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IN THE EARLY 1980S, DAVID LINDSEY (’70) met someone who would change his life forever.

The father of two was living in Austin when he made the acquaintance of a “well-educated, urbane man who lived in a city that was wall-to- wall mayhem.”

The man was police detective Stuart Haydon, the city was Houston and the meeting began a partnership between the two men that would last for almost 10 years.

Unfortunately, Haydon exists only in Lindsey’s imagination.


Fact or fiction?

Though Lindsey speaks of him in concrete terms, Haydon is, in fact, a popular recurring character in several of his suspense thrillers.

“I wrote 100 pages of the first Haydon novel,” Lindsey remembers. “By the end of those, I knew I wanted to explore this character for a while. I stuck with him for five novels.”

More recently, the author has turned to various lead characters, including several female protagonists. Apart from the five Haydon books (A Cold Mind, Heat From Another Sun, Spiral, In the Lake of the Moon and Body of Truth), Lindsey has published five other novels (Black Gold, Red Death; Mercy; An Absence of Light; Requiem for a Glass Heart; and The Color of Night), with the first draft of his 11th opus recently completed.

He has met with no small measure of success, garnering both critical acclaim and a movie deal — a film version of 1990’s Mercy will be released this year.

Lindsey has never fit the “struggling writer” stereotype — he decided to become a wordsmith at age 35 and has never looked back.


Discovering Dostoevsky

As an undergraduate at North Texas in the late ’60s, Lindsey had another encounter that would shape his future. He met the giants of European and Russian literature — Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, Eliot, Johnson, Milton. These were the driving forces that led the young, already-married Lindsey to immerse himself in literature.

“At North Texas I was able to really indulge my love for literature,” he says. “I pulled out all the stops and took every possible elective in literature, so much so that my adviser said I had to cool it.

“It was a very formative period for me, the seedbed for what I explored later.”

That exploration initially took the form of a career in publishing as Lindsey and his family moved to Austin, where he worked for small, regional publishers. After a four-year attempt to start his own publishing company and a stint at the UT Press, he decided to begin writing himself.


Mysterious experimentation

Rather than writing what he knew, Lindsey did some research and discovered that mystery novels “had been steady sellers forever,” so he bought and devoured two dozen mysteries, reading authors like John LeCarré, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Then he just started writing.

“The first book I wrote was my first experience with writing,” he says. “It was an untutored experiment. I got the first thing published based on 100 pages and I’m still getting published. I’m lucky. But it was horrifying; I didn’t know if I could write a page 101.”

Surprisingly, that fear hasn’t gone away, even after 11 books: “The biggest surprise is that it didn’t get easier. It’s the nature of the business, to be terrified at the beginning of a book.”


Frightening background

Long before that terrifying first moment even comes, however, Lindsey is busy doing research, a process he takes very seriously. He’s traveled extensively in Guatemala as well as Mexico and has delved into the darker side of humanity in his research with the Houston Homicide Division and the FBI.

“At first, my investigation into the culture of homicide was shocking,” Lindsey explains. “My first novels are more violent because I was working through that. I’m not the kind of personality who can see that and not let that get to me.”

Writing Mercy, a novel dealing with serial killing, was almost too much.

“Mercy cured me of all that (in-depth research),” he says somberly. “The research was so shocking and overwhelming. It was scary. Scary in that it was something I had to put myself into to understand.”

Still, don’t expect Lindsey to quit writing any time soon: “I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I can’t imagine stopping ever.”

And fans of Stuart Haydon need not despair.

“I’m sure I’ll do another (Haydon book). I’m getting curious about what he’s been up to,” Lindsey says, a touch of eagerness creeping into his voice.


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