Interview with the late Joseph R. Garber, Bestselling Author of Thrillers

Joseph Rene Garber, a career businessman who became a best-selling author of thrillers, died on May 27, 2005 of an apparent heart attack at his home in Woodside. He was 61.
Joseph Rene Garber, a career businessman who became a best-selling author of thrillers, died on May 27, 2005 of an apparent heart attack at his home in Woodside. He was 61. | Source

Rascal Money

Joseph R. Garber’s first novel, RASCAL MONEY, was published in 1989. His second novel, VERTICAL RUN, was published in 1995 and became a bestseller. VERTICAL was optioned to Warner Bros. and will some day be a motion picture. Joseph is a columnist for Forbes Magazine and writes occasional literary criticism for the San Francisco Review of Books. A well-known business analyst, Mr. Garber serves on the board of directors of a number of companies. He is currently at work on this next novel, which he touches on in this interview with me.

Kenna: Give us a little bit of your background, maybe something more than the fact that you are a successful and published writer?

I was born in Philadelphia, a fact which I do my damnedest to forget. Although I skipped about the country in the wake of a frequently relocating father, I mostly grew up in New Hampshire. I spent two years at the University of Virginia majoring in beer-drinking, a discipline for which little academic credit was awarded. Immediately thereafter, in that era of universal conscription, I was subjected to the United States Army's tender mercies, an experience which persuaded me to return to college but changed my major.

After graduating, I spent a few years with AT&T (then the world's largest and most boring company) before being recruited by Booz, Allen & Hamilton, one of the bluest blue chip management consulting firms. I've remained active in the consulting world ever since, these days spending my time on mergers and acquisitions projects - smaller, private, and most assuredly friendly deals.

I began my first novel, Rascal Money, while trapped by a blizzard in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, airport. I had nothing better to do at the moment and was in a shall-we-say cranky frame of mine. That novel was intended to lampoon the predatory ways of the 1980's corporate raiders - a task which (according to reviews in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere) I managed to accomplish with some wit.

My second published novel, Vertical Run, which became an international best-seller, was inspired by a spate of IRA bomb incidents involving one of the tenants in my office building.

Simon & Schuster UK will publish my third novel, In A Perfect State, early in 1999. The yarn is another paranoid thriller. I don't know who the blazes will publish it in the U.S.

I make very little distinction between work and play - all the money-making things I do (novels, a column in Forbes Magazine, consulting) I do because they are fun. My chief recreations are reading, the opera, charity and wildlife preservation work, and a considerable amount of exotic travel - when abroad I usually can be found doing something imprudent involving carnivores.

Vertical Run Review

Getting It Down on Paper

Q. Some writers use index cards, outlines or just let the story take over. What system do you use and why?

A. I start with character and situation, and with a vague sense of what's going to occur on the last few pages. What happens in between is as much of a surprise to me as it is to readers.

My second published novel, Vertical Run, which became an international best-seller, was inspired by a spate of IRA bomb incidents involving one of the tenants in my office building.

Simon & Schuster UK will publish my third novel, In A Perfect State, early in 1999. The yarn is another paranoid thriller. I don't know who the blazes will publish it in the U.S.

I make very little distinction between work and play - all the money-making things I do (novels, a column in Forbes Magazine, consulting) I do because they are fun. My chief recreations are reading, the opera, charity and wildlife preservation work, and a considerable amount of exotic travel - when abroad I usually can be found doing something imprudent involving carnivores.

Q. Some writers use index cards, outlines or just let the story take over. What system do you use and why?

A. I start with character and situation, and with a vague sense of what's going to occur on the last few pages. What happens in between is as much of a surprise to me as it is to readers.

What Do You Think?

As a writer, how do you put down your thoughts or ideas for your next story?

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