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 graduated from the same college. 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. He is, after all, a homicide detective. He has the steeliness and confrontational ability for that kind of work — the toughness it demands. I understand him well enough to write about him, but I could never do what he does.

He’s 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.

He's 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 he 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 certainly doesn't make him 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 far from perfect as a father himself.

An actor who had read the Gurney novels told me he was enthralled by the combination of his cool, competent demeanor and his essential restlessness ... the confident mind hiding the insecure heart. He told me that if a movie were ever made of these stories Dave Gurney would present one of the most exciting and challenging roles he could imagine.

I hope you find him equally intriguing.