Patch chatted with the author of 20 novels, including his newest, The Snow White Christmas Cookie (October 2012), in advance of an upcoming program at the Killingworth Library’s Author Series.
PATCH: Excluding ones you have written, what is your favorite book?
Handler: My favorite crime writer is the late, great Ross Thomas, and my favorite Ross Thomas novel is “The Fools In Town Are On Our Side.” It is witty, wise, suspenseful and ultimately quite heartbreaking. A great book.
PATCH: Which book do you feel is the best you have written?
Handler: I don’t think any author can answer that question about his or her own work. The book that others consider my best is my third Stewart Hoag novel, “The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald,” which was an Edgar Award winner.
PATCH: When did you decide to be a writer?
Handler: I started out as a journalist. In fact, I went to work on my high school paper when I was 15 and never stopped. I have a master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and worked as a critic and columnist in New York City for ten years before I moved on to writing novels and screenplays.
PATCH: How do you get your ideas, and how did you come up with story of The Snow White Christmas Cookie?
Handler: I get a lot of my ideas for the Berger-Mitry Dorset mysteries from things that are happening here in Old Lyme. In the case of “The Snow White Christmas Cookie” I looked out the window one day last December and discovered a TV news crew from Channel 8 was interviewing my neighbors. It seems that someone had taken to stealing the mail out of peoples’ mailboxes in town in the weeks before Christmas. I started wondering why and before I knew it I had myself another plot.
PATCH: What TV shows have you written for?
Handler: I was a member of the original writing staff that created the sitcom “Kate and Allie” with Jane Curtin and Susan St. James. That’s probably the best-known show I worked on. I also wrote for “Charles in Charge,” “Working It Out,” “The Saint” and “Land’s End.”
PATCH: Are you currently writing for television and film and, if so, which shows/movies?
Handler: I’m pretty much focusing on books full time now.
PATCH: Why do you live in Old Lyme instead of exciting cities from your past such as New York or Los Angeles?
Handler: I grew up in LA and always dreamt of living in New York City as well as in an antique house in a quaint little historic New England village. Some dreams do come true!
PATCH: Do Old Lyme residents think you’re writing about them, and are you?
Handler: They absolutely do think I’m writing about them. And, for fun, I occasionally drop the real name of a friend in. But most of the characters are figments of my imagination – even though I can’t convince anyone to believe that.
PATCH: What’s next – more in this series or an entirely new series (and when)?
Handler: I’m currently working on the next Berger-Mitry, “The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb,” and next summer I’ll be publishing “Runaway Man,” the first novel in a brand new series about a feisty young 137-pound New York City private eye named Benji Golden.
Handler began his career in New York as a journalist, was born and raised in Los Angeles and published two highly acclaimed novels about growing up there, "Kiddo and Boss," before resorting to a life of crime fiction.
The Old Lyme resident has written eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including the Edgar and American Mystery Award-winning "The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald."
He has also written eight novels featuring the mismatched crime-fighting duo of New York film critic Mitch Berger and Connecticut State trooper Desiree Mitry. His first Berger-Mitry novel, "The Cold Blue Blood," was a Dilys Award finalist and Book Sense Top Ten pick. His latest standalone, "Click to Play," was published in December 2009 and the newest Berger-Mitry, "The Snow White Christmas Cookie," was released in October 2012.
Handler’s short stories have earned him a Derringer Award nomination and other honors. He was a member of the original writing staff that created the Emmy Award-winning sitcom "Kate and Allie" and has continued to write extensively for television and films on both coasts.
Editor's Note: The event was originally scheduled for Monday, November 5 at the library, but has been cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy-related issues. Call the library for more information.
The event is free but space is limited. Please sign up at the library or call 860-663-2000.