Visualize a young man trying to pay his way through college by working as a Pinkerton security guard on the graveyard shift, midnight to 8 a.m. The manufacturing plant he guards is so dangerous that pretty much anything you touch can kill you. Also, a recently fired plant employee had sworn vengeance; his picture was hanging in the guard shack with the sidebar information that he was probably armed. So what was an enterprising young man who desperately wanted to survive and live a life to do?
Well, for 4 bucks an hour, I decided to stay in the guard shack and read. And the book I read was a curious choice for someone sitting all alone at midnight: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It is a desperately sad book, a page-turning thriller, a psychological masterpiece. As I tore through the pages, mesmerized by the story and by Capote's passion, I began to think about writing complex novels. Humans are complex inventions. Things are never black and white.
Reading that book was the first inkling I can remember of wanting to write a novel that grappled with deeds of good and evil, sometimes committed by the same person. I didn't want to write in the world of black and white. I wanted to exist in the real world — the world of gray.