Interview: Davis MacDonald

FINAL COVER  SILICON BEACH (2)Tell us about your new release.

SILICON BEACH is an interesting puzzle, set in the snappy area of Santa Monica, Venice, Playa Vista, and the LA Westside that people have taken to call Silicon Beach. It’s a tale of disruptive technology, patents, betrayal, greed, violence and fear of change, with an underpinning look at the homeless and what’s to be done. From the violence in the first chapter, through the twists and turns of plot from chapter to chapter, to the surprise ending, it sets a very fast pace and encourages a quick read. Here is a brief summary:

Attacked on Santa Monica Beach. The Judge has made more than his fair share of enemies over his ten years on the bench. But this came out of the blue…or did it?

So starts the Judge’s desperate search along the boardwalks of Venice, through the swank bars and restaurants of Santa Monica, the yuppie ghetto of Playa Vista, and the sex clubs of West LA as he relentlessly pursues adversaries who threaten him — and anyone who gets too close to the secrets buried in Silicon Beach.

All the while the Judge must try to negotiate the compromises required to maintain his new marriage to a woman 20 years his junior, and come to terms with the child she carries. As the Judge closes in on his adversaries and the body count continues to mount, he finds his new bride and the child may become collateral damage in this deadly contest with conspirators who risk all to win all on Silicon Beach.

Follow the Judge as he upends public reputations, turns out private obsessions, confronts the power brokers of Silicon Beach, and unearths a secret so vast it threatens to overturn an entire industry.

How important is setting to your story?

My books are set in places I know intimately and love. I believe people find satisfaction when they pick up a good tale to read and discover settings and scenes with which they are familiar. Local places they’ve been, or heard about, or want to visit. My descriptions may refresh their own memories of a place, good or bad, and give a different and fresh perspective to a place they’ve seen and enjoyed. But in the end, my novels are primarily character driven.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

All my characters are from real life. Real people I’ve worked with, worked for, known, loved, hated, envied, pitied, studied or watched. Fifty years of studying people, their foibles, their concerns, their passions, successes, failures, and how they deal with success and defeat.

There’s that great line from the Jimmy Buffet song, ‘Changes in Latitudes”.

“Good times and riches, …..and son of a bitches, I’ve seen more than I can recall.”….:)

When you pick up one of my novels, you’re getting real people. Many of the characters are so unique, you know you can’t make that up…☺

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to meet?

I quite like Michael Connelly’s character, Harry Bosch. Would love to meet him. A real curmudgeon, like my Judge. Tougher though, less methodical, more reactive.

When you come out of a good law school, you think differently. That is, you learn to think in a completely different way. It changes you. Perhaps that’s one reason there are so many divorces after one partner goes to law school. You come out a different person, particularly in the way you approach issues, analyze facts and make decisions.

One client told me once, “You lawyers all think in traps.” Sticking his hands out and making closing circle motions with his hands, progressively, extending his hands out from his body.

Perhaps that’s true. At any rate, my character, the Judge, thinks like a lawyer. A law trained reader picks this up at once.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

I write novels about people, their dreams, their setbacks, their beliefs, their prejudices, their quirks, their drama, and their despair. I’ve chosen to write inside the mystery novel genre, but my books are first about at people.

And second, each book deals with a particular social issue or moral conundrum that is a topic of the day and interests me.

The Hill examines how far a lover should go to save his partner, the difficulties of a May-December Relationship, and the ethical responsibilities of a teacher toward his student.

The Island explores the difficulties of a dysfunctional village where distinct economic groups must learn to work together and accommodate each other to survive.

Silicon Beach deals with social issue presented by the homeless, examines who they really are, why they are homeless, and identify’ s a fundamental element of their plight that makes them different from other discriminated against minorities. My upcoming book, The Bay, (out in the Fall of 2016), deals with the strains inside a resettled Muslim family in Newport Beach, and the conundrum they face, trying to follow a religion which is really a political system with strains of exclusivity, while still assimilating into secular America and its democratic principles. So I’d like my readers to come away first saying, “Wow, that was a good read,” but with perhaps a bit more perspective and information about the underlying social and moral issues which drive the plot.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

I was fascinated with sailing and the sea. And when I discovered C.S. Forester, and this series of Horatio Hornblower novels about age 12, I was in heaven. hey had everything, swashbuckling, sailing ships, armed conflict, history, exotic places, and the introspection of the main character, a man flawed and solitary, like me. The best part was getting inside Horatio’s head. Understanding his motivations and thoughts. Something you can really only do through a book.

At 14 I fancied myself a Zen Buddhist for a while, and read whatever I could get my hands on about the religion. Alan Watts was the popular Guru of the day. A fascinating study of Chinese, Indian and Japanese history and philosophy. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is still a treasured book in my library. Much of the philosophy and methods of teaching are based on semantics, and a different way of viewing and using words and other means of communication.

When I went to law school at USC later, my grounding in semantics from my Zen day gave me an advantage in the study of law. Perhaps that’s why I was number one in the class?

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?

No. But I write short sentences which say it all in just a few words, and stay with me for a long time. Often making me smile, or sometimes just reflect on life and death. For instance:

From THE HILL, at the end: “He scooped the gun up off the floor, held Katy tight, and they cautiously walked around the man and out the front door, leaving him to die alone.”

From THE ISLAND: The Judge is grumping around a Great Gatsby Party put together by his yacht club friends at the Avalon Casino:

“In the Judge’s estimation, between the guests and the food, the function would have fallen well below the Great Gatsby’s standards. It was more like…well like…damn…it was more like the Codfish Ball.”

From SILICON BEACH:

“Did you want to know the sex?”

“Yes.” The Judge and Katy answered in unison.

“Look here, guys” said Jim, pointing with his finger at a spot on the screen but turning to look at the Judge with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Brass balls! Just like the Judge.”

From my new book, THE BAY, the Judge is talking about his vintage ’69 jag which he loves:

“But he loved the car. It had been tried and true since he bought it new in 1969. Except for the Lucas electrical system, which he overlooked, the way a proud parent overlooks a club foot.”

What’s next for you?

My next Mystery Novel, The Bay, Set in Newport Beach and South Orange Coast.

three books

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