John Knoerle began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.
Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.
Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.
John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book, The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.
Visit his website at www.johnknoerle.com.
It was the culmination of my decades of writing fiction – the final volume of a trilogy. I have written other novels, good ones at that! But if I’m remembered at all it will be for The American Spy Trilogy. And my smart-mouth protagonist Hal Schroeder.
Of course the final volume is the most important because it threads together all the characters, themes and plot lines introduced in the previous books.
At least that’s the hope.
What was the experience like writing The Proxy Assassin?
Painstaking. There was so much ground I wanted to cover but I try to keep these books under 300 pages, so I cut, squeezed and trimmed. One hundred bazillion dollars to anyone who can find a superfluous word or phrase in “The Proxy Assassin”!
One nice fringe benefit was that I got to travel to Romania with my wife to do research. Transylvania, despite its macabre reputation, is beautiful, mountainous and lushly-wooded. And Transylvanians are charming.
How did you come up with the title?
That involves a key plot point so I’m afraid you will just have to read the book to find out.
Can you tell us more about your main character, Hal Schroeder?
Hal Schroeder is my idea of the quintessential post-war Yank. Cocky, quick-witted, perhaps a little too optimistic and trusting given all the wartime horrors he has witnessed. He was a behind-German-lines OSS spy in WWII. He has banged around a lot since then, for good and ill. He finds himself, in late 1948, facing a series of life-changing choices.
In short, the American Spy Trilogy is Hal Schroeder’s coming-of-age story more than it is a formulaic spy thriller.
What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?
Hal styles himself a devout coward, but he is steely cold in a crisis.
On the minus side he thinks he can size up any situation and use logic to decipher what’s what. He has an epiphany about that in The Proxy Assassin: “As a younger man I thought life was something like a long column of numbers. While it would take a lot of time and trouble, once you got that column toted up you would have your answer. I have learned however, that life and mathematics differ in one important way. Life makes no sense.”
Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?
Several historical characters play a part in this story. Frank Wisner, head of the CIA’s first covert ops department. J. Edgar Hoover and his former employee, hard-drinking, gun-toting William King Harvey who went on to work for the CIA. And Romanian Princess Stela Varadja, a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes Draculea and Frank Wisner’s lover during the war.
Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?
CIA counterintelligence agent Bill Harvey sidles up to Hal at the Towne and Country Lounge in the Mayflower Hotel. Harvey knows that Hal has been invited out to Frank Wisner’s Maryland farm and introduced to a brace of Romanian royals. Harvey wants to know why.
What about page 65?
Hal is sleeping in a barn stall in Transylvania, a prisoner of the Magyar tribe. He wakes with a start when one of the Magyars dumps a bucket of water on his head.
Now that The Proxy Assassin has been published, what’s your next project?
I’m not sure. I think I may retire to my country estate and breed silkworms.
Do you have anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Yes. If you want a constant drumbeat of dead bodies and poorly-thought-through plot twists you will not enjoy this book.
If you enjoy character-driven suspense told in spare prose with a dash of wit, I believe you will like “The Proxy Assassin.”