A LETTER FROM J.M. ZEN:
J. M. Zen is a pen name. Jane and Mike are our real names. We are sister and brother. We were advised by a legendary publishing icon that we needed to write under a single name. Since Grandparents from both sides of our family had “Zen” in their names, we decided on J.M. Zen.
Writing Horizon Drive was incredibly personal for me.
I was inspired to write this novel by my mother’s experiences during the Japanese-American internment during World War II and the Hollywood Red Scare. Like Helen's family in the story, my mother's family was sent to Manzanar. After the war, she had nothing - no money and no place to live, so she found work as a housekeeper for a Hollywood screenwriter who was later blacklisted during the Communist Witch Hunts.
During the 1950s, she was a cartoonist at the legendary animation studio, UPA, best known for “Mr. Magoo” and the Oscar-winning movie “Gerald McBoing-Boing.” UPA was forced to close because of the Red Scare.
When I discovered the books of Raymond Chandler, I discovered noir. Along with Chandler, I have been influenced by the books of Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and James Ellroy, and their mastery of the Los Angeles literary mystery.
I have lived in Los Angeles all my life, in fact, my home is not too far from a house where Raymond Chandler once lived and wrote.
It’s an honor to share the world of Horizon Drive with you.
I have always been a mystery addict. I started with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins, then I progressed to Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler. It has been said that the 1930s was the Golden Age of mysteries, but with brilliant authors like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Elizabeth George, J.D. Robb, C.J. Box and Dennis Lehane around, I cannot help but feel this is the new Golden Age.
I love an apt turn of phrase. I love reading a chapter that flows so smoothly through my brain that the words disappear and the scene just plays out before my eyes. I love forensic factoids like the one Mike discovered and we put in Horizon Drive – how do you separate bone fragment from look-alike rocks? Put it on your tongue – the rocks will roll off, the bones will stick. So gross, yet so great!
Mike said that writing Horizon Drive was incredibly personal. I agree! In fact, it triggered nightmares that I thought I’d outgrown. I must have been about six when Mom told me about being evacuated from her home during WWII. The phrase that struck me was “I could only take what I could carry.” “You mean carry by yourself?” “Yes.”
I had terrible nightmares where I would run frantically around the house trying to decide what I could take and what I had to leave behind. I would wake up crying.
Mom was horrified that what she told me had caused these nightmares. She said that although she missed her things, they were just things. The family stayed together and that was what really mattered.
Thank you for reading Horizon Drive!