FLASH: In 2013, I went to La Semana Nega in Gijon Spain. It took place in July from the 5th the the 14th. All four of my books were presented there. This festival is the most important Noir book festival in the Spanish Language. I got a great review in El Mundo, and another one in La Informacion (both in Spanish).
FLASH: You have gotten this far so now check out my video interview.
My father, William L. Gordon, was born in 1892 in the gold mining town of Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia. He studied art in the early 1900's, but being a restless adventurer, was drawn to work on the open seas apprenticed as a boiler maker. He sailed the Indian, South Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans in the engine rooms of cargo ships and, after his third voyage to the United States, decided to make North America his home.
William settled in Southern California and began a new career as a writer and painter. In his spare time, he invented a religion he called "The Infinite Plan." Plying the byways of the southwestern United States during the depression years, William drew curious town folk into his tent for a modest fee of one dollar. As they exited, he sold them his book, also titled The Infinite Plan. When money was short he painted murals in local post offices throughout the region. He was married to my mother Anna. She was one of the first women graduates of what is now the School of Pharmacy at Drexel University in 1920. She was the valedictorian.
I had the good fortune to accompany my father during the first five years of my life and believe me, there has never been a better introduction for a young boy to the beautiful landscape of the old West or a more adventurous introduction to freedom and independence of spirit.
My father died when I was six years old, a tragedy that thrust me, along with my mother, sister and brother, into a Mexican ghetto of East Los Angeles. The home in which we lived was owned by my father's partner in religious matters, a woman I suspect had been his lover as well. Alone in a completely unfamiliar community, my mother became very depressed and basically shut down. We children were left to our own devices. I found refuge in the local library (it was on the route to school) and there honed two important survival skills: how to speak Spanish and how to evade the small gangs of Mexican boys that chased me to and from school.
When I was ten, my father's partner moved my family to another of her many properties, Canta Ranas (Flood Ranch)-a four square block Mexican enclave surrounded by the San Gabriel River and orange groves. Our former house she transformed into a site for the practice of her black magic. (She later went to jail for casting ugly spells.)
I attended high school at the closest campus to Canta Ranas, Whittier High. It was during these years that I faced the realization that no one but me could help me. I determined to excel in both academics and extra curricular activities and soon was elected student body president. I was also awarded a national medal for my interest and understanding of Hispanic literature. Afraid of falling behind in my quest for self-education, and more fluent in Spanglish than in English, my mother tongue, I began reading books by great English-speaking authors as well.
At the University of California in Berkeley, I made the study of English literature my major, became involved in student politics, and was elected a Representative at Large to the political body that ran the student body. To avoid the ever-present threat of the draft, I enrolled in ROTC (the Reserve Officers' Training Corps)-enabling me to defer service until after graduation.
Though my ultimate goal was to be a lawyer or a writer, I first had to serve my requisite term in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant. It was a great time, if there is such a thing, to be in the military-just before the debacle in Vietnam. Had I served just a little later, my life expectancy as a second lieutenant in the infantry would have been about twenty seconds in combat.
The wanderlust I inherited from my father, ever present, surfaced as soon I completed my military service and, I began a yearlong hitchhiking circumnavigation of the globe. I stretched the few dollars I borrowed for the trip by sleeping in cemeteries. There was no charge and they were safe. My adventure lasted a full year and cost just $1,400.
Upon my return, I went to work-paying off every cent I had borrowed and enrolled in Hastings College of Law (the University of California's campus in San Francisco). I attended classes in the mornings, worked in the afternoons, in a daycare sports program for boys, ages four to eight, that I founded in Pacific Heights. This was a necessity, for as usual, I was broke.
As a lawyer, I represented men and women who had been injured on the job. I had been separated from the Hispanic community during the time I was at the university because in those days there weren't many Hispanics in higher education, but as a lawyer, I was able to represent Hispanics throughout the State of California from 1965 until the beginning of 2002. I expressed myself creatively during this period by fine tuning cases of difficult liability with innovative solutions and by taking up photography, knowing that one day, most likely not until after I turned sixty, I would have the time and means to return to my writing and other artistic pursuits.
I have had two unsuccessful marriages and a lot of trouble with my children. But in 1987, I fell in love with a Latina woman, Isabel Allende. It hasn't all been peaches and cream. We both lost our daughters. Hers died from complications of the disease porphyria and mine from drugs. And my youngest son Harleigh also died from in 2013 at the age of 36. My stepson Jason Kersten, whom I helped raise, is now a successful writer and lives in New York City. Isabel and I forged an alliance rich in creative inspiration and an abundance of affection. But our relationship ended in divorce in 2016 iafter 27 years of marriage.
Isabel gave me insight into being a writer. She taught me how to get my images down on paper in an orderly and expressive way and she taught me that silence is an essential part of the writing process-allowing me the time and space to hear the voices of my characters.
The first book I wrote was titled Flawed, a coming of age novel in which one of the characters was an oversexed dwarf. When Isabel read that book, she told me that she hated the dwarf and that no woman in her right mind would want to go to bed with him or read the book. She reminded me to write about what I know-including courtrooms and forensics-and encouraged me to explore the genre of mysteries.
She was right. In 2002, I began writing a story based on an article I had read in the newspaper long ago. That short story became the basis of my second novel, The Chinese Jars, which is a detective story set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1960 - 1961. It is now published in Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish Romanian and French, and finally in English.
My second detective novel, with the same protagonist, entitled The King of the Bottom, was published in Spain by Ediciones El Anden in February of 2008 under the title El rey de los bajos fondos. It has also been published in German and in Brazilian Portuguese, and is now also in English.
My third detective novel, which revives the character of the oversexed dwarf, is entitled The Ugly Dwarf, is also in English, Spanish, Portuguese and German.. It will also be also be published by some of my other publishers in due course.
Famous artist Vivienne Flesher, a friend, painted the following portrait of the dwarf for me. I am exhibiting it here because it captures his essence and because I deeply appreciate what she had done.
My fourth Samuel Hamilton mystery is entitled Fractured Lives. It is a story that takes place in San Francisco, Hungary and the Middle East. It is an international thriller that takes many surprising turns and in the end Samuel finally gets somewhere with Blanche, thanks to her. You can find it in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
My fifth Samuel Hamilton mystery is entitled The Halls of Power. It is entirely a San Francisco story, and in it, Mr. Song plays an important role as a modern day Judge Dee. I have talked about him in this roll since I began writing this series.
My latest published book is Unfinished. The story comes from my first unpublished novel “Flawed.” I always through it was a love story but in the process of writing this book, I discovered it is a story about losses, and most of them are mine, disguised by fiction. It is in English, Spanish and eventually Portuguese.
It is now August of 2016. I am writing short stories. I thought I would produce ten and then publish them in a book, but the experts tell me that readers don’t gravitate to them much, so I have decided to stop at five and send them to magazines in English and in Spanish to get them into circulation. I will also post a couple on my website for my readers to enjoy.