My 60 Seconds of Semi-Kinda-Sorta Fame

If Andy Warhol's prediction is true, I've just used up my first minute. It was quick but fun. Read on: A couple of months ago I wrote about a fun series of interview questions posed to me by the blog Reviewing the Evidence. At the time, I was sworn to secrecy as to my answers. Now that the quarantine has been lifted, here are the Questions and Answers from that interview. As you read through them, think how would answer:  SIXTY SECONDS WITH MICHAEL KAHN... RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence? Kahn: Lawyer by day, author at night, mediocre blues harp player day and night. RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island? Kahn: Just one? That’s tough. With apologies to Muddy Waters and to The Rolling Stones (especially Exile on Main Street), I’d take Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Anthology: Through the Years. RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up? Kahn: Third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. RTE: Who's your oldest friend? Kahn: Neil Sullivan. We met freshman year at Amherst College and have remained buddies ever since. He was the best man at my wedding and remains one of the best men I know. RTE: If I ruled the world... Kahn: ...

In Praise of Cage-Free Characters

The good folks at the Writers & Authors blog asked for some of my thoughts and advice on writing. Over the years, I've come to appreciate the joys of what I call the cage-free characters. Think of them as the fictional version of free-range chickens. For readers, the cage-free character is the minor character who suddenly appears to have taken control of the novel or play, morphing from a bit player into a major figure. My favorite cage-free character is Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV parts 1 and 2. But there are plenty of others. For fans of sit-coms, a great example is Kramer of Seinfeld. As for literature, the Hall of Fame of cage-free characters most surely includes Sancho Panza of Don Quixote. And for all you supplicants in the Church of Breaking Bad, that marvelous free-range character named Saul Goodman has not merely broken out of his cage but is now the star of his own show. For authors, the cage-free character is like a gift from the gods, to be treasured and enjoyed and spoiled, as I explain in my Writers & Authors blog post, which you can read here.  

The Hott Books Interview

By Tuesday, March 10, 2015 0 , Permalink 0

I recently had the honor of sitting for an interview with the great Gina Hott of the Hott Books blog. We talked about the biggest challenge to a writer's career and the most surprising thing I discovered while writing The Sirena Quest. But perhaps her most daunting question was: "Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?" Here is our interview.

Mystery Novels, Art, and Napoleon’s Penis

Yes, you read that right. The folks at the Mythical Books Blog--in honor of the missing Greco-Roman statue at the heart of my latest novel, The Sirena Quest--asked me to offer some thoughts on mystery novels that involve works of art. As I mulled it over, I realized that a missing work of art has been a theme as recently as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and at least as far back as those Arthurian legends of the quest for the Holy Grail. For my novels, the theme is as recent as The Sirena Quest and as old as my second Rachel Gold mystery, Death Benefits. As I explain in the essay, the inspiration for the missing work of art at the heart of Death Benefits is, believe or not, the most famous (and expensive) penis of all time. So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride through the realm of mysteries, art, and, well, a certain collector's item.

The Iliad and the Honeymooners: A Mashup for the Ages

Homer's Iliad is one of the most revered literary works of all time, admired for its artistry, its universal themes, and its profound influence on Western literature. Although I am no scholar of ancient Greek epic poems, I doubt whether many of those scholars have found parallels between the classic Gods of Mount Olympus and the classic sit-coms of television. Nevertheless, as I listened to Part 1 of the audible book version of the Iliad, I started grinning as I  envisioned Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows, the quarreling Kramdons of The Honeymooners, cast in the roles of Zeus and Hera. But first some background: The Iliad takes place during several weeks in the tenth year of the Trojan War. The Greek army, during a battle with a town allied with Troy, captured a pair of beautiful maidens, Chryseis and Briseis. King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces, took Chryseis as his prize, and the great warrior Achilles claimed Briseis. Through a series of events not worth explaining here, Agamemnon was forced to return Chryseis to her father and, demanding compensation, takes Briseis away from Achilles. Furious at this insult, Achilles returns to his tent, where he sulks and refuses to fight in the war. He yearns to see ...

Some Terrific Questions for You (and Me)

Ready for some fun? Read on. The book tour season is in full swing again, this time for my new novel The Sirena Quest. As my fellow authors will confirm, one challenge of the book tour is to find a new twist for your answers to the exact same questions you've already been asked by the last five interviewers. Ah, but then you are approached by one of the cool folks from the blog Reviewing the Evidence for their "SIXTY SECONDS WITH ... " interview. Although their blog hasn't yet posted my interview--and thus my lips must remain sealed for now--the questions they asked me (and other authors before me) are among the most clever and challenging ones I've ever been asked. So much so, in fact, that you're going to have fun coming up with your own answers. Set forth below are seven of the questions I was asked. What would your answers be? And what about a friend or loved one? See how they would answer them. I confess that Question #2 took me the longest to answer. After all, you're going to be all alone on that desert island, and presumably you'll be there long enough to listen to that freakin' album a hundred times. So what's ...

A Fun Interview in Bookpleasures

By Thursday, January 8, 2015 0 No tags Permalink 0

Earlier this week I was honored to be interviewed by the great Norm Goldman, Publisher and Editor of It was a fun interview, the best part being the last question, which I had to compose, ask myself, and then answer--a first for me. Here's a link to interview. I hope you enjoy it.

5 Best Jokes About Writers

Well, not exactly five. Maybe not even one. Think of this more as a plea for help. I'm suffering from writer's-joke block. I am a lawyer by day and a writer by night. As for my day job, I have heard -- as no doubt you have heard -- dozens and dozens of jokes about members of my beloved profession. For example: What's black and brown and looks great on a lawyer? A doberman. What's the difference between a jellyfish and a lawyer? One's a spineless, poisonous blob. The other is a form of sea life Why won't sharks attack lawyers? Professional courtesy. And so on and so on. Yearning for more lawyer jokes? Enter here. But what about writer jokes? I'm drawing a blank. Now I have heard jokes about other players in the written world. For example, publishers. How many publishers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. One to screw it in and two the hold the author down. Or: what's the difference between and terrorists? You can negotiate with terrorists. And then, of course, there are the agent jokes. Plenty of agent jokes. Here's one: Why did New Jersey get all the toxic waste dumps while California got all the agents? New ...

The Coolest Book of All Time

We live in the Age of Listicles: "The 10 Best " and"The 8 Reasons to " and "The 12 Secrets to " and, of course, those two old chestnuts of the Internet, "The 10 Sex Positions You Must Try Before You Die!" and "8 Surefire Weight-Loss Tips." Listicles have become the ultimate click magnets, as Wired  magazine explained in a piece cleverly entitled "5 Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay, and Why That's OK." Literature is not immune to the lure of the listicle. I recently succumbed to the urge to click onThe 50 Coolest Books Ever. There are definitely some clever and hip books on that list, including On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Itala Calvino. But the oldest of the 50 is Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, which just celebrated its 89th birthday. While 89 years might seem old for something labeled "cool" or "hip," the coolest and hippest book of all time -- yes, of ALL time -- is more than 500 years old. Indeed, every story-telling device we label "post-modern," every literary gimmick we crown as"meta-fiction," every narrative technique we celebrate as "cutting edge" -- yes, ...

A Real Time Machine

For the first time in my writing career, I had to step into a time machine in order to write my next novel, The Sirena Quest. Let me explain. Most novels, from those on the bestseller list to the classics, are written in the author's "now." In the same way that Gone Girl takes place in Gillian Flynn's present, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Jane Austen's Emma take place in fictional worlds that are in chronological sync with their author's world. In other words, when Herman Melville decided to write Moby Dick, he didn't need to research the whaling industry during the two decades before the Civil War to avoid making any anachronistic errors. That's because he wrote the novel during those same decades. So, too, the  streets, cars, typewriters, and telephones that Philip Marlowe used in the Los Angeles of the 1930s in The Big Sleep are the same streets, cars, typewriters, and telephones that Raymond Chandler used while he wrote that novel in Los Angeles in the 1930s. But many wonderful writers have elected to set their novels in an earlier era. Alan Furst, for example, is the master of the historical spy novel. Most of his books are set in Europe just prior to or during World ...