For almost 30 years and counting suspense author Jonathan Kellerman has been thrilling readers with his tales of forensic psychologist Alex Delaware. Over 28 novels The Los Angeles sleuth has ventured into the darkest corners of the human mind, and now, for the first time, Delaware will move into new territory: the graphic novel.
This week will see the release of Silent Partner, the first Alex Delaware novel to be adapted to the graphic novel format. The original prose novel was released in 1989, and with this adaptation an entirely new generation is set to experience this story of secrets and suspense for the very first time.
In this conversation, Jonathan Kellerman talks about the similarities between his most famous character and himself, and the challenges in inherent in adapting his work to a variety of different mediums.
You’ve written over 30 novels, 27 of which feature forensic psychologist Alex Delaware. What keeps you going? What keeps the character and series fresh for you?
I love to write, and have been doing it since childhood. Alex Delaware is a terrific vehicle for telling a certain type of story. As a psychologist, I’m well aware that we forget the past at our own risk. My novels often involved precisely that type of payback.
Both you and your character are psychologists. Do fans ever assume that they know you based on their knowledge of Delaware?
I suppose that’s natural and, of course, there are similarities. But really – and I’m sure this isn’t limited to me – every character a writer creates is a bit of an autobiography. I like to say that Delaware is younger, skinnier, cuter, and a whole lot braver than me. But we do share a certain obsessive curiosity about human behavior.
How different is Delaware’s Los Angeles from your own?
Obviously, he concentrates on the dark side, and that’s part of my consciousness, as well. But I’m well aware that there’s more to L.A. than murder and mayhem.
Silent Partner is one of the earlier Alex Delaware books. How did it come to be adapted as a graphic novel?
I became enamored of the graphic novel form after being exposed to it by my kids. Having worked as a cartoonist, I was especially taken with the ability to convey so much with art and judicious excerpts. So I suggested the project to Random House and they were kind enough to agree. I felt Silent Partner would be the perfect beginning due to its noir, erotic flavor and the fact that the story veers into some rather strange territory. I’d love to have more graphic adaptations and have another novel in mind should Random House agree.
How necessary is it for readers to be familiar with the other books – or the series in general – to the comic?
Not at all. The book can be approached as an independent work; it stands on its own. And that’s due to the masterful adaptation by Ande Parks and the fabulous drawings by Michael Gaydos. I can’t say enough about the wonderful work they did on what had to be a challenging project.
What’s it like to see a novel come to life this way? Is it very different from seeing one of your stories adapted for television?
Thrilling and much better than TV because there was much more respect for the original text and, in general, a great deal more integrity. TV scripts of my novels tend to be formulaic and rather dreadful and I’m generally called upon to rewrite them. Not so here; Ande and Michael hit it out of the park right from the beginning.
Did you have any direct role in the editorial process? Ande Parks has a great reputation as a crime writer.
Well-deserved. I reviewed and – for the most part – assented. An occasional word change suggestion, an occasional clarification.
I understand that you’re not so bad an artist yourself. Any thoughts on the art of Michael Gaydos?
He’s a modern master.
Were you a comic book fan growing up?
Absolutely. I’m an old guy, so the usual: Superman, Batman, Even the Archie stuff when I was little. I was taken with the work of Robert Crumb in college though I do find much of his work upsetting – even for me. Then my kids showed me what’s been going on with modern graphics and I was blown away. There was a real sense of “Yes!”
Would you ever consider an ongoing Alex Delaware comic book series?
I would love to do all the books.