By Ken Isaacson
After graduating from Harvard University, Weyman Jones served as an enlisted man and then a junior officer in the Navy. He began his writing career with short stories and went on to publish three books for young readers. His historical novel for pre-teens, THE EDGE OF TWO WORLDS, went to seven printings and earned the Lewis Carroll Shelf and the Western Heritage Awards. A non-fiction book on computers was published in several languages, and his biography is included in SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, a reference series about prominent authors of juvenile and young adult literature.
Following his retirement as vice president, public affairs for the Grumman Corporation, he began writing thrillers. EVIL IN RETURN is his latest page-turner.
Jones graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us about EVIL IN RETURN
The title, “Evil in Return” is from Audin: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” It’s about a contemporary Cherokee who believes he should avenge his ancestors by killing descendants of those who wronged them. The aboriginal Cherokee had a belief system like that. This guy wants to revive the ancient tribal values by posting videotapes of his payback on YouTube for the Cherokee to see.
I think there’s a pattern here. This isn’t the first time you’ve written about revenge or obsession, is it? What is it about those themes that intrigues you?
I think we read fiction to taste powerful emotions and experience high-risk moments. I create characters driven by obsession to meet those expectations.
How did you get started as a writer?
The writing virus infected me as a child. My first published piece was a short story written in college. I wrote a couple of historical novels and a non-fiction book for children, and then my day job in corporate communications began to take all my energy. Retirement gave me the opportunity to focus on what I always wanted to do.
You’ve written short stories, young adult fiction, and thrillers. Do you enjoy each equally? How does your writing process differ as you change from one to another?
I’m at home now in the thriller. In my earlier writing I could imagine the total project before I started. I have to discover much of the thriller as I go along, which means constantly returning to earlier sections to set up where the story is taking me.
You say literary writing isn’t your thing, but do you see esthetic values in the thriller?
Of course. For example, every writer—every reader, for that matter—must admire nuanced language, the moral dilemmas, and the complex characters created by LeCarre. I subscribe to the James M. Cain doctrine that “all art is redemptive.” What works for me is the thriller quest that changes the people involved.
Can we expect to see this protagonist in another book or two?
Probably not. I think a novel should end, not just quit. Making that happen in a satisfying way that still grows naturally out of the characters, is often the toughest part of the whole process. I have to do it one story at a time. I’ve never been interested in writing a series.
Are you working on something new? Care to share something about it?
The premise is that an academic experiment, using student volunteers, touches off a latent impulse that leads to a murder spree. I don’t yet know how it works out.
A son of Oklahoma, Weyman Jones studied the Cherokee for his honors thesis at Harvard and then used this research in two award-winning historical novels for children. He served as an enlisted man and a junior officer in the navy and then enjoyed an active career as a corporate communications executive. In retirement he writes thrillers. His fifth returns to the tragic history of the Cherokee for its background theme. He lives with his wife in Santa Barbara, CA.
To learn more about Weyman Jones, please visit his website.