Harper Lee had nothing on me where the time lapse between publishing first and second novels is concerned. When my last novel, Goodbye Heiko Goodbye Berlin, saw print, it had been nearly 35 years since my well-received first novel, A Brother’s Touch, was released.
The mass market paperback was the first in this format to receive critical coverage in a weekday edition of The New York Times, and the first gay-oriented fiction reviewed by the paper of record in the post-Stonewall era. Distinguished critic Harold Schoenberg’s restrained praise for the novel sent books flying out of stores nationwide, and eventually abroad. Publishing house Pinnacle Books quickly ordered a second printing. These events established my writing credentials.
Living in West Berlin, Germany for more than a decade during the Cold War, and through early years of Reunification, provided the inspiration for my second effort. Working as a cultural journalist put me in position to witness one the cataclysmic events of the 20th Century: the reuniting of a divided Germany, and the official close of the Second World War. When the infamous Wall was breached, and eventually torn down, I saw the opportunity to tell the story of post-war Germany from the perspectives of life on both sides of the Wall, a story that was yet to be told by an English language writer.
From the vantage point of an insider, I created a faux memoir narrated by an African-American expatriate. The protagonist is unable to shake an infatuation with a gender-bending East German refugee he befriends. It’s the rise to fame and fortune of this wunderkind that the novel recounts. Their intertwining fates parallel the country’s unprecedented transition and reinvention.
The title Goodbye Heiko Goodbye Berlin echoes Christopher Isherwood’s famous 1930’s Berlin short story collections. NYU Dean and Author’s Guild president emeritus Sidney Offit declared my novel, “Storytelling in the best American literary tradition.” The critic for The Gay & Lesbian Review wrote: “Packs a powerful emotional punch and may well linger in memory for a long time to come.”
My commercially published first novel, “A Brother’s Touch,” was a cautionary tale about throwaway youth told against the city’s emerging political climate post-Stonewall. The “gay literati”, chagrined by the book’s prominence and gritty take on gay lifestyles, conspired to diminish the novel’s impact. Attacked in the gay press, initially, NY’s pioneering Oscar Wilde gay bookstore refused to stock it. Even so, sales elsewhere remained strong. Ironically, a year later, a bookseller in the Midwest adopted the title in naming his new book store. The novel even appears on a list of banned books, along with some very famous titles in American literature. Republished as a print on demand title, the novel remains in print, and still enjoys modest sales.
A native New Yorker, before writing full-time I enjoyed an active career as a public relations executive representing both entertainment and corporate clients including two watershed events of the disco music era, the opening of legendary dance club Studio 54 and the Broadway stage’s first disco musical, “Got to Go Disco”. Following publication of my first novel, I relocated to West Berlin and covered the film and music industries for US entertainment trades Variety and Billboard; and I handled editorial chores for the annual Berlin International Film Festival ‘s official cinema guide. I am currently completing a third novel set in mid-century America, “Beyond the Bridge”, focusing on issues of race, class and crime in the milieus of urban white flight and the civil rights movement.
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