About the Author

My Story

I write historical thriller novels that combine mystery and suspense with a powerful sense of place. 

As the son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, I grew up in extraordinary places. After early years in Burma (Myanmar), West Germany, and Washington, D.C., I lived in Nicaragua, Cuba, and three times in the Soviet Union (1974-76, 1981-83, 1987-89). At embassies staffed by diplomats, marines, and spies, I was surrounded by secrets. 

I always wanted to write novels, but life took me in other directions first. After college I became a newspaper reporter. I then switched gears to earn a Ph.D. in government and taught political science for several years. I went on to manage my wife's solo medical practice for more than a decade. 

The first novel I wrote, a historical mystery, took years to finish. I found a literary agent to represent me. A few editors at publishing houses liked the manuscript, but they didn’t think they could sell it, so they passed. 

I was discouraged. But I plowed on. I started working on a new book. It was a thriller rooted in my own experiences growing up abroad, and inspired by the music I loved. When I finished writing it, I had a revelation. I didn't want to take the traditional route to publishing again. I didn't want to jump through all the same hoops or give up all my rights to the finished product. Instead, I decided to publish it myself. 

Back in the USSR came out at the end of 2022. I had lots of help, including from my wife (the sharpest reader I know) and two adult children (both wonderfully creative). It was named a semifinalist in Publishers Weekly’s BookLife Prize. Now my second book in the Sing & Shout series is out, and I'm writing a third. 

I live in Massachusetts, and when I'm not writing I can be found haunting coffee shops, taking long walks with my wife, and practicing martial arts. I also write poetry. 

Ask the Author

Q: How do you get inspired to write? 
A: I like to connect two or more things that aren't related. Then I try to work out all the implications and the consequences and the problems that arise from bringing them together. 

Q: What are you currently working on? 
A: The next book in the Sing & Shout series! I'm also revising a historical mystery set in 17th century England and brainstorming an alternate history fantasy series.

Q: What do you like best about being a writer? 
A: Tinkering with words! 

Q: How do you deal with writer’s block? 
A: I always start with pen and paper. The ideas just flow better for me that way. Later I'll type up what I’ve written by hand, and that often gets me going too. If nothing else works, I take a long walk or go to a coffee shop. Inspiration usually strikes if I give it time. Sometimes even in the middle of the night! 

Q: If you could travel to any fictional book world, where would you go and what would you do there? 
A: I’d go to the Barcelona where Carlos Ruiz Zafón set The Shadow of the Wind and the rest of the books in the series. Okay, Barcelona’s not a fictional world. But apparently it's not the same as it once was. I love his novels! The city itself is one of the main characters.

Q: What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book? 
A: My grandparents lived in a big, old house on a hill that had a hidden staircase, a cellar with winding corridors, and a creaky attic. Maybe it's why I love gothic mysteries like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and why the setting of a story is so important to me.

Q: Where did you get the idea for the Sing & Shout series? 
A: Like Harrison in Back in the USSR, I grew up in a diplomatic family. We lived in the Soviet Union three separate times. The idea to incorporate the music of The Beatles into my stories came after I rediscovered the band through my son, when he became a fan as a teenager. I'd been a fan as a teenager too, when I first started listening seriously to music. I looked back and saw how their music threaded through my life in so many ways. And I realized it wasn’t just me. Beatles music is kind of woven into the fabric of the universe. So when I started writing Back in the USSR, I tugged on a few of those threads. 

Q: Where did the idea for Strawberry Fields come from? 
A: The idea came from a couple of paragraphs in Back in the USSR where I describe how the parents of one of my main characters first met. A reader told me she wished she’d known more about them! I realized I agreed, and a new story was born. 

Q: Do you have discussion guides for books clubs and classrooms? 
A: Yes! The guide for Back in the USSR is here. More coming soon! 

Q: Do you use AI in your writing?
A: Never! Not to brainstorm, not to write, not to edit. I have nothing against AI or the writers who do use it. I don't doubt that it will be capable of wonderful (as well as horrible) things. But I love to tinker with words. I love to put together plots like jigsaw puzzles. I love to experience the epiphanies that happen after letting a story simmer in the back of my mind. Why would I ever want to outsource the very things that bring me joy?