Thursday, June 3, 2010


After a 30 year career in the advertising business, Ira Berkowitz decided to try his hand at writing fiction.  Boy was that a good decision.  His novel, Family Matters, the first in the Jackson Steeg mystery series, was published in 2006 and won the Washington Irving Award for literary merit.  Since then, he's published two more in the series, the latest one is Sinners' Ball.  He was kind enough to spend a few minutes to play 5 questions with me.

1- Were you a big reader of crime fiction before you began the Jackson Steeg series of novels, and if so who were some of your favorite authors?

The first crime novel I remember reading was Mickey Spillane’s, I, The Jury. Pretty racy stuff for a young kid. And I was hooked. From then on, it was a process of discovery. Chandler, Hammett, Lawrence Block, Ross and John D. MacDonald. Martin Cruz Smith, Robert Parker, and James Lee Burke. And each brought a special delight. I love Block for his innate sense of justice, Parker for his dialogue, and Burke for his poetry. But the writer that made a lasting impression on me was Hubert Selby, jr. His Last Exit to Brooklyn is a masterpiece.

2- Your protagonist, Jackson Steeg, is an ex-NYPD cop and a no-nonsense kind of guy. Did you find it easy to relate to his sense of making things right, no matter the consequence?

My wife often says that when I die, the cause listed on the death certificate will be The New York Times. In a world of asymmetrical justice, making things right – something Jackson Steeg does very well in a damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead kind of way - is extremely gratifying, and the only thing that keeps me sane.

3- Do you ever imagine a time when you decide to end the series--or have you even thought that far ahead?

No doubt I will write other books dealing with characters and themes that interest me, but life without Jackson Steeg is unimaginable. My first book, Family Matters, was written as a stand-alone. But very quickly, Steeg disabused me of that notion. He took over my life, and refuses to let go.

4- How did you come to be published after getting such a late start on the world of crime novels?

Two reasons: Luck, and a valuable lesson I learned during my career in advertising - never take no for an answer. Fifty agents rejected my first attempt at writing a crime fiction novel. But a few were encouraging. They were enough to keep me going. Then one night while watching television I heard the name Steeg during a commercial break. And the Universe kicked in. The first book in the series was all there in my head. A little over three months later the book was finished. Two agents offered to represent it.

5- What are your thoughts on e-readers and their future in the literary world?

E-books have radically changed the publishing business model. And I’m not sure the industry knows how to deal with this new environment. But they’re here to stay, and will only get better as the technology improves. But I expect there will always be people like me who love the smell of a book, the feel of the pages, and the sense of intimacy it brings.

1 comment:

  1. This truly is a worthwhile endeavor and I will continue entering Mr. Ponzo's contests until I sign on with the Miami Heat.