Author of the bestselling Dave Gurney thrillers

John Talks About Dave

I’ve been asked by readers of the Dave Gurney thrillers where the character came from — is he based on someone I know, or is he a complete fiction?

Well, I’d have to say that some Gurney characteristics come from my own history and personality. We were both born in the Bronx. We both graduated from Fordham. We both had high-pressure careers in the city, and we both moved to rural areas completely different from what we were used to. Some of Gurney’s thoughts and feelings parallel mine. But he also has concerns of his own. I mean, he’s a homicide detective! He has the steeliness and confrontational abilities for that — the toughness for it. I understand him well enough to write about him, but I could never do what he does.

Dave Gurney is an impressive man. However, he does have serious shortcomings. Because he’s primarily a “thinker”, he often ignores the emotional impact of his behavior on others. He loves his wife, but he fails to show it the way she’d most appreciate it — by spending more time with her, by paying more attention to the details of her life. Often he can’t even remember where she said she was going for the day — but, as she points out to him, he’s never forgotten a single detail of a crime scene. His tendency to prioritize his work above everything else puts a major strain on his personal relationships.

There’s interest in Hollywood right now in developing a high-quality TV series based on the Dave Gurney thrillers, and a wonderful actor, one of the driving forces behind the project, was telling me about his own vision of Gurney.

He sees him as a man who’s never really at rest — always thinking, always searching. A man whose only periods of comfort come in the midst of pursuing the answer to a puzzle. But the answer itself provides no lasting relief. What Dave Gurney lives for is the next puzzle. It’s pursuit itself that he’s addicted to — the process of unearthing the facts, fitting them together, figuring out the mystery. That’s his obsession. That’s what gives his life energy and direction. But it doesn’t make Dave an easy man to live with.

He loves his wife and son. But he’s not very good with emotion. That’s the part of him he’s least comfortable with. His feelings are almost always concealed under a shell of rational analysis.

He doesn’t search overtly for love or acceptance or praise. He searches for clarity. Rational analysis is both the tool and the shield that he uses to deal with life. Temperamentally he’s a loner. Fortunately, he has the brain power to succeed in his investigations without a lot of help from other people.

But brain power can take him just so far, especially in close relationships, and it is there that Dave’s shortcomings sneak up on him and his vulnerabilities become apparent. Because underneath the hard shell of the invincible, objective detective, there lurks a wounded boy — ignored as a child by his own troubled father and now tragically inept as a father himself.

The actor I was speaking with was enthralled by that combination of Gurney’s cool, competent demeanor and his essential restlessness ... the confident mind hiding the insecure heart. He told me that Dave Gurney presented one of the most exciting and challenging roles he could imagine.

When you meet Dave Gurney yourself in these books, I hope you find him equally intriguing.

I know I do.