Selected Works

Crime Fiction
They called her The Bride. Young, homeless, and wearing a tattered wedding dress and veil matted with grime, she floated through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen like a spectre. Until she wound up dead.
The Private Eye Writers of America has selected Sinners' Ball as Best Paperback Original Novel of 2010 and awarded it the coveted Shamus Award.
"Old Flame is a gem of crime fiction." Booklist Starred Review
“Berkowitz nails New York, and in particular modern-day Hell’s Kitchen ... an impressive debut."
–Jason Starr

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A Writer's Life

March 29, 2013

Tags: homeless, plotting, Family Matters, characters, writing

March 29, 2013

In my last blog I touched on the role characters play in plotting. In that aha! moment when the story magically appears full-blown, the major characters always come along for the ride. I see them but only in a narrow, physical sense. It takes a little while before I truly get to know them, learn their tics, understand how they think, and hear them speak.

Yep they speak, to each other, over each other, around each other, and they’re all looking for face time with me. Sounds nuts, doesn’t it? I thought so too, until I learned to listen.

Some writers I know plot the entire book out before they write the first word. I tried that with my debut novel, FAMILY MATTERS, and it turned out to be a train wreck. Just to provide some local color I created a homeless man as a secondary character. But he evolved into something more, demanding to be treated with respect My initial plan was to have him appear as a regular character in the series, but about midway through the book, I saw him lying on the ground in a pool of blood, and I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. No way! The book had been meticulously plotted outI had grown to love this guy, and killing him wasn’t going to happen.

I pressed on, but the writing was crap and I trashed it. Worse, I was incapable of writing at all. I opened the store every morning but no customers came. For days none of the characters spoke, except for him. It took the better part of a week to sit back down at my computer. After much hesitation I wrote the scene, and I cried. Turns out, he was right. From that point on the words just flowed.

Ever since, I’ve scrapped the notion of meticulous plotting and allow the characters to take me on an adventure, and it’s always a surprise. And if I’m surprised, I have to believe the reader is too.