I almost remember the day. I was eight years old. We lived in Buckley Field, then a settlement of tarpaper barracks east of Denver. Long gone now except for its name. The barracks had constituted military housing during World War II, and uniformed men had lived in bunk beds that lined the walls on either side of the long building where my parents were painting their barrack and trying to transform it into something almost suburban, with kitchen cupboards, bedrooms and a living room that looked out on a bleak tumbleweed of fields that seemed to stretch all the way to the Rockies.
Anyway, it was one of those very blue days, beautiful and crystalline, before Denver grew smog like a fungus and blanketed itself. I was out on my Schwinn contemplating the future, not knowing anything about smog or public housing, and not yet even about suburbs. I had decided to be a composer. I’d read about Dvorak, the son of a butcher, and the moody Beethoven. Of course, they were men, but my mother ranted regularly about the inferiority of men, so I’m not sure that deterred me. I think I just became aware that I hadn’t the talent for it.
That was the day I decided instead to become a writer and write words that read and sounded like music. That ambition has stayed fixed, like the framework of a house or, at the very least, a weight-bearing wall.
It’s true that I took far too many detours, that my faith in myself was mostly nil, and that I just didn’t quite get there. But that’s not the point.
The point is that the murder mysteries I want to write need to be like music.