Such was not always the case. If you’d asked me in junior high, I’d have told you that my goal in life was to play guard for the Knicks. By high school, I’d lowered my sights to brain surgery. This I’d actually pursued, until I encountered a pre-med college course called Inorganic Chemistry. By the time I’d hit graduate school, it was law, not medicine, that glowed like a new dawn on my life’s horizon.
I was a good lawyer. Working at one of California’s oldest law firms, I quickly rose to partner, and went on to chair the firm’s litigation department. I was successful, both professionally and financially. I married the woman of my dreams (also a lawyer), pursued lawyer-like hobbies (wine, horses), and did good work in my community. God was in her heaven, and all was right with the world.
And then I turned fifty.
Some men facing this milestone have been known behave badly. They pursue an affair, or a divorce, or a Ferrari. Happily, I did none of these. I did, however, pause to take stock of my life.
The year was 2006. I’d spent 25 years in school and 25 years in practice. How best, I asked myself, to spend the next (and probably last) quarter-century of my life? Should I stay the comfortable course, riding the same elevator to the same office day after day, or was there, in the best Frostian fashion, a road less traveled that diverged, beckoning, through the woods of my future?
After much soul-searching, I concluded there was.
I’ve always loved books. As a kid, I’d devoured my sister’s Nancy Drew mysteries, which proved a gateway drug to writers like Ray Bradbury, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout and Isaac Asimov. In high school it was the unholy trinity of Kerouac, Kesey, and Thompson. Then came Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Wolfe and Uris, Roth and McCarthy. The list goes on and on.
I always knew I could write. Not just motions and trial briefs, but the feature articles I’d authored for magazines like Los Angeles Lawyer, on whose editorial board I’d sat. And I’d never lost my fondness for books. In fact, I’d founded the Pasadena Public Library Foundation, on whose board I’d served for over twenty years, including five years as President.
But could I actually write fiction? And more important, could I make a career of doing so?
The odds, I realized, were long. I knew too that the publishing industry was in upheaval, buffeted by forces that threatened, and threaten still, its very existence. But I also knew that if I was ever going to pursue my dream of living a life of letters, the time was now.
Did I mention that my wife Lynda is a saint? Within months of that fateful birthday I’d resigned my partnership, and she’d closed her successful law practice, and we’d sold our Pasadena home. And then together we (and our three horses, and our two dogs) embarked on a shared adventure to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where, or so it is said, there are more writers per capita than in any American city.
I was determined to be one of them. You could say that I’d bet the farm on it.
And next month, I’ll tell you exactly what happened.