Ephron, Hallie 1948- (G. H. Ephron, A Joint Pseudonym)
EPHRON, Hallie 1948- (G. H. Ephron, a joint pseudonym)
PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1948, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Henry (a writer) and Phoebe (a writer) Ephron; married Jerold Touger (a physics professor), May 11, 1969; children: Molly, Naomi. Education: Barnard College, B.A., 1969; New York University, M.A., 1971; Boston College, Ph.D., 1982.
CAREER: Former school teacher and university instructor; worked in multimedia design and as a marketing copywriter; journalist; writer. Contributor to National Public Radio.
MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (president, New England chapter).
WITH DONALD DAVIDOFF, UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM G. H. EPHRON
Amnesia, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Addiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Delusion, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Malingering, USATODAY.com (online), 2002.
Obsessed, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to Elements of Mystery Fiction, edited by William Tapply, revised edition, in press. Contributor to periodicals, including More magazine and Writer's Digest.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Further medical mystery novels.
SIDELIGHTS: Under the joint pseudonym G. H. Ephron, Hallie Ephron and Donald Davidoff have created a mystery series based on the work of forensic neuropsychologists. Davidoff himself is a professor at Harvard Medical School and a doctor at McLean Psychiatric Hospital who for years has provided expert testimony at criminal trials. Hallie Ephron—the writing specialist in the partnership—is the daughter of two prominent Hollywood screenwriters and the sister of writers Nora, Delia, and Amy Ephron. The collaboration between Ephron and Davidoff has been so successful because both bring different talents to the team. Davidoff provides plot points, character advice, and scientific expertise, while Ephron crafts the narrative with taut prose. Ephron told CA: "We write mysteries because we both have always loved to read them."
Ephron and Davidoff are longtime friends who conceived the idea of writing a mystery novel together over dinner one evening. Their debut work, Amnesia, was published in 2000. The book introduces the series hero, Dr. Peter Zak, a physician at the fictitious Peace Psychiatric Center. Zak's wife has been murdered by a killer who was angered by the insanity defense Zak offered on his behalf in another trial. This devastating blow has led Zak to cease working as an expert witness for the defense in capital cases. Nevertheless, he is drawn into another investigation when he is asked to evaluate a woman who was shot in the head and left to die and who now suffers from memory lapses. As the woman's memory of her assault returns piecemeal, she accuses her ex-husband—but Zak comes to believe that she is being manipulated and thereby victimized again. "Amnesia is beautifully written, well-plotted, intricate without being overdone, and, um, correct," observed Victoria Esposito-Shea on the Hand Held Crime Web site. "The reader gets a lot of interesting, deftly presented material on the malleability of the human memory." A Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that Ephron "manages to treat the hackneyed subject of the amnesiac witness/victim with remarkable sensitivity to the mind's complexity while providing all the thrills you expect from the genre."
Addiction delves deeper into the politics of psychiatric hospitals and clinical drug trials. Shortly after agreeing to evaluate a colleague's sixteen-year-old daughter, Zak finds his colleague murdered in her office, with her daughter holding the murder weapon. Zak feels that, even though the young girl is addicted to Ritalin, she is not capable of murder, and he seeks to exonerate her. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Addiction for its "low-key style . . . well-drawn characters, comprehensible medical jargon, as well as a credible solution intelligently arrived at." Calling the book "superb," Books 'n' Bytes correspondent Harriet Klausner also maintained that the novel "allows readers to observe an intriguing type of mental illness while providing a cleverly designed mystery." Library Journal critic Rex E. Klett observed that the work provides "a pleasurable read with stylish prose, a swift-moving plot, and strong characterizations."
Another seemingly baffling plot unfolds in Delusion. Zak arrives at the home of a computer games wizard to find the man's wife lying murdered in the swimming pool. Needless to say, the husband is the prime suspect, but is he truly a paranoid, or are people really out to get him? A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the novel "deftly probes the intersections between sanity and psychosis, paranoia and murder, doctor and patient." The same reviewer found Delusion to be "lively, astringent, fast paced and believable." On Books 'n' Bytes, Klausner called Delusion "an enthralling medical thriller" and "an exciting crime tale."
Ephron told Writer's Digest that she came to writing later in life because her famous siblings "set the bar very high." She added: "Failure in private is one thing—in the public arena it's quite another. . . . I think I just got old enough and developed enough of a sense of who I am that it finally stopped mattering what other people think. I decided I'd rather have tried and failed than have never found out whether I can do it. Knowing I had the genes gave me the confidence to try." Ephron works best in the early morning hours, and she has a home office that once served as a playroom for her two daughters.
Hallie Ephron described her collaboration with Davidoff for CA: "For us, writing together is an iterative and interactive process," she explained. "We get together once a week to scope out scenes; then I go off and write them. I e-mail pages to Don and he prepares a critique. Then we meet again and move on. Don's insight into psychology, his knowledge of the inner workings of psychiatric hospitals and the criminal justice system, his experiences with ordinary people and people accused of serious crimes—all that makes the books altogether different from anything I could write on my own."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2001, Stuart Miller, review of Addiction, p. 2095; November 1, 2003, Jenny McLarin, review of Obsessed, p. 482.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2000, review of Amnesia, p. 991; August 1, 2001, review of Addiction, p. 1068; October 15, 2003, review of Obsessed, p. 1253.
Library Journal, September 1, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Addiction, p. 238; December, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Obsessed, p. 172.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, review of Amnesia, p. 52; July 9, 2001, review of Addiction, p. 50; September 16, 2002, Stephen Anable, "Psychiatric Sleuthing," p. 53; review of Delusion, p. 53; November 24, 2003, review of Obsessed, p. 45.
Writer's Digest, September, 2002, Melanie Rigney, "A Collaborating Dream," pp. 36-37.
Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (April 1, 2003), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Delusion, Addiction, and Amnesia.
Hand Held Crime,http://www.handheldcrime.com/ (April 1, 2003), Victoria Esposito-Shea, review of Amnesia.
Mystery One Bookstore,http://www.mysteryone.com/ (April 1, 2003), interview with Ephron and Davidoff.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (April 1, 2003), Andy Plonka, review of Delusion.
Peter Zak,http://www.peterzak.com/ (April 1, 2003), authors' Web site on the Zak mysteries.*