From the moment CNN announced in early 2020 that Covid-19 was set to become this century’s first five-alarm pandemic, the old world as we knew it fell away, replaced, sadly and maddeningly enough, by a darker, deadlier epoch leaving us all wondering what the ugly scars of our “new normal” will resemble. (Metaphor wise, it may just be best to avoid any mirrors.) For me, creativity isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am deep inside, and my most reliable bulwark against the glum emotions polluting my otherwise optimistic psyche. So, in the interest of starting anew in 2022, let me be ironic and direct your attention onto the year (or survival scheme) that was 2021 for this Californian.

In March, while I should’ve still been promoting my first novel, Arroyo—which somehow made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for seven weeks, scooped up an award, and, most importantly, made people curious if their dog was clairvoyant or their favorite bridge alive—I opted to confront my dissatisfying past. Or, to articulate it another way, I rewrote my 2012 book about a freaky Southern California murder triangle into a more suspenseful, true-crime-y tale. Much to my relief, The Darkest Glare: A True Story of Murder, Blackmail and Real Estate Greed in 1979 Los Angeles, was both critically and commercially well-received. On the literary hustings, I penned essays about it; one was for CrimeReads (about how serial killers of the seventies adopted local freeways and their cars as bloody accomplices) and another about my unintended  voyage into this genre. Of all the critiques of the book, the LA Review of Book’s stands out for its insight. I’m also pretty dang fond of the book trailer.

In May, the culture site SHOUTOUT LA ran a feature about why I became a writer, which allowed me to dredge up my own personal Independence Day (think screaming match with a parent) and to get photographed with my puppy and Stratocaster in my beloved horse head.

I checked off a box in June that’d been empty since I was a teenager dreaming of writing for Rolling Stone magazine. I contributed my inaugural piece of music criticism in my admittedly fanboy-ish essay about one of my desert-island bands: Squeeze. The breezy article, entitled “My Favorite Place,” was included in the anthology Go Further: More Appreciations of Power Power. If you think you know this superb group from 80s radio hits like “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed,” you need a deep dive into the genius of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. You’ll come away humming, as well as cheesed off that Donovan is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Squeeze on the outside looking in. 

Speaking of essays, the one exponentially more important than any of the above remains my long-time-in-coming piece about a high-fly baseball that whacked me in the nose as a little boy, and then brought the Divine into my room. Limited human that I am, I coined it The Man in the Light. If it’s the last thing you ever read from me, let this be it, and then Let It Be.

I wrapped up the screwed up year by optioning the book I left daily journalism to write, a biography of my maternal uncle called Strange As It Seems: the Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler, to the talented, energetic folks at Mercury Media. The hope, with this and some of my other books, is to turn them into a streaming series. Cuz, what’s life on this topsy turvy third rock from the sun, without a screen?