Monday, April 13, 2020

The Author Speaks

A transcription of an article published in the January 2, 1967 issue of Publisher's Weekly, reprinted in an anthology compiled in 1978 titled The Author Speaks: Selected PW Interviews, 1967-1976.

A TELEPHONE CALL caught John D. MacDonald, who has to be near the top of practically anyone's list of the best contemporary American writers in the mystery-suspense genre, in New York en route from Freehold, N.J., to upstate New York and thence to Florida. Mr. MacDonald was headed upstate to spend Christmas with relatives after having covered the murder trial of Dr. Carl A. Coppolino in Freehold (verdict: acquittal) and to rest up before covering the Coppolino murder trial in Florida, now scheduled to start in February.

Mr. MacDonald, needless to say, is at work on a book, maybe two books-about the Coppolino affair, which, to put it mildly, has incited the moral fervor for which Mr. MacDonald is well known by his fans. The job may require two books, Mr. MacDonald told PW, because the New Jersey and the Florida cases are quite different: different victims, different courtrooms, different casts of characters, and so on. Whether two Coppolino books by Mr. MacDonald are viable commercially is a matter still to be resolved. Publication plans are still up in the air, Mr. MacDonald indicated, but publication will be probably by Doubleday in hardcover, Fawcett in paperback. The working title for one or both books is No Deadly Medicine, an illusion to the Hippocratic Oath, which Dr. Coppolino may or may not have violated. Also still to be resolved is which will come first: hardcover or paperback publication. One thing certain, however, is that Mr. MacDonald will be in court when Dr. Coppolino's trial begins in Florida: perhaps in Sarasota, where the action was originally brought; perhaps in another part of the state, if the defense is successful in its effort to gain a change of venue. Mr. MacDonald said he rather hoped that the debate on change of venue would take a while, giving him a chance to finish the New Jersey part of his book(s) about the case.

"Even if I never publish a word about the Coppolino case -- and that's not likely -- just being associated with it as a spectator has given me ideas for at least two novels about the dilemma between personal and professional decisions: if you do one thing, you harm yourself; if you do another thing, you harm your best friend." It's the kind of theme which Mr. MacDonald has been working on for a long time.

Meanwhile, he reported, announcement is imminent on a movie deal involving his hot-selling Travis McGee detective series, published by Fawcett. A television project is in the works for one of his earlier novels, The Crossroads, which Fawcett will reissue. One of the few full-time novelists with a graduate degree from the Harvard Business School, Mr. MacDonald these days is rarely unoccupied.

By Roger H. Smith. From Publishers Weekly 191, no. 1 (January 2, 1967), p. 21.