Brookfield’s Bob Neidhardt published two novels 25 years ago and had not written any books since then until, at age 74, he started writing again. His new mystery is a humorous thriller called Kill the Author.
It is the story of Earl Jankowski, a frustrated writer who reacts to years of rejections by retreating into the unreal world of his characters. When he attends a book signing by a famous author, John Avery, he asks for advice. In response to Jankowski’s multitude of rejections, Avery archly suggests that he “kill somebody, preferably famous, and write a book about it. People love notoriety;” Avery says, “You’ll be guaranteed success.”
In a twist of fate, Jankowski decides to take the advice — and to kill Avery, who is obviously famous. He stalks him and taunts him and gains anonymous notoriety as the Avery Stalker. In at attempt to end the madness, Avery plants a trap in his latest novel, but Jankowski doesn’t fall for it; instead, he does Avery one better.
Neidhardt became a writer by accident. He worked in New York City for 21 years as art director for the Benton and Bowles Advertising Agency, and he’s proud of the prestigious CLIO Award his team won for a Texaco commercial urging a driving strategy to conserve gasoline.
One day a writer colleague teased him, claiming that art directors never read anything and were probably illiterate.
“So,” Neidhardt said with a laugh, “I took up the challenge and wrote a novel. And I put that man in the novel!”
It was a financial thriller, The Root of All Evil, published in 1989, a story about the Russians’ attempt to overthrow the U.S. economy.
“Even at that time,” Niedhardt said, “It showed the vulnerability of the U.S. economy, when a lot of our national debt was being held in oil-rich Arab countries. Now it is held by the Chinese.” If they suddenly decided to demand payment on that debt, our economy would be devastated.
In the novel, the Russians plan to pull down the U.S. economy by buying up its debt, but they don’t have enough money to do that. However, they could do it — if the money was counterfeit.
“There is a history of that,” Neidhardt added. During World War II, the Nazis had a similar scheme to use counterfeit pounds against England, and they printed billions of British pound notes for the purpose. But the war ended, so they never put the plan into action.
“The Nazi engraver was never found,” he said, “And that was the beginning of The Root of All Evil. It gave the novel some credibility.”
He did a lot of research on finance and on Zurich, Switzerland, where much of the thriller’s action takes place.
“I’ve never been there,” he said. “But I got all my information from travel guides.”
His second book, The Final Deception, was published two years later, in 1991. With his point proven to his colleague, his time after that was taken up by his job and other demands.
As the idea of the current novel grew in his mind, Neidhardt decided to take a different approach to writing from the first two books. For each of those, he had carefully detailed the story outline of each chapter on three-by-five cards. Once outlined, it was relatively easy to expand on the card outlines.
This time, he decided to write the current novel from the viewpoint of the reader; that is, he would have the same experience writing it — not knowing exactly how it is going to end. Like the reader, he still had some things to find out as the story unfolded.
“It was a little daring to do it that way,” he said, with a sense of wonder, “But it worked, and I had fun doing it.”
Neidhardt has also written a sequel, My Best-Selling Author. Both books are in the hands of a literary agent as part of the traditional publishing process. However, Kill the Author is currently available online at Amazon.com for Kindle readers.
“It’s had pretty good results so far,” he said, “And I’m thinking of putting the second one online, too, in another few months.”
At 74, Neidhardt appears trim, active and to be enjoying life.
“I thought it was time to try some more books,” he said. “If there are other 74-year-olds out there with talent, they should take a stab at using it — just do it, and have fun.”