Kathleen George's Latest Has Many Characters Battling 'The Odds'

Article excerpt

Kathleen George has always been fond of books about children on their own in the world, be it the fable of "Hansel and Gretel" or more contemporary stories. In her new novel "The Odds," the North Side resident comes up with her own version of this theme, albeit with a twist. Meet the Phillips -- four children ranging from 13 to 8, all bright, all readers and excellent students.

All on their own.

It seems preposterous, but when George called various child- service organizations, she was not dissuaded from the premise of four children fending for themselves.

"Nobody told me this wouldn't happen," George says. "They all said there are plenty of kids out there who have to take responsibility, and they get away with things. Especially if they get good at it, nobody notices if they're on their own. ... It' s kind of scary to think that it's happening, but it is."

"The Odds" is George's fourth novel. The professor of theater at the University of Pittsburgh again brings back her extended family of Pittsburgh police officers -- Detective Richard Christie, head of homicide, and his subordinates Colleen Greer, John Potocki and Artie Dolan.

It is a cast in transition. Christie is fighting cancer, Greer is sorting out her life and lingering feelings for Christie, Potocki is getting divorced and trying to woo Greer. Only Dolan, who makes a cameo appearance, is exempt from soul-shaking life changes. "The Odds" has the feel of a writer juggling her characters, sorting out a possible change in emphasis from Christie, who was the center of George's first three novels, to Greer.

"It could be true, but I don't think it is true," she says when asked if the focus is changing. "I need to keep Christie and Colleen in mind pretty significantly in the future. I see this group of detectives, including Dolan and Potocki, as a sort of recurring group, with their dynamic. I find that both Colleen and Christie are extremely inspirational to me in terms of story ideas. When I think of either one of them, what would they do in the case of X, lots of ideas come to me. I can see that I might retire one or the other a little more, but I'm not abandoning Christie. …