For This Novelist, It All Began With a Lie His Father Forced Him to Tell – by Donald Malkoff

For This Novelist, It All Began With a Lie His Father Forced Him to Tell – by Donald Malkoff


I was a terribly shy boy. A loner. For days at a time, I went without speaking, simply observing others, and quietly learning everything I could about my personal world. I was raised that way. My father had been overseas, fighting in a World War. My mother worked constantly, struggling to survive the Great Depression. I was left alone.

After my father returned, wounded, we moved from town-to-town, and job-to-job. With each move, I endured the traumas of changing schools, and losing friends, each time retreating further into my private world. My teachers, bless them, could sense that inside this child there was an inquisitive mind. They tried reaching out to me, but couldn’t fathom how to penetrate my shell. Soon, however, the situation came to a head.

Our teacher assigned us the task of writing an original paper. It was to be presented in a talk before our classmates. But, how was I to do this? I was a boy who didn’t talk. I knew how to observe and analyze, but not to respond or communicate my private thoughts. The effort to write was, for me, a cardinal struggle. I confined myself to my room, and paced the floor, filled with anxiety, unable to come up with even my first word.

I was unaware of the impact this was having on my father. He had been absent for most of my life. We hardly knew one another. He had no idea of what was troubling me, and the war had left him without the patience to cope with me. Finally, he exploded in frustration, screaming in anger at his son’s inability to perform. He left the room, and returned in less than an hour, holding in his hand ‘my’ completed paper! “You will take this to school, tomorrow, and hand it in as your own. I don’t’ want to hear another word. Now, go to bed!”

I wasn’t capable of disobeying my father. The next day, at school, I handed in the paper, with my name as its author. His story was entitled “The Algerian Shepherd.” It was unique . . . a masterpiece, even now when I read it again. It described the intimate details of the life of a Bedouin who lived in the desert, but dreamed of a magnificent paradise elsewhere. I clearly could not have produced such a wonderful and complex story. I was thirteen years old, had never traveled, and knew nothing of the world beyond.

I was summoned to the office of the school principal, and interrogated extensively by the principal and my teachers: How it was that I could write such a mature and original story? In response, I lied. I lied outwardly, but cried on the inside for the agony of being forced to choose between betrayal of either my father or my teachers. I honored each of them.

The result of that meeting was stunning. Unexpectedly, I was deemed the true author of that story. There existed, they concluded, wonderful capabilities buried within this unusual boy, capabilities that deserved to be nurtured. Did they somehow know the truth, and, in spite of that, were they reaching out to me again?

‘My’ story was published in the school newspaper, and all the teachers were alerted to henceforth expect and demand exceptional work from this student. So, I had to be a writer. I was terrified, filled with shame. My mother had brought me up to always tell the truth. Always. But, now I had lied and it was not right. This was not me. I vowed that it would never happen again.

My challenge for the future was obvious. I had to genuinely live up to everyone’s highest expectations. I could think of only one way for me to achieve this. It was a plan simple in concept, but difficult to implement: For every future paper, presentation, and task assigned to me, I had to become profoundly knowledgeable on that topic. In so doing, the tedious memorizations and word struggles of the past could be transformed into a joyful, spontaneous, fascinating, never-ending flow of information capable of capturing the imagination of the audience. And so that’s what I endeavored to do.

The result was immediate and remarkable, not unlike my father’s Bedouin who broke out of the desert to ultimately find the paradise of his dreams . . . and discovered it had been all around him from the very beginning. Perhaps his story had been realized in my life. From that moment on, I began to develop the capabilities that would allow me to journey into many marvelous professional careers and adventures, a journey that continues to this day. And, I have never again had to tell a lie. Indeed, even in my books of ‘fiction’, there is more truth hidden there than meets the eye.


The Black Devil of Damavand is about Iran, Israel, and the United States – their people, customs, and struggles to survive. Famous world landmarks are destroyed, without evidence of how, by whom, and why. As frightened world leaders seek to destroy their historical adversaries, brutal forces of nature are threatening world destruction. In seeking answers, Bill Walker encounters two beautiful women, each holding keys to the cause of these world calamities…and having the power to determine his fate.

In this fast-paced techno-thriller, The Lansing Effect, national leaders unleash a frightening virus created using nanotechnology and old observations about aging and evolution. It spreads across the globe, targeting specific populations and creating widespread death and terror. Bill Walker finds himself pivotal in the resulting full-scale Middle East war, targeted himself by rival femmes fatales, as he races to prevent a string of assassinations, quell the epidemic, prevent the economic collapse, and thwart the social breakdown of society.


Don Malkoff majored in physics at Harvard, became a board-certified Neurologist, and researched in electron microscopy and biology at the Gerontology Branch of NIH. Activities included medical practice, oil company pursuits throughout the Middle East, becoming a computer scientist, and working as Chief Scientist for classified government programs.




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One Response to "For This Novelist, It All Began With a Lie His Father Forced Him to Tell – by Donald Malkoff"

  1. Linda G  April 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Don Malkoff,

    What a stunning tale and such a fierce resume you have.

    Blessings — and I’m glad you don’t lie!