e-interviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke (November, 2004)
Allan George Cole, famed for TV and film mysteries as well as books in other genres, debuts his first suspense mystery, Dying Good. Allan is proud of the cover art, 'masterfully limned' by designer Yael Edelstein. The setting is Boca Raton, Florida, one of Allan and Kathryn Cole's seasonal homesteads. The warmth and friendliness of this very gifted writer reveal itself to readers through his stories.
Q: In Dying Good, why did you center your plot around the kidnapping and sale of children? Is there any basis in fact to this fictional account?
A: Florida is notorious for its incompetent treatment of abused children, abandoned children and children caught at the lower end of society. The stories of mismanagement and even outright fraud that led to the deaths, or physical and mental maiming of children are legion. Jeb Bush came into office swearing to straighten things out, but hired cronies and religious nuts who seemed to only make matters worse. Factually, there are several rings of health care frauds who scoop up kids for treatment, dental work, inoculations, etc., then bill the State. Of course, this work is never done. The kids get candy instead of tooth care - if they are lucky.
Other fraudulent practices including board and care for abused and abandoned children, where the kids end up being treated just as badly and sometimes worse. They eat peanut butter on stale bread while the rest of the family eats steak paid for by the State's largesse. Kids are also grabbed off the street and sold into prostitution and to pornographers. There are serious rumors in law enforcement circles specializing in the child abuse - confirmed by sources a CIA brat like myself can't get into - that children are kidnapped and sold for body parts. I don't know if that is true, but it certainly is apocryphal in these times when children are victims by the millions all over the world. And so that is why I made it central to my plot. To shake people up a bit. Make them pay attention, damnit.
Q: Your title brings 'Only the good die young' to mind. Is this again a reference to the children who are victimized, or is there more to it?
A: The title comes from a quote by one of the Mizner brothers: 'Only the young die good.' From a calendar of witty sayings (Addison Mizner) put out to great success in the early 1920s. The Mizner brothers, (William & Addison) were founders along with the heir of the Singer sewing machine fortune to the great real estate fraud that is Boca Raton, Florida. The brothers (William & Addison) were incredible characters from an amazing family of geniuses, diplomats and frauds. Both were known for their witty sayings - many of which ended up in plays and films of the time.
Addison Mizner, for example, was the one who coined the saying: 'Always be nice to people on the way up; because you'll meet the same people on the way down.' Here are a few more: 'I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.'... 'Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research.' ... 'Life is a tough proposition and the first hundred years are the hardest.' ... 'A fellow who is always declaring he's no fool usually has his suspicions.' ... 'I've known countless people who were reservoirs of learning, yet never had a thought.' ... 'I can usually judge a fellow by what he laughs at.'
Q: I found your hero 'Mac' (Addison Mizner Flagler Titus Broward MacGregor - what a mouthful!) a great character. Did you base him on any one that you've met?
A: Oddly enough, the main character - and the whole story - came to me full blown while watching a polo match at the Palm Beach Polo Grounds - famous the world over in polo circles. Prince Charles and other masters of polo play there because it is on the championship circuit.
As it happened, the actor Tommy Lee Jones was playing polo the first night I visited the field. Mr. Jones doesn't know it yet, but everything came together during the polo match against the dreaded opposition, whoever they were. Nobody cared, because Tommy Lee led the charge up and down the grounds, crushing his opponents. When he got the victory cup - a big deal, because it is Palm Beach - I jumped forward and snapped a picture. He looked so damned pleased. As if it were an Oscar.
Well, I happen to know a little about Tommy Lee Jones. He comes from a working class family in Texas and made his way to by-God Yale on a sports scholarship. He roomed with Al Gore. But never lost his roots as a common guy. Which, I think, shows in his films.
And that's the person I wanted to tell the story that was swirling around in my mind. A guy - who everybody calls Mac - who is related to the royalty and the infamous in Florida. He has governors, senators and even presidents in his line. But he also has rustlers, whore masters, gamblers, land swindlers, gun slingers and just out right assholes in his gene pool.
So, Tommy Lee's face blended with Mac's and I had myself a hero. Of course, Mr. Tommy Lee Jones knows nothing about this revelation on my part, but when the book comes out my Hollywood agent fully intends to let him know. So keep your fingers crossed.
The other thing that got me, was that I knew for a fact that Florida was one of the prized retirement areas for CIA agents. Like my father they tended to go to work for international fruit companies, sugar companies and insurance companies, to name a few.
That's step one. Step two is that Florida is where the CIA and other government agencies stash foreign dictators, or plain old ordinary strongmen, when they are driven out of their countries. You could write a book about Florida that just talked about the spread out colony of ex-generals, brutes and former dictators who have fled the wrath of their people and live on Swiss bank accounts. There are also some very active businessmen from that class of crooks who have the cover and protection of U.S. agencies to do whatever the hell the want to do - as long as there is some benefit to The Company.
And this is what gave me my villain - an old nemesis from Mac's days as a warrior of the Secret World.
Q: Is this the beginning of a series? Will readers be seeing Mac and some of his support cast in future thrillers?
A: I'm writing a new Mac at this moment. I don't have a title yet. It's either Dying For Love or Mac Attack.
Q: I appreciate the strength of your female characters, in particular heroine Lupe Martinez and housekeeper Stormy. Where do they come from?
A: My life is filled with strong women - from my wife to my daughters to the many female friends I've made over the years. As for Stormy - she's based on a real person my wife and I met a few years ago. And yes, she is an ex-biker princess. And she really does have all those tats.
Q: Bonita and Tampa are two funny wrong-doers - readers can't help but laugh at their antics. Was this 'light-side' intentional?
A: Absolutely. I've had that unlikely pair in my brain for several years now and they've been bugging me for a place in a book. Finally, I found one and could get them off my back.
Q: You've published in other genres, including historicals and fantasies. What prompted a mystery?
A: I love mysteries and suspense stories. But so far all my books have been fantasies, science fiction, or historicals - although I did write a nonfiction book with my uncle - a Philadelphia cop - about his years on the force. (A Cop's life) I'm also a former newspaperman who had some success as an investigative reporter, helping to put a couple of villains behind bars. I have the odd distinction of breaking the first story about Manson murders at the Sharon Tate/Roman Polanski estate. Also, in Hollywood I've written countless crime stories for television - ranging from Quincy and the Rockford Files to Walker, Texas Ranger. I even did a fact-based MOW about a Colombian drug lord with William Friedkin of French Connection fame. And a cop comedy film for Joe Piscopo. So, I thought it was about time to try my hand writing a mystery book. Once I got the bug, I kept on writing ...
Q: I understand you plan to release a second thriller, Drowned Hopes in Spring, 2005. Can you tell us a little about that one?
A: And that's what I wrote next. Except, this is completely different from Dying Good. Drowned Hopes is about a woman - a down-on-her-luck artist who encounters the nastiest villain I've ever created. It's also a Florida story and is based in the Boca Raton area.
Q: I noted on your website the sad demise of 'famed literary cat, Squeaker'; how are you managing to write without his help?
A: It's tough without Squeak. He was a hard-working writer's cat who spent many hours sprawled over my monitor, or across the notes I needed the most. He was with me for nineteen of the 27 books I've written. I think his ghost is still around, however, I keep on seeing him out of the corner of my eye, but when I turn, he's gone.
Q: Are you about to branch out in any other genres? And is anything else on the tip of your pen?
A: I've just completed a non-fiction book about my life as a CIA brat, growing up on the island of Cyprus. (Lucky In Cyprus: A True Story About A Teacher, An Earthquake, Some Terrorists And The CIA) It should be out late next year. And I'm working on another book - also non-fiction - about my days as manager of a very odd apartment building during the Sixties. It's called Tales Of The Blue Meanie. I'm also working on a movie with my oldest daughter, Susan about America's most successful spy during World War Two - a woman ...Find out more about the author, his 'Life and Times', all his books, and what he likes to read at ACole.com, and read our previous e-Interview with Allan Cole.
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