I was born and raised in Chicago, mostly on the South Side, in a neighborhood called Beverly. My father was an economics professor at De Paul University and my mother was a nurse, although she stepped away from the nursing profession to raise eight children. She was also an immensely talented writer, and somehow found the time to write beautiful essays and poetry, which inspire me to this day.
My siblings and I grew up in a house full of books and readers, so I suppose it was natural for me to consider writing as a career. I remember being a freshman in college and walking into the school library with a yellow legal pad and a pen, determined to crank out my first literary masterpiece. I stared at that pad for hours, waiting for inspiration to kick in. It never did, so I dejectedly walked away with the realization that I’d better find a more practical way to make a living. I majored in business and adjusted my sights, aiming for a legal career rather than becoming a writer.
That path took me to Berkeley, California, where I attended law school at the University of California. After 24 years of dreadful winters in Chicago, California seemed like paradise. I loved The Golden State, I loved Berkeley, and I even loved law school. You probably won’t find many lawyers who will admit to that!
Following law school, I returned to Chicago where I began my legal career and met my lovely wife, Susan. She soon realized that I was still enamored of California, so being the adventurous sort, she agreed to pull up stakes and start our married life San Diego. We knew nobody there and knew next-to-nothing about the city except that everyone we met who had ever been there sang its praises. We were not disappointed and spent 5 blissful years there. I had been working for large law firms since law school and then had the opportunity to join the legal department of a large corporation, which ultimately took us to Houston, Texas.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined living in Texas. I didn’t have anything against it, but it was just nowhere on my radar screen. Fortunately, it has turned out to be a wonderful experience. The people are down-to-earth, friendly and engaging—and it’s not cold! We raised our three children there and have many wonderful friends, and don’t envision ever leaving.
My career in the corporate world has been thoroughly enjoyable. Aside from continuing to practice law, I was able to experience the inner workings of a large corporation and become immersed in the business side of things. I was constantly learning and took on any number of responsibilities outside of the legal realm. The most rewarding of those was the role of chief ethics officer.
You may be surprised to hear that large companies even have such a role and you may wonder what that’s all about. Well, perhaps you recall that, in the early 2000’s, a number of highly publicized scandals rocked Corporate America. Although I believe the companies involved in those scandals were the exception rather than the rule, this was a wake-up call, and many companies decided that doing the right thing was such an important and integral part of their business that they should assign a senior executive to lead that effort. I had the good fortune and the honor of being tasked with that responsibility in my company.
So what exactly does a chief ethics officer do? In my case, the duties included making sure that the company complied with all applicable laws and held itself to high ethical standards in carrying out its business. That meant being intimately involved in creating and overseeing policies and training designed to ensure that the company lived up to those high standards. It also involved developing auditing and other procedures to measure compliance and identify areas that needed attention. Most importantly, this role was about driving the right kind of company culture—one where people would understand what doing the right thing meant in practical terms in the context of their specific job duties and would strive to do the right thing because they truly believed in the mission. Driving that culture required me to play the role of teacher, cheerleader, counselor, and conscience of the company. I was a motivational speaker and writer. I preached the message in town hall meetings, in the board room, and all across the organization. I loved it, and considered it my greatest contribution to the company.
I know that Hollywood and many novelists like to portray large companies as greedy, sinister and corrupt—and there is no question that some companies have done their part to support that stereotype. However, I happen to believe based on my own firsthand experiences that most large organizations are truly committed to doing right by their customers, employees and communities.
But I digress. Back to my writing career. After practicing law for over 20 years and having an insider’s view of Corporate America, I began asking myself what else I wanted to with my life. The answer that came to me immediately was the same one that possessed me as an 18-year-old college freshman who lost the staring match with that yellow legal pad. Only this time, I had a wealth of life experiences and colorful stories to draw upon. This time, the problem wasn’t that I had no stories to tell. It was that I had so many to choose from that I didn’t know where to start.
I decided to start with something a knew well—the legal profession—and I wrote a legal drama entitled Consequential Damages that was based in large part on observations and experiences from my own career. It took 90 days to complete the first draft. It took a while longer to edit and polish it, but I enjoyed the process so much that I immediately jumped into my second novel before making any effort to publish Consequential Damages. This second novel also focused on some things I knew well—Chicago politics and alcoholism. By pure coincidence, this novel also took 90 days to create. I called it When No One is Watching, because I drew heavily on my experiences in the realm of ethics and I tried to make it something of a modern-day morality tale.
I decided to publish When No One Is Watching first. As a writer, I have found that I experience some trepidation before publishing a new novel, because I truly have no idea how it will be received by readers. It is enormously gratifying when reviews come in and it is clear that your work really resonated with at least some readers, and it’s even more gratifying if it resonates with a high percentage of readers. I was extremely surprised and honored when my first published novel, When No One is Watching, was voted “Best New Novel by a Chicagoan” in 2012 by the Chicago Reader, and I was named “Best Novelist of 2012” by the that same publication. When No One is Watching has also been recognized as a winner or finalist in multiple national book awards competitions, including The USA Book Awards, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Award.
I published Consequential Damages in 2013, but made virtually no effort to market or promote it at that time due to the demands of my day job. Because of those demands, I took a hiatus from writing for the next several years, until I retired from my corporate job in 2016. I am now free to focus on my writing! I put that newfound freedom to good use and promptly began writing my third novel, The Wall.
Susan and I still reside mostly in The Woodlands, Texas, although we are fortunate enough to have one foot back in our San Diego world. We spend part of the year there in the Windansea Beach area of La Jolla. Our three children are all out of college now and gainfully employed, so life is good!
Thanks for visiting my website. I always enjoy hearing from my readers, so feel free to contact me anytime.
If you have read any of my books, I would like to pass along my sincere thanks. If you haven’t, I hope you will give one of them a try.
All the best,