I had already written two books with some success. The first – “Crystal Meth Cowboys” – was optioned for a TV series. The second – “The Violin Player” – won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.
But I had no idea what to do next. My first two books were based on stuff I knew first hand. A cop in a small Central California town; and my family history. The ‘write what you know’ dictum no longer seemed to offer a way forward.
I did spend a couple years writing a novel about my wayward youth in Santa Barbara in the 70s. It was titled “The Velvet Trench” and the title was the best thing about it. Turns out I don’t have a talent for morbid introspection.
However, I DID have a passion for the hardboiled fiction of Raymond Chandler and the films noir. So one week when my wife was out of town I bought myself a bottle of bourbon and sat down with a stack of classic noir films.
One little-known film caught my eye. “T-Men”, 1947.
And one scene in particular got me going.
A Treasury Agent is posing as an out-of-town gangster in an attempt to infiltrate a big city mob. He is leaving a bar with his new mob pals when a woman who knew him when greets him warmly by the wrong (right) name.
The T-Man sweats bullets as he attempts to convince the young lady that he is not the man she knows him to be.
Brilliant, gripping! Blatant duplicity in the name of service!
Yes, undercover cops do that all the time. But I was greedy, I wanted a broader canvas. So I dived head first into the study of post-World War Two espionage.
“The Double Cross System” by Sir John Masterman got me revved up, and “The Old Boys” by Burton Hersh filled in the blanks, copiously.
Much more reading and research followed, culminating in Norman Mailer’s 1100 page CIA epic, “Harlot’s Ghost.”
Fully briefed, I put my head down and spent ten years writing The American Spy Trilogy, the story of a scrappy and confused young man, Hal Schroeder, serially recruited to serve his country in high-risk missions in WWII and beyond.
During the course of the three books Hal Schroeder learns how to survive, he learns how to play the game of politics as he gains renown. And, finally, he discovers who he is.
Hal’s story concludes in “The Proxy Assassin.”
John Knoerle began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.
Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.
Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.
John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book, The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.
Visit his website at www.johnknoerle.com.