Bayer, William 1939-

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BAYER, William 1939-

(David Hunt; Leonie St. John, a joint pseudonym)

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "buyer"; born February 20, 1939, in Cleveland, OH; son of Lee G. (a lawyer) and Eleanor Perry (a writer; maiden name, Rosenfeld) Bayer; married Paula Wolfert (a food writer), August 10, 1983. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (cum laude), 1960. Hobbies and other interests: Photography.

ADDRESSES: Home and officeSan Francisco, CA. Agent—Fred Hill Associates, 1842 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123.

CAREER: Novelist. United States Information Agency, Washington, DC, foreign service officer/staff filmmaker in Saigon, Vietnam, and New York City, 1963-68; freelance writer and filmmaker, 1968—.

MEMBER: Authors Guild, Writers Guild of America (East), PEN, International Association of Crime Writers, North America (president, 1991—).

AWARDS, HONORS: American Film Institute grants, 1968, 1969; two Cine Golden Eagle awards; Golden Hugo Award, Chicago International Film Festival, 1970, for Mississippi Summer; National Endowment for the Arts research grant, 1973; Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1982, for Peregrine; Prix Calibre (France), 1994, for translation of Mirror Maze; Lambda Literary Award for Best Mystery, 1997, for The Magician's Tale.


(With Nancy Harmon, under joint pseudonym Leonie St. John) Love with a Harvard Accent, Ace (New York, NY), 1962.

In Search of a Hero, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1966.

Breaking Through, Selling Out, Dropping Dead: And Other Notes on Filmmaking (nonfiction), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971, revised and updated edition, Limelight Editions (New York, NY), 1989.

The Great Movies (nonfiction), Grosset (New York, NY), 1973.

Stardust, Dell (New York, NY), 1974.

Visions of Isabelle, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1976.

Tangier, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.

Punish Me with Kisses, Congdon & Lattes (New York, NY), 1980.

Peregrine, Congdon & Lattes (New York, NY), 1981.

Switch, Linden/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984.

Pattern Crimes, Villard (New York, NY), 1987.

(And photographer) Blind Side, Villard (New York, NY), 1989.

Wallflower, Villard (New York, NY), 1991.

Mirror Maze, Villard (New York, NY), 1994.

Tarot, French translation from the English (unpublished) by Gérard de Chergé, Rivages (Paris, France), 2001.

The Dream of the Broken Horses, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of screenplay for film Mississippi Summer; author of teleplays or stories for television films, including Internal Affairs, 1988; Murder Times Seven, 1990; and A Silent Betrayal, 1994, all produced by Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS-TV).

Bayer's work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Czech, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Japanese.

novels; under pseudonym david hunt

The Magician's Tale, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.

Trick of Light, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.

ADAPTATIONS: Switch was adapted as the CBC television mini-series Doubletake, 1985; Wallflower was adapted as the CBS television film Forget-Me-Not Murders, 1994.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A new crime novel set in Buenos Aires.

SIDELIGHTS: Although he began his career as a foreign service officer and a documentary filmmaker, William Bayer found his niche as a best-selling crime novelist with the publication of Tangier in 1978. For Bayer, who also writes under the pseudonym David Hunt, crime fiction is a family tradition. His father, a lawyer, and his mother, a playwright, coauthored a series of mysteries under their joint pseudonym, Oliver Weld Bayer, in the 1940s. In a Publishers Weekly interview, Bayer told Mark Harris: "I remember going to a publicity luncheon for something they did called Cleveland Murders. … On a table in front of my parents were a gun, a skull, a bottle that said POISON, a dagger. It was so corny. But now I'm a second-generation crime writer."

Tangier was followed by Punish Me with Kisses and Peregrine, which won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel in 1982. Bayer captured an even wider audience with his next novel, Switch, a psychological thriller that sold more than one million copies in paperback. The crime is a bizarre one: a murderer decapitates two women, one a French teacher in a private school and the other a prostitute, and switches the heads of the two victims. Bayer's detective-hero Frank Janek—first introduced in Peregrine—is a sensitive and insightful investigator who repairs and plays accordions in his spare time. In a review for the Washington Post Book World, Carolyn Banks described Janek as a well-rounded character, and noted, "By the time Bayer is finished with Janek, we feel we'd recognize him on the street. We'd smile fondly at him, too."

Douglas Hill, who reviewed Switch for Toronto's Globe and Mail, praised Bayer for the good, solid police work in this novel. "As for the psychology of the book," wrote Hill, "it's not memorable, but it's not excessive either…. Switch is sensational all right, but it manages to be a decently competent thriller in spite of that." Similarly, Banks concluded that Switch satisfied her requirements for a psychological thriller: "I believed it while I was reading it, it frightened me a sufficient number of times, and it didn't haunt me after I'd snapped the covers closed. It's a clean, fast read."

Set in Jerusalem, Bayer's next thriller, Pattern Crimes, was described by Peter Gorner in the Chicago Tribune as "sort of an Israeli Gorky Park." The story takes place in Israel, where serial murders are known as pattern crimes, and tells the tale of a diverse group of people who are murdered and mutilated in exactly the same way. Although Pattern Crimes conforms to the rules of the crime/mystery genre, many critics found that Bayer makes the conventions seem fresh because he writes so convincingly. Of David Bar-Lev, the detective who ultimately solves the case, Gorner said, "He is a most likable hero, this Israeli detective; tough, intense, savvy, obsessed and tormented; the most appealing fictional cop to come along in a long time." Marcel Berlins, writing in the London Times, praised Pattern Crimes for being "exceptionally well plotted" and for its "exciting action and first-class characterization."

For his next thriller, Blind Side, Bayer researched the literature on photography and even included eight of his own original photographs in the published novel. Blind Side is the story of a wartime photographer, Geoffrey Barnett, who finds himself unable to photograph human faces until he becomes involved with a mysterious and duplicitous model. Harris, who interviewed Bayer for Publishers Weekly, explained the presence of the photos this way: "Interspersed throughout the text are eight photographs, taken by the author—not clues or essential plot points, but views of the unfolding drama through Barnett's eye and lens. Flavored with the brutality and cynicism of film noir, the novel draws as much of its inspiration from movies as from books."

Detective Janek returns in Wallflower, in which he must find a serial killer whose weapon is a kitchen utensil and whose "signature" is done with a caulking gun. When Janek's goddaughter tragically becomes one of the killer's victims, the detective uncovers startling things about the young woman's private life while risking his career and even his life to solve the case—which he does with the help of a beautiful German psychiatrist whom he meets in Venice. In Mirror Maze two crimes confront Janek: the murder of a high-tech components thief, for which a tough prostitute is the chief suspect; and an unsolved homicide from years past. The case brings Janek into the seamy side of the New York City art world and features a climax in which the detective becomes lost in a New Jersey amusement park funhouse.

Past and present again mingle in Bayer's 2002 novel, The Dream of the Broken Horses. David Weiss, a forensic sketch artist, returns to his Midwestern home-town to cover a celebrity murder trial for network television. At the same time, he becomes obsessed with a homicide that occurred there twenty-five years earlier, when a rich socialite and her much younger lover were shot to death in the sleazy Flamingo Court motel. Searching old archives for clues, David learns that one of the victims, Barbara Fulraine, had been a patient of his psychoanalyst father, who committed suicide shortly after Barbara's demise. Convinced that his father's death was linked to the Flamingo Court murders, David sets out to find the truth. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "sharp and sexy thriller," and Connie Fletcher of Booklist deemed it "richly atmospheric." David Lazarus, in a review of The Dream of the Broken Horses for the San FranciscoChronicle, particularly admired Bayer's use of original source material to keep the narrative "shifting under-foot," and called the book a "smart and stylish whodunit" featuring an unusually interesting sleuth. In the Boston Globe, Robin W. Winks dubbed The Dream of the Broken Horses "a fine book, complex [and] disturbing," and enhanced by "meticulous" plotting and intriguing characters.

Beginning in 1997, Bayer added several more books to his growing oeuvre, these penned under the pseudonym David Hunt. In The Magician's Tale color-blind photographer Kay Farrow is shocked when her lover, Tim, turns up dead, his body brutally disfigured. As she begins to trace Tim's recent past, Farrow discovers his roots, and the plot thickens as a devilish brand of magic figures in her friends demise. Noting that the novel "traces a sophisticated puzzle studded with memorable jagged figures jockeying for sexual, financial or artistic power," a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the author's "vibrant, melancholy narrative voice and street-true characters." In a People review, Pam Lambert also enjoyed the book, noting that "Bayer mesmerizes with his sleight of hand."

Farrow returns in Bayer's second novel written under the Hunt pseudonym. In Trick of Light the San Francisco-based photographer—and cop's daughter—attempts to find the truth behind the hit-and-run death of her mentor, Maddy Yamada. Forced to work in the dark due to her extreme sensitivity to daylight, Farrow nonetheless tracks down motive and more as the clues lead to a secret gun club whose members are bound by something far more sinister than a love of firearms. Praising Farrow as a "tough, smart, likable heroine," Booklist contributor Emily Melton praised Bayer's novel for its "high-impact action" and "devilishly clever plot."



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, April 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of The Magician's Tale, p. 1268; September 15, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Trick of Light, p. 173; January 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of The Dream of the Broken Horses, p. 817.

Boston Globe, March 31, 2002, Robin W. Winks, "The Disturbing Practice of Blurbing," p. B3.

Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1987, Peter Gorner, review of Pattern Crimes. Chicago Tribune Book World, August 9, 1981; July 7, 1985.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 10, 1985, Douglas Hill, review of Switch.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2001, review of The Dream of the Broken Horses, p. 1622.

Library Journal, April 1, 1997, John Noel, review of The Magician's Tale, p. 126.

Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1980.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 23, 1987; June 4, 1989.

New Yorker, October 29, 1971.

New York Times Book Review, August 19, 1984, p. 20; July 20, 1989; August 11, 1991, p. 25; October 25, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Trick of Light; February 17, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Dream of the Broken Horses, p. 21.

People, July 21, 1997, Pam Lambert, review of The Magician's Tale, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, June 9, 1989, Mark Harris, interview with Bayer; March 30, 1990; May 17, 1991; May 5, 1997, review of The Magician's Tale, p. 195; September 14, 1998, review of Trick of Light, p. 47; January 28, 2002, review of The Dream of the Broken Horses, p. 271.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 2002, David Lazarus, review of The Dream of the Broken Horses, p. 4.

Times (London, England), December 30, 1987, Marcel Berlins, review of Pattern Crimes.

Times Literary Supplement, November 20-26, 1987.

Washington Post, July 21, 1989.

Washington Post Book World, October 5, 1980, p. 6; August 31, 1984; May 17, 1987.


William Bayer Web site, (February 14, 2004).*

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Bayer, William 1939-

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