I am one of the last writers in America to establish a web presence. I’ve resisted for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I tend to be perverse. As my late mother once told my wife, “If you ever want him to do something, first tell him not to do it.” All my career I have prospered by zigging while everyone else was zagging. I fear fads, crazes, bubbles. I never go to the beach on Memorial Day. I never once in my life smoked pot, not because I was philosophically or morally opposed to it, but because everyone else did it. Every writer I know set up a website, and made sure to tell me I ought to do likewise. Needless to say, I did not.
Also, I have little tolerance for routine. I don’t balance my checkbook. I don’t mow my lawn. I have driven my current street vehicle through a car wash exactly once, though happily my wife has done so numerous times. (I take much better care of “Mrs. Peel,” my 1967 Austin-Healey BJ8—blue with ivory side panels, six in-line cylinders, two carbs—but then, washing its curves and polishing its chrome is anything but drudgery.) I’ve been afraid that if I built a website I would, inevitably, fail to keep it updated and fresh. I have noticed that many writers’ websites have gathered a good deal of digital dust, with blogs at ever-increasing intervals and references to speaking engagements, events, and other achievements that took place months or even years earlier. My perversity comes into play here as well. Knowing that I have to keep my website fresh makes it all the harder for me to imagine actually do so. It is a deep personal flaw, and a cross that my wife and daughters have, for the most part, borne with humor and grace.
What changed my attitude was the growing sense that readers, book-club presenters, speakers’ bureaus and others who have wanted to reach me, were starting to get cranky about the fact that they could not readily do so. I noticed as well that my hosts for speaking engagements found themselves forced to scour the web for material to include when introducing me to their audiences, with the result that I have heard myself described in some very odd ways, often with outdated and distorted information. One host decided I was a professor at the University of Kansas. My fault, I admit. A website, I now acknowledge, would have resolved all this confusion in a heartbeat.
Finally, I came to realize that quite a few readers were simply unaware that I had written anything other than The Devil in the White City. I have. I swear I have. And you’ll like those books just as much. But you don’t have to read them. Suffice it to say I’ll be happy if you simply know that there are a number of books out there all written by the same author, that author being me.
So, I give you now my website. My goal will be to have some fun in these pages, maybe share some writing gossip, pass along some writing tips and revelations, mention a few good books, restaurants, hotels, wines—that kind of thing. Those of you who wish can send along questions about writing or my books. At intervals I’ll choose one or two and address them directly on the site.
I had hoped to provide space to give our ten-year-old Golden Retriever, Molly, a recurring web presence as well, but I am deeply sorry to report that on Oct. 4, 2010, after months of enduring liver cancer, she left us for wherever it is that kind and sweet dogs go. It was a sad but peaceful and loving moment, orchestrated with great care by our veterinarian. We should all have the opportunity to exit with such grace. There is a page within this website devoted entirely to her, since she was such a huge part of my family and indeed of my writing life. We miss her every day.