovers and mystery fans alike. Danse Macabre, featuring the same roguish cast, was published in September, 2010."
Danse Macabre was selected by Library Journal as one of their top five mysteries of 2010. My most recent book, Death and Transfiguration, with a June 2012 release, has already received three starred reviews.
Read what the prestigious international journal, The Strad (April 2010) had to say about the scholarly background to "Devil's Trill" in regard to famous thefts and forgeries of great violins.
Read more about my books and read reviews of
Death and Transfiguration,
Death and the Maiden from the critics, along with interviews and commentary in the blogs. Please visit my MUSIC TO DIE FOR page, where you can hear me perform the music mentioned in my novels and read my audio notes on these works.
I am particularly excited about my novels, Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden and now Death and Transfiguration, excursions into the dark side of the classical music world, published by St. Martin's Press.
More recently I've begun to branch out in my writings, filling in bits of spare time by indulging myself in short stories and essays. In 2012 my short story, "Pea Soup" was a finalist in the New England Crime Bake competition, and in March, 2013,
Snagged was published on Victoria Dougherty's "Dead Cold" blog - victoriadougherty.wordpress.com. I've also become a regular contributor to Ed Reichel's arts blog, reichelreccomends.com, writing about music from a personal perspective.
I hope you'll enjoy all my writing, long or short, fiction or nonfiction!
“Daniel Jacobus” mystery series (St. Martins Press):
Daniel Jacobus, a blind violin teacher, is as irascible as he is brilliant. Drawn kicking and screaming into mysteries as complex and intriguing as a Bach fugue, Jacobus inevitably gets himself into hot water before solving the whodunit.
Devil’s Trill (2009) Jacobus confronts his personal demons in the form of an accursed Stradivarius violin that’s stolen from a violin competition that preys upon young prodigies.
Danse Macabre (2010) After a beloved, internationally renowned violinist is brutally murdered with an unknown weapon, Jacobus reluctantly proves that the virtuoso’s young rival was not the killer.
Death and the Maiden (2011) As members of an internationally renowned string quartet mysteriously disappear, Jacobus springs into action when one of them is his former student.
Death and Transfiguration (2012) A murder in a symphony orchestra in turmoil is the backdrop for a battle of wills between Jacobus and the orchestra’s tyrannical conductor.
“Pea Soup” The famous New England fog is a metaphor for the state of mind of an inbred backwoodsman. (3,415) [Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #14, 2014.]
“The Day After Memorial Day” A preternatural event at the Rockdale Cemetery claims poor Milos Eisitch. (904) [Berkshire Magazine, May/June 2015.]
“Christmas Concerto” Uncle Percy’s demise at a posh senior citizen home is not what it seems. (3,734 words) [Rogue Wave, Level Best, 2014.]
“Where the Buffalo Roam” Monk Hammond’s disappearance coincides with a shindig of politicos on Antelope Island in Utah. (7,708) [Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Fall, 2015.]
“A Student of History” PTSD rationalized. (538) [Kwik Krimes, ed. Otto Penzler, 2013.]
“Snagged” Proud Victor Maravich doesn’t take kindly to betrayal. (524) [Dead Cold, Victoria Dougherty blog, 2013.]
"Umbrian Porchetta" The author's mouth-watering recipe straight from the porchetta stand in the hill town of Citta della Pieve, Umbria, Italy. [The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, Quirk Books, 2015]
“Three Musical Monuments: A Performer’s Perspective” A comparison of Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony, Sibelius Second Symphony, and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” based upon my performance experiences. (2,000) [Boston Symphony, Fall Feature 2014.]
“Genius for Any Age” An attempt to explain the inexplicable greatness of Mozart’s later symphonies. [Boston Symphony, Spring Feature, March 2015.] (2,262)
“1713-‘La Stravaganza’” Vivaldi’s coming-out party as a composer of virtuoso violin concertos(1,113) [Reichel Arts Review]
“Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and Musical DNA” How my experience as a performer in and conductor of this iconic work was influenced by my predecessors who premiered it. (1,511)[Reichel Arts Review]
“Corelli and the Elevator” How the innocuous violin chinrest helped change the course of music history and musical taste. (1,611)[Reichel Arts Review]
“Interpretation, A Case for Broad Perspective” Why an “authentic” performance might not be all that it’s cracked up to be. (2,787) [Reichel Arts Review]
“Labor of Love: A Primer in Symphony Orchestra Musician/Management Relations” Sweet harmony between musicians and management in symphony orchestras…if only. (1,984) [Reichel Arts Review]
“The ‘Firebird’ Stradivarius” What it feels like to perform on one of the world’s greatest violins. (1,286) [Reichel Arts Review]
“Joshua Rifkin” Interview with the famed, maverick interpreter of Bach. (1,261) [Aesop Magazine, 2013]
“Sir Colin Davis” A personal reminiscence of the great English conductor. (1,011) [Reichel Arts Review; Berlioz Society Newsletter, 2013]
“Berlioz in Beijing” (601) An examination of the glorious “Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz and what it meant to perform it with the Boston Symphony in China. [Berlioz Society Newsletter, 2014]
“Tanglewood Trails” What it means to me to play with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood every summer. (670) [Berkshire Fine Arts, 2013]
“Well-Traveled Baggage” Behind the scenes of a Boston Symphony concert tour to Asia as seen by a wardrobe trunk. (818) [Berkshire Magazine, July 2014]
Concert and Book Reviews:
“A Delightful Concert by the Meccore Quartet” Review of a fine quartet concert. (642) [Reichel Arts Review]
“A Rare Treat” Review of a concert of all six Ysaye unaccompanied violin sonatas performed by three Utah Symphony violinists. (436) [Reichel Arts Review, January 2015]
“A Disappointing Showing” The Brentano Quartet doesn’t live up to its reputation. (838) [Reichel Arts Review, 2014]
“Isabelle Faust Recital” Review of an interesting program of three 19th century Viennese contemporaries. (1,352) [Reichel Arts Review]
“An Unusual Program, Excellently Done” A review of an unusual program of Russian and Moldavian music on the Nova chamber music series. (772) [Reichel Arts Review, December 2014]
Utah Symphony review. Mixed feelings regarding a mixed program conducted by Mark Wigglesworth. (612) [Reichel Arts Review, 2014]
Utah Symphony review. Strong performances of Tchaikovsky, Neilsen, and Rachmaninoff. (570) [Reichel Arts Review, 2014]
“Whispers of Vivaldi,” book review. A whodunit during the Italian Baroque starring a castrato sleuth. (511) [Publishers Weekly, 2013]
“A Tank Half Empty” The glut of oil on the market has had unintended consequences, not all of them good. (608) [Op-ed, 2014]
“A Two-Way Road” As we transition to renewable energy, we need to consider what, and who, we’re leaving behind.(601) [Op-ed,2014]
“Crude Reality: North Dakota oil boom has Utah envying its surplus green” The oil boom is raising eyebrows, and frowns, in North Dakota. (368) [Op-ed, 2014]
“A response to ‘America’s new role in the oil market’” “Drill, Baby, Drill” is short-sighted. (690) [Deseret News, Op-ed, 2014]
“A Case for Fee and Dividend on Carbon Production” Why the argument that ‘science isn’t settled’ should not paralyze us from making urgent decisions. (814) [Op-ed, 2014]
“The Water Cycle and the Democratic Process” Government and the public both have a cyclical responsibility to ensure the future of the water cycle. (523) [Op-ed, 2014]
“Renewable Revolution” Oil will someday go the way of the whale as a source of fuel…and the sooner the better. (400) [Op-ed, 2013]
“Garbage Time” Like love, plastic is forever, but it’s not so nice. (1,167) [Berkshire Fine Arts, 2013]
"The Smoking Brisket Conspiracy" (satire) Everything you need to know, and don't need to know, about smoking the perfect brisket. (1,413) [Berkshire Fine Arts, 2013]
Symphonies & Scorpions Ramblings of a Musician on the Boston Symphony’s Far East Tour of 2014 (52,671)
“Circle of Fifths” A renowned Russian émigré quartet reaches back into painful memories of Chernobyl. [Adapted from Devil’s Trill](5,153)
“A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” A priceless Stradivarius is stolen from an unsuspecting concert violinist. Or is she? (4,998)
“Fool Me Once” A young violinist tries to pull the wool over Jacobus’s eyes and ends up paying a steep price. (1,455)
Music-related short stories:
“Brotherhood” Does a distraught string bass player get away with killing the conductor? (3,753)
“The Case of the Burqa-ed Busker” Petty larceny gets a happy-go-lucky busking violin student gets into hot water with MI6. (3,277)
“Lessons from the Master” Paganini’s grand return to the concert stage is thwarted at the last moment by an insistent creditor. (3,307)
“Maestro, the Pot-Bellied Pig” Children’s story about a harp player who has to deal with an unlikely pet. (1,435)
“Taste” A very brief vignette about an audience member’s thoughts during a lengthy symphony performance. (353)
New England short fiction:
“Asparagus” A phone conversation. A knock at the door. (437)
“Oh, Give Me a Home” What does climate change have to do with the body is discovered with three arrows in it in the Great Salt Lake after thirty years? (11,425)
“Where Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word” The body of Orson Hardwood is found in a latrine at Horse Thief campground in Utah. Dirty business. (2,266)
“And The Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day” Desperado Lamar Perkins has the tables fatally turned because he didn’t know the territory of Capitol Reef, Utah. (3,623)
“Buffaloed” Beware of nasty, old ladies on Segways when you’re on Catalina Island, California. (2,641)
“Prince of the Leaf Cutters” Pavlovic finds salvation in an ant colony. (5,962)
“Viral” A novel treatment for an untreatable disease. (1,235)
“Yield or Die” Two best friends fight to the death…and then go play. (1,517)
“Overheated” A session in a sauna gets too hot. (937)
For more details about what I have been up to, please peruse the other pages of my website. If you are interested in contacting me for potential engagements or for any other reason whatsoever, don't hesitate to drop me an email.