It takes two: partners in crime
by G.H. Ephron
Our partnership is based on a 30-year friendship, and works precisely because we have virtually no overlapping skills. When we started to work together, Don was afraid I was going to make him write. It took me a while to realize that I'd been afraid he was going to want to write. That surprised me, because I'd spent decades insisting that I was not a writer.
I come from a family of formidable literary talents. My parents were Hollywood screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron (Carousel; Desk Set). My sisters Nora, Delia and Amy are all novelists and screenwriters. But I didn't try my hand at the family business until about 10 years ago. That's when a freelancer called. She wanted to write an article about me because I was, as she pointed out, "the only one who didn't write." I was shocked to hear myself shoot back, "If anyone's going to write about me not writing, it's going to be me." Soon after that, my husband and I were having dinner with Don and his wife, Susan. Maybe it was too much wine, but by the end of the evening, Don and I had agreed to collaborate on a mystery series with a central character based loosely on Don.
"My better half," is what Don calls Peter Zak, who is a little taller, a little younger and a little more conventionally handsome than his prototype. Like Don, a neuropsychologist, Dr. Zak runs a unit at a psychiatric hospital, and spends time in jails in four-by-four cubicles evaluating people accused of murder. That's Don's voice when Dr. Zak says, "A lot of people who end up accused of serious crimes are poor schnooks, in the wrong place at the wrong time, who rarely get an adequate defense." I remember one of our earliest working sessions. It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in late summer, and we were supposed to be coming up with an opening scene for Amnesia, the first series novel. Instead, Don was wishing he was out rowing on the Charles River. I hate boats, but I found myself mesmerized as Don described the Zen-like state of calm rowing brings him. "You're pulling, harder and harder, until the stern clears the puddles before the oars dip again, and boat, body and mind become one," he said. I didn't know if the stern was the front or the back of the boat, and I wasn't sure what he meant by "puddles," but I was absolutely certain that our character was going to be a rower. I began taking notes.
Hallie Ephron and her coauthor, Dr. Don Davidoff, both live and work in Massachusetts. Their fifth novel, Obsessed (St. Martin's, $24.95, 320 pages, ISBN 0312305311), released under the pen name G.H. Ephron, goes on sale this month.