Money's no mystery
to Ridley Pearson
Thriller writer Ridley Pearson has what reporters call a nose
for news. He can sense trouble before it happens, and if his luck is running right,
his fictional treatment of the subject will hit book stands before the actual
His 1997 arson novel, "Beyond Recognition,"
preceded an actual Seattle serial arsonist by a couple months. His 1999 hit, "The
First Victim," about smuggling people aboard container ships, came out just
as the first such operation was busted off the California coast. Then just before
bookstores stocked his 2000 thriller, "Middle of Nowhere," set against
the backdrop of a Seattle police "sick-out," the real cops suddenly
caught the "blue flu."
It's all in the
interest of keeping Seattle homicide detective Lou Boldt, the stalwart hero of
14 Pearson mysteries, on the cutting edge of crime solving. His latest, "The
Body of David Hayes," continues Pearson's trademark blend of realistic crime
scenes and complex, believable characters.
Raised in the
affluent suburbs of Greenwich, Conn., Pearson grew up reading the mysteries of
his hero, John D. MacDonald. He attended prestigious Pomfret boarding school,
where he hooked up with classmate Otis Reed to form Big Lost, a rock band that
would tour in various configurations for a decade.
into the road years, Pearson began writing screenplays, the beginning of a workaholic
writing schedule that he still maintains today. It paid off: He became the first
American recipient of the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction
at Oxford University. He published several first-person mysteries under the pseudonym
Wendell McCall (after two towns in Idaho) before the Boldt series took off.
Pearson's mystery series is just one of a growing number of writing projects.
He recently sold to Showtime a TV pilot for "The Culture," a series
set inside the profit-vs.-patient world of pharmaceuticals; wrote the Stephen
King tie-in novel, "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer," and co-wrote with
Dave Barry the upcoming Peter Pan prequel, "Peter and the Starcatchers,"
the first of a trilogy for Disney.
When not at home with his
wife and two young daughters, you'll find Pearson holding down the beat as co-founder
of the all-author Rock Bottom Remainders garage band, whose current lineup includes
Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow and musical director
Bankrate.com caught up with the busy, multitalented
Pearson on the road in Phoenix.
Were you aware of growing up affluent?
Oh, you become aware. Traveling into New York as often as we did, you can't
help seeing people living a lot higher and a lot lower than you are. It's a good
part of a suburban upbringing in that if you get into the city enough, you see
the disparity of incomes; you see the limousines ahead of you and the projects
you start handling your own money at an early age?
I did. At a very early age, my father included me in the reconciling of
his checkbooks. He would read off a check amount and I would check it off his
bank statement. It got me doing math early, and I think it was a great lesson
to me because I saw where all his money went: to the dry cleaner and this and
that. It was fascinating.
Did you have an allowance?
I maybe did for about a week because I probably stopped doing the stuff
I was supposed to be doing to earn one. I had a savings account early.
What prepared you most for managing your money?
My brother and my mother started this giant dance every week in the summer called
The Sound to keep Greenwich kids from driving over to Port Chester, N.Y., getting
drunk and killing themselves driving home. We had The Young Rascals there before
they were famous and some incredible soul bands. I ended up, at 14, being the
accountant for that. I handled huge amounts of cash every Thursday night, thousands
and thousands of dollars. We kept it going for two or three summers.
Is that how you got into music?
No, we were a musical family. We would play for an hour and a half every Sunday
afternoon. We sang Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and Kingston Trio, a lot of Kingston
Trio. I was the guy laughing the loudest in "A Mighty Wind.