Questioning Linda Pendleton
“[Don Pendleton] was aphasic, dyslexic, had peripheral vision loss, confusion, and body weakness, etc…. At the time Don was under contract to deliver the sixth Joe Copp book…. So after he fired his speech therapist much to her dislike, we started the book, Copp in Shock.”
Pendleton passed away on December 15, 2021, from complications of cancer, at
the age of 79. She was a successful author, writing both fiction and
non-fiction, and tirelessly promoted the work of her husband, Don Pendleton,
after his death in 1995. Linda was kind and knowledgeable on a variety of
subjects, including spiritualism, history, and literature.
Linda was kind enough to sit for this Q&A interview in early-2018.
Pendleton is an accomplished writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her first
published work was the non-fiction spiritual book, To Dance With Angels,
co-written with her late-husband Don Pendleton. Her first novel, also
co-written with Don, was Roulette: The Search for the Sunrise Killer.
She has scripted comic books – The Executioner (published by Innovation
Comics) – and written screenplays.
Richard S. Prather, the author of the best-selling Shell Scott private eye novels, called Linda’s first private eye novel, Shattered Lens (featuring series character Catherine Winter), “a brilliant debut.” Readers have called her fiction, “surprising”, “entertaining”, and “beautifully described”.
Linda was kind enough to take a break from her writing schedule and answer a few questions. The questions are italicized, and as always, the answers are so much more important.
What’s your latest novel?
That would be Shifting Focus—the third book in my Catherine Winter Series. It was published a year ago. It’s in print, Kindle, and audio book, as are the first two books in the series, Shattered Lens and Fractured Image.
Catherine Winter has been a Southern California investigator for several decades. Her late husband was her “partner in crime.” She often works alongside Los Angeles P.D. and is in a relationship with Homicide Commander, John Anderson. She has two favorite homicide detectives, George Smitty and Nick Duran, who play a part in the books. She has seen it all and does not flinch when up against the criminal world. Determined, open minded, at times a little outrageous, she relies on her intuition. She claims she will not retire as long as she can hit a target with a .357 slug.
In Shifting Focus, the divorce of an award-winning singer and songwriter leads Catherine Winter into the dark shadows of drugs, sex, and power. Determined to find the killer of an entertainment attorney to Hollywood’s elite, Catherine discovers the multifarious and convoluted connections between the singer and several people as she searches for truth and justice. Working closely with the Los Angeles Police Department, and teaming up with former cop and private investigator, Joe Copp, the hunt is on to find a killer. [Editor’s note: Joe Copp is a Mike Hammer-type L.A. private eye that appeared in six hardboiled novels written by Don Pendleton: Copp for Hire (1987), Copp on Fire (1988), Copp in Deep (1989), Copp in the Dark (1990), Copp on Ice (1991), and Copp in Shock (1992)]
As Catherine said, “Greed, power, and sex – that’s all some strive for, all they desire. And eventually it destroys – or kills. Welcome to the world of entertainment, Hollywood style.”
When I had completed the first Catherine Winter manuscript, author Richard S. Prather asked if he could read it. He liked it so much that he encouraged me to make it a series.
of Joe Copp, I’ve heard Don was ill while writing his final Joe Copp novel,
Copp in Shock, and you helped him complete it. Would you tell us a little about
In February of 1991, Don had a heart attack. He was scheduled for a second by-pass surgery (his first in 1979) when he had another heart attack and a “clot buster” was given and caused a brain hemorrhage. He was in ICU for several weeks, and then in a special rehab hospital for several more weeks. He was aphasic, dyslexic, had peripheral vision loss, confusion, and body weakness, etc. At home he continued speech therapy and physical therapy. At the time Don was under contract to deliver the sixth Joe Copp book. We decided that we did not want his publisher Donald I. Fine to know about his brain injury. So after he fired his speech therapist much to her dislike, we started the book, Copp in Shock, with this first line:
“Do you know who I am?”
That was the same question Don and been asked many times by his doctor while in the hospital. In the beginning writing of the book, I would sit at the computer and type the story as Don spoke. I had to be fast as he might not remember what he had just written. I discovered something interesting about his writing process. I visualize scenes when I write, and Don had always told me he did not, that he wrote in phrases. And sure enough that is what he did. He’d give me a phrase and I’d have to wait for the next. I would then record each chapter every night and he would listen to it before we would start the next chapter. We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughter.
One of the early Copp fight scenes I’ll never forget. Don described the scene and I wasn’t sure if he meant a hit to the knees – or chin. He jumped up from his chair and went through the motions of the fight. I laughed so hard that I almost slid off my chair. By the fifth chapter, Don was at the computer able to type and write, but I might have to read him previous paragraphs so he would know where he was. A few more chapters and we made a visit to the speech therapist and showed her the manuscript. She couldn’t believe it.
Near the end of the Copp story, Don reviewed all my tapes for a wrap up and I’ll be darned if he didn’t catch something that needed to be addressed that I had forgotten from the early part of the book. The brain is so strange. Don recovered 98%. We had the book completed on time and delivered by August. That book is very special to me – and it was to Don.
your first published novel?
My first published novel would be Roulette: The Search for the Sunrise Killer, co-written with Don Pendleton. Police Detective Rebecca Storme, and her husband, veteran Detective Sergeant Peter Storme, both married more to the badge than each other, have inevitable conflict within their marriage, and their careers are put to the test when a psychopathic killer invades their peaceful Southern California community and turns it into a hotbed of fear and outrage. As it turned out this was Don’s last novel. We enjoyed writing it, working side by side, but for both of us, writing the viewpoint of a psychopath was at times unnerving and we’d have to step away from it. We had started writing the book with alternating viewpoint chapters of Rebecca and Peter but decided against that style.
New York publisher, Donald I. Fine was set to publish it, but in his “editing skills” he wanted us to make a few changes regarding the flirtation of our characters. We said no. We believed it was the difference of East Coast vs. West Coast, and maybe old fashioned vs. a more liberal CA lifestyle and social life. Fine was the same old-time editor who tried to change Don’s dialogue in Copp for Hire from “guys”—to “fellows.” As Don told him, “You don’t touch my dialogue.” So we turned down Fine’s offer to publish Roulette. Our agent marketed it for a while, but I went on to self-publish.
I’ve adapted it to the screen and marketed the screenplay to Hollywood for a while, but it now sits on my closet shelf. I did have an agency ask me a few months ago if film rights were available to Roulette but haven’t heard more.
I recall Larry Kirshbaum, then CEO of Warner Books, had asked what we were working on, and it was Roulette. Because of my background, he wanted to know if writing it was cathartic. (maybe, maybe not).
Wish he’d bought the book when we completed it.
Would you tell us a little bit about your background?
My background—I was married to a Southern California police captain for 25 years. He worked his way up the ranks, patrolman, detective, lieutenant, captain, and often acting chief, before retiring. (He skipped Sergeant.) It was a small police department, but our lives revolved around that police life. Being involved in that way with cops has given me a lot of insight into police work, personalities, and the good and bad of it. Most of the people were decent people, but there were those who had their problems. I always think about Joseph Wambaugh’s The New Centurions, and how upset that book made me as a young police wife. Fiction versus reality. It’s a more dangerous world out there on the streets today.
breaking any of your personal taboos, would you give us an idea of what you’re
working on now?
After publishing three small nonfiction books in recent months, I’m back to fiction. Currently I’m working on a western novel set in the Gold Rush period in Northern CA. I’ve published several nonfiction Gold Rush books that were [originally] published in the 1850s, in which I’ve written new Introductions. I’m a native Californian, and I find our state history fascinating. So, I’m doing research, which I enjoy, and I’ll see where this takes me.
I enjoyed writing my historical novel, Corn Silk Days, Iowa 1862, which was inspired by, and written around, actual letters my great great-grandfather wrote home to my great-grandmother during the Civil War. Maybe this western will inspire me the same way Corn Silk did.
I also have a few chapters written of my second Richard McCord Private Eye novel, Deadly Designs. I published the first one, Deadly Flare-Up, in late 2015. I wrote that under L.R. Pendleton – in hopes of overcoming that silent “chauvinism.” I enjoy the McCord character as he gives me more freedom than I have with my Catherine Winter character. He’s a former Southern California district attorney turned private investigator, and a recovering alcoholic.
you’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer writing one over the
That’s hard to say. I enjoy both, but I suppose fiction would be my first choice. I become attached to my characters. But nonfiction can have its benefits – like a meeting of the minds – probably more so than most fiction, unless it is the “great American novel.”
you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As a young teenager. I loved writing high school and college term papers. I enjoyed research, kind of crazy, huh? In my early twenties I wrote a children’s story and sent it off to NY. I was rejected – my first rejection slip of several to come. Then a nonfiction proposal for a science book was more promising. The NY editor wanted to see it when I completed the book. Like a dummy, I chickened out and did not finish it. I don’t know if I was afraid of success or of failure. About that same time, I thought I could write a trashy paperback. Didn’t work out. LOL.
you go about writing?
I sit at my desk and use my PC. I don’t like laptops. I do not outline. I may make a few notes as I go along, but I basically start out from page one and see where it takes me. The only time I write longhand might be in the middle of the night when an idea comes to me. I write chapter by chapter and let the story unfold as the characters move forward. I may have an idea where my story is going, but I let it evolve. I visualize scenes as I write. I love the feeling when the characters take over and write the story.
I absorbed so much from Don. He was a great teacher, not only of writing, but of life. I still feel his inspiration and I’m sure he’s looking over my shoulder as I write. He used to tell me to believe in my writing – something that was difficult for me in the beginning. At this point in my life, I know my writing will not please everyone, nor does all writing by others please me. But that’s okay. I write because I love to write – and I’d be so bored if I couldn’t. Over the last two years, I’ve had some medical problems, but thank goodness I can still be creative.
have any specific pleasures, or displeasures, that come from writing?
My pleasure from writing is being able to share it with others. It’s wonderful when someone tells you they were inspired by your writing. It’s heartwarming when a reader shares that with you. It happens fairly often with my nonfiction writing. When Don and I wrote our nonfiction book, To Dance with Angels, the amount of wonderful mail received was incredible to read. For many, it was a life-changing book. And that’s heavy to know your words upon a page have the power to inspire and arouse emotions in that way. Writing gives me personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. And that’s enough to keep me at it. I won’t deny that those royalty deposits are always nice, too.
there any writers that inspired – or continue to inspire – your own writing?
Looking back, before my husband, Don Pendleton, I was inspired by Phyllis A. Whitney, Lawrence Sanders, Joseph Wambaugh, Thomas Sugrue, Louis L’Amour, Longfellow, David Viscott, M.D., Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.
But Don Pendleton was and is still my inspiration. The year I met him I began taking my writing seriously. At that time, I had two incomplete novels – stories that I had set aside (and probably a good place for them). He encouraged and supported me in my desire to write, and convinced me I could do anything I wanted, and do it well. Every day I thank him for that.
When and how did you and your late-husband, Don Pendleton, meet?
Wow, thirty-five years ago. We met in a hotel lounge where Don’s daughter and future husband were entertaining. As our eyes met, it was love at first sight and scared us both! Soulmates, yes. If we’d not believed in reincarnation before, we couldn’t help but believe from that moment on.
If you could write anything, without commercial considerations, what would it be?
I believe I already do that. I write what I want, and hope that there will be others who will choose to read it.
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