John M. Daniel was born in Minnesota, raised in Texas, and educated in Massachusetts and California. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University and a Writer in Residence at Wilbur Hot Springs. He has taught fiction writing at UCLA Extension and Santa Barbara Adult Education and was on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for nearly twenty years. He now teaches creative writing for Humboldt State University Extended Education. John’s stories have appeared in dozens of literary magazines. His thirteen published books include four mysteries: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, Vanity Fire, and Behind the Redwood Door, recently published by Oak Tree Press. John has worked as a bookseller, a free-lance writer, an editor, an entertainer, a model, an innkeeper, and a teacher. He and his wife, Susan, live in Humboldt County, California, where they are small-press book publishers. Susan enjoys gardening, John enjoys writing, and they both enjoy living with their wondercat, Warren.
Today John confesses!
Confessions of a mild-mannered murderer
Let me tell you a secret. I have no taste for violence. I’ve never observed a fist fight between two grown men. Heck, I’ve never even watched the fights on TV. Boxing movies give me the creeps. The last time I hit somebody I was fourteen, and it was more of a nudge than a hit.
Not only that, I’ve never seen a corpse in a pool of blood. Other than skeletons in art class, the only dead person I ever saw was my brother, whom I mourned painfully, but he looked quite peaceful.
I’ll tell you something else. I’ve never had a run-in with the law. I’ve had a few moving violations, but my interchanges with the police have always been cordial.
That’s me. Your basic mild-mannered, law-abiding, semi-retired small-press book publisher who likes to write books. Some of the books are about a man named Guy Mallon, a mild-mannered, law-abiding, semi-retired small-press book publisher who likes to …
Here’s where the resemblance stops. Guy Mallon likes to get into trouble. As he puts it, publishing may sound like a gentle profession, but think again. “In the line of duty as a publisher, I’ve been threatened and chased by thugs in Las Vegas and marched through a tropical jungle at gunpoint by a cocaine smuggler, I’ve had a ton of books dropped on my body by a religious fanatic, and had my warehouse burned down by an arsonist. I’ve had loud arguments with the police, who seemed to resent my solving murders and other crimes that they didn’t want to bother with.”
This passage is from the opening chapter of Guy’s new adventure, Behind the Redwood Door, where among other things our pint-sized hero gets tossed off a pier into an ocean full of fish guts and hungry seals.
I doubt if Guy has ever hit a man with his fist, but I remember a time (in The Poet’s Funeral) where he shoved a thug face-first into a large, lethal cactus. I think you’d agree that this violence is not gratuitous, if you were to meet the thug in question.
At the beginning of Behind the Redwood Door, Guy wants no trouble. Been there, done that. Not his problem, he insists when his friend Pete Thayer is stabbed to death behind the Redwood Door saloon.
But Guy’s wife, Carol, knows better. She knows Guy will not let this go. Poor Carol, she has to put up with Guy Mallon’s spunky addiction to taking risks in the name of what’s right and wrong.
So where do I, who am such a peaceable, friendly, law-abiding, chicken-hearted fellow, find the spirit that allows me to write about thugs, coke dealers, porn-meisters, pole dancers, bullies, and weapon-packing murderers?
Who knows? There must be something dark, deep within me. I’m flat-out afraid of tough guys, and I have been ever since I was a shrimp myself, the shortest kid in my class, year after year. Back then I got along by smiling a lot. That kept the bullies at bay, at least from the second grade on.
Now, frankly, I’m still afraid of violent people, but I make up for my fears by writing a lot. That’s my way of whistling a happy tune.
And of course I let my alter-ego, Guy Mallon, do the confronting for me. Guy helps me confront my own demons. He helps me get even with that big kid who used to chase me and push me into the gravel every afternoon as I walked home from first grade.
Revenge is sweet, even for a mild-mannered pacifist like yours truly.
Behind the Redwood Door is sold by Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It can be ordered by your local independent bookseller, or bought directly from the publisher at http://www.oaktreebooks.com/. For an autographed copy, call John at 1-800-662-8351.