Where was that pesky waiter? There I was at the Tucson Standup Comedy Club – oh no, wait, it was the Tucson Festival of Books, and I was listening to Josh Bazell who wrote Beat the Reaper. He was witty and smart and funny, and we all loved him. Well, okay: half the audience, as it turns out, consisted of his family, who lives in Tucson, but the other half of us liked him too!
In response to the question, “how much are you like your main character?” he answered: “Well, I’ve never killed someone for money.” He joked about the health insurance debacle, the problems with big pharma, and his own career path. He read us a short story, a little sequellette to Beat the Reaper, with no bad language (his “Grandma” was in the audience too).
He told us that the pivotal books inspiring him were The Godfather and Jaws. As a child, he said, he ran all around pointing out the bad words in the book to others, exclaiming “they actually print these words!” and found that everyone else already knew it. (Now, he must be an inspiration to a whole new set of little boys.) He loves mafia books, he said, and even more, he loves the little sub-genre of post-witness-protection mob books.
Work doesn’t interfere with his writing, he maintains, but he is afraid writing will interfere with the quality of his work. So he reads a lot more medicine now than when he was in school. He is loathe to lose that skill.
And what about that next installment to Beat the Reaper? He predicts it will be another 18 months before we will see it. Well, “we” in the non-relative part of the audience. I suspect the family, a proud and supportive fan club if you’ve ever seen one, will give it a going-over a lot sooner.