Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/24/2010

Autopsy of a Successful Writing Career


Successful authors oftentimes come from the most unusual places and with surprising unprepared backgrounds. Paul Lindsay, now 66 and the author of 7 novels beginning with Witness to the Truth, is one of these surprising individuals. Jim Sullivan of the Boston Herald dissects his story this way:

It was 1986. FBI agent Paul Lindsay, fresh off a three-month job working on the infamous Green River serial killer case in Seattle, was back home in Detroit. He found himself bored, sitting on the couch, watching “The Smurfs” with his two kids.

“My brain was rotting,” Lindsay said from his home in Rye, N.H. “I had no other cultural interests.”

So he enrolled in an adult-education course. Math was his first choice, but Lindsay, who failed English in college, ended up in a creative writing class.

“The teacher asked us to write a three-page short story,” he said. “So I wrote this thing and she said, ‘With your background, life experience and the way you write, you can do this professionally.’ ”

Lindsay, who just published his seventh novel and comes to Andover this week to read from it, took the advice to heart. His first book, “Witness to the Truth,” came out in 1992. It landed him in hot water with his superiors at the FBI, who said the book revealed too much inside information and cited him for insubordination.

Then a 1993 Vanity Fair article quoted Lindsay calling then-FBI director William Sessions a very bad name. Another insubordination charge, which came, ironically, just as Lindsay received a commendation for solving the Highland Park serial killings in Detroit. He decided it was time to retire.

“My first 15 years in the FBI were a dream,” Lindsay said. “If I’d had the money, I’d have paid them to let me do it. But the last five years, ever since I came back from the Green River murders, it started getting really bad. There were so many career-building managers who’d never worked a case and ended up becoming bosses.”

Meanwhile, Lindsay’s new career was on the rise. Movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer bought the rights to “Witness to the Truth.” And the G-Man-turned-author wrote five more novels for Simon & Schuster.

Now Lindsay, 66, has a taut new thriller, “The Bricklayer.” It features Steve Vail, an ex-FBI agent and loner-renegade, and Kate Bannon, the FBI gal who pulls him back in. But the book was written under a pseudonym, Noah Boyd, for a new publisher, William Morrow.

“My writing has taken a new direction,” Lindsay said. “So they wanted a fresh start with a new name. It’s a three-book deal and the only stipulation is it be the same two male-female characters.”

Best-selling crime writers Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child and James Patterson have all praised the book, which is on The New York Times [NYT] bestseller list at No. 22. Lindsay will read excerpts from it Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Andover Bookstore and on March 4 at 7 p.m. at Book Ends in Winchester.

“The Bricklayer” features new characters, but Lindsay said it continues the theme of his previous books.

“I divide the FBI into two groups,” he said. “Street agents who go out and take chances and get the work done and the managers who are mainly concerned with being promoted and retiring at a higher salary. I always try to make the street agents look like good guys and the managers look like the idiots they are. I’ve sent in a few books where the editors have said, ‘You make these guys look so dumb,’ and I’ve said, ‘You don’t know how much I smartened ’em up.’ ”

Is Vail an idealized version of Lindsay?

“To a certain degree,” the author said. “Or maybe the guy I’d like to have been.”

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