By Matt Richtel
It was one of those arid summer afternoons.Heat rippling off the highway.Air conditioning blasting in the cranky Chevrolet.
And then the black Mercedes appeared, tinted windows. Just ahead. My father, driving, spied it.
From the backseat, I strained to look. A heavy book sat in my lap.
“It’s him, Matthew. It’s Carlos.”
“No way.” I paused. “Do you think he’s on to us?”
This was eons ago, a family summer car trip; teenage me, dad, my younger sister and mom. It is a true story I tell. Not so much the book in my lap. That was a novel. Ludlum’s Bourne Identity. It could just as well have been Follett, or Clancy. These I mainlined, the hardbacks handed down from my father the second he finished. They were yesteryear’s smartphone; I could be so consumed by Leon Uris that I’d walk into a wall.
They populated my imagination, dad’s too. The black Mercedes in front of us? Surely, dad and I half-joked (half not), the driver was CarlosThe Assassin, fleeing Interpol. So what if we were in Colorado. My mom just laughed. Her bookshelf held entirely different books. They involved psychology and interpersonal conflict, Jung and Freud, far afield dad’s leanings for geopolitics and tectonic plate shifts. When it came to their bookshelves, never the Twain did meet.
I drew from mom’s taste’s too, her influence seeding Judy Blume and Flowers in the Attic. I grew interested not just in Carlos the killer, but how he maybe got bullied as a kid and just wanted a hug. Politics became personal, suspense essentially intertwined with self.
The black car turned up a hill and, would you know it, we were headed the same direction? True story.To a steak house. The Mercedes parked. Out stepped three men in dark suits – in summer! Dad and I jacked our thriller-fed imaginations into overdrive. What if the time had come for us to save the world? Enough, mom said, everyone put on shoes.
This is where the story got too good to be true but, again, is fairly reported. Inside the restaurant, we saw the men seated. One of them was wearing a single black glove. Lordy, it was orgiastic. Was he hiding battle scars? Was this his pistol hand? Why one black glove? The questions were never answered. This thriller has no such neat end. Probably, if I had to guess now, it was Carlos the Banker with psoriasis. No matter. He became for us, always, The Man With One Black Glove.
Books took me to amazing places, trips within trips. I never contemplated I would write them, not until later. Then I wanted to write ones that make life fun and provocative, hopefully take others on journeys, not just with suspense – the stuff of dad’s bookshelves – but grounded in real emotion and motivation – the stuff from mom’s. SoI invite you: join me sometime. We’ll save the world, or pretend to. If the trip is good enough, who can tell the difference?
Matt’s latest book, Doomsday Equation will be in stores on February 24, 2015!