Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Different Kind of Crime Writer Creates Different Kind of Detective

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Different Kind of Crime Writer Creates Different Kind of Detective

Article excerpt

Peter Spiegelman went from a career on Wall Street to writing detective fiction.

It's worked out well. Spiegelman's debut, "Black Maps," became the first in a series, followed by a standalone. With his new book, "Dr. Knox," he's back in PI territory, but with a twist.

"For a long time," he says, "I have been fascinated both because of my own background and because of my love of crime fiction by the parallels between physicians and their experience, and the character of the fictional hard-boiled PI."

He finds several similarities between the professions: "Both rely on their curiosity, their powers of observation, their powers of deduction to do their job but I was more interested in their worldview. Both see some of the grimmest aspects of life, the darkest aspects of human experience, and as a result are really put at a remove from the workaday world, and are isolated from by that experience but also empowered by it."

He'll be in St. Louis on Tuesday to talk about his book, which he plans as the first in a series, and his research into both medicine and crime solving.

Spiegelman, 58, lives in Ridgefield, Conn. with his wife and two sons, ages 20 and 16. In a telephone interview, the author, who worked in banking on Wall Street and then co-owned a banking software company, says he's been writing most of his life, from primitive home-made comic books as a child to poetry as a teenager. And he's always been drawn to detective fiction.

In "Dr. Knox," his protagonist, Adam Knox, M.D., is the scion of a long line of aristocratic New England doctors, but he's taken some hard knocks in his life. That started with his work as a physician in the Central African Republic. An attempt to protect patients from a brutal militia didn't end well.

Knox washed up at a "skid-row adjacent" clinic in Los Angeles, where he treats the working poor, prostitutes and the homeless for everything from knife wounds to diabetes to syphilis. To pay the rent, he works on a cash-only basis treating celebrities, criminals and others with cause to be circumspect about seeking emergency treatment for gunshot wounds and other ills.

On those ventures, Knox partners with Ben Sutter, a black ex- Special Forces soldier with a variety of special skills. Sutter is an unromantic realist. There's something about Knox, though, a mixture of do-gooder and thrill-seeker, that likes the spice of danger.

A Romanian prostitute named Elena brings her young son, Alex, to the clinic with an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, and then disappears. Knox finds himself suddenly involved with a gang of Russian mobsters, as well as one of the most powerful families in the world, both of whom want the pair. Spiegelman takes the reader on a compellingly well-written roller coaster ride of a story.

Spiegelman comes from a medical background; both parents are now- retired physicians, and as an undergraduate he had a double major English and in pre-med ("I think I finished all my requirements but organic chemistry, which was just like torture").

"When I got out of college," he says, "I contemplated an MFA program, but I realized I really needed to pay the rent. So I took a 20-year detour into software and banking. It was a rewarding, gratifying career; I enjoyed the work, but it didn't have a lot of intellectual satisfaction. When we sold our company, in the late '90s, I took the opportunity to return to writing and try my hand at something I'd always wanted to do. …

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