John Katzenbach’s career as a novelist began in 1982, with the publication of In The Heat of the Summer, an edgy crime novel that examined the cult of celebrity, fame and media ethics. A Book of the Month Club selection, this novel showed the newspaper industry at its height, and at the beginnings of its slide — and elected many of his experiences as a crime and courthouse reporter for both the Miami Herald and the now defunct Miami News. This novel was filmed as The Mean Season with Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway.
Since the publication of that first novel, John Katzenbach has written 12 other psychological thrillers and one acclaimed non-fiction book. Published in dozens of languages throughout the world, his novels have been on bestseller lists from Bonn to Buenos Aires. He has received awards in France, Germany and the United States. Three of his other novels have been filmed: Just Cause with Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburne in 1995; Hart’s War with Colin Farrell and Bruce Willis in 2002; and a French version of The Wrong Man — shown on France 2 Television as Faux Coupable. Two other novels — the international bestseller The Analyst and the award-winning bestseller The Madman’s Tale are currently in development with shooting dates in 2015.
His latest book — The Dead Student— is scheduled for publication by Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious Press in the fall of 2015, and simultaneously by Head of Zeus Publishing in Great Britain.
Actually, didn’t care all that much for being young either, where he was the in-between type of child that didn’t get listened to very much. Teenage was filled with existential readings and prep school angst, unrequited love and unrealized lust. That part was fairly normal. He had a reputation (deserved) as something of a long haired rebel and he takes considerable pride in having established new standards for academic and disciplinary restrictions and probation during his years at The Phillips Exeter Academy. Takes even greater credit for helping to create the school’s 9th Rule. That is, when he arrived at that cold, ivy-covered and unfriendly place in the 1960s, there were eight existing rules that could get you kicked out. He, along with two others (one who became a nationally-renowned internist and another a well-known and popular teacher) got busted by school authorities engaging in a practice that was clearly a violation of something – although, at that time, there wasn’t a clear-cut and well-defined rule against it. Suffice it to say it had something to do with significantly altered mental states. So, without the necessary rule to give school officials the sort of petty quasi-legal support they needed – they couldn’t kick him and his friends out. This might have been his first lesson in unintended irony.
And, if you really want to know why he hates middle age it is this: When you are young, the adventures you have, that inform the words you write and the words you will write, are real and palpable. As you get older, they become farther apart – and one must rely increasingly on their imagination and their memory of things observed in the past. Nothing actually wrong with that of course: It’s just not nearly as much fun.
A short postscript: On Dogs and Years, not Dog-years.
Now that I am getting a lot closer to the “end” of middle age, I should temper my criticisms of that time of life. It’s not so bad, considering the alternatives. Hate now seems a truly foolish choice of words. Tolerate might be better, especially when envy looms on the aging horizon. In an odd way, it seems to me that the best way to get older is to work harder at recovering those qualities that made being young work so wondrously. This simple observation, I suspect, is one that comes as revelation to some, and is a cliché and a truism to others.
If this were a Hollywood movie, we would have to add in some thunderous orchestral blast to accompany these thoughts in order to give them sufficient gravitas and underscore the drama.
Now there’s an idea: for so much of our lives, we duck and avoid intensity, relying on routine and preferring what we imagine is normalcy. But, in truth the moments that become most memorable are those where the stakes are heightened. This is just as true for a novel as it is for day-to-day life. The older I get, the more I think the bard was absolutely right: all the world is a stage, and we are all players on it.
Of course, disagreeing with Shakespeare is probably an unwise course of behavior for any scribbler.
And one other note: The pooch at my side in the picture you can fine on another page in this website has passed away. Gone to that Great Dog Park in the Sky. Chasing tennis balls and Frisbees in Elysian Fields. Getting muddy, sandy, rolling in endlessly fascinating stinks and smells and over-eating with impunity. The dog in question – Porsha The Useless Poodle -- was remarkable in that she did most ordinary dog-things quite poorly. Never barked at intruders. (Is that Hannibal Lecter at the door? If it was, she wouldn’t bestir herself). Resisted all admonitions to not beg at the dinner table for scraps. Often felt it was beneath her sense of dignity to rise up, wag her tail and greet family when they arrived home. She was particularly inept at such routine games as fetch. When I would take her fishing with me, she would spend the entire time giving throat to the unusual-ness of it all, me being out in the midst of the trout stream, her laying in the sun on the side doing a drunken coon-hound imitation and irritating all the other fishermen within a mile or so with her baying. I would fruitlessly try to explain to her the satisfactions of “the quiet sport” but they we totally lost on her – although it was abundantly clear that she loved these excursions. She also had a very loose relationship with the words “come here” and “heel.” She viewed these commands as mere suggestions, to be considered and rapidly discarded if necessary. All that said, she was a wonderful dog and we miss her greatly. But everyone who has had a relationship with a pooch knows that the depth of connection isn’t really about whether or not she obeys.
That said – it was always nice when she deigned to do so. Surprising. Astonishing, even. Always made me think/hope/imagine that from that point onwards, Porsha would be wonderfully obedient. Hah. No chance.