PERSONAL: Male. Education: Iowa Writers' Workshop, M.F.A., 1992.
ADDRESSES: Home—Montpelier, VT. Agent—c/o Viking Penguin USA, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer and musician. Has also worked as a guitarist and recording artist, performing twice at Carnegie Hall and releasing the album Willow, Windham Hill Records, 1980.
Skull Session, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
The Babel Effect, Crown (New York, NY), 2001.
City of Masks (mystery novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2002.
Land of Echoes (mystery novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.
Puppets (mystery novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including GuitarPlayer.
SIDELIGHTS: Daniel Hecht was a musician before he wrote his first novel, but a hand injury ended his fifteen-year career as a guitarist. During his musical career, he specialized in New Age Guitar music which was described in The New Age Music Guide as "melodic, and lyrical."
In 1991, Hecht wrote about a memorable performance in China in Guitar Player. The performance took place several months after the Tiananmen Square massacre of students by the Chinese government and tensions were still volatile during Hecht's visit. Hecht told of one unique moment after a performance when he was duped by government officials into shaking the hands of two old men. A second later, he realized that the old men were also government officials and that the event had been staged to make it appear that he supported the Chinese government. As he recalled, "I dropped the old men's hands as if they were dead fish, realizing I'd just been used." When he left the stage, he gave a raised fist salute to the crowd, which he called his "real encore." Later during his Chinese visit, when the government tried to get Hecht's Chinese agent to return to his home village and leave Hecht's tour, Hecht took another stand and objected, pleading illness for the rest of the government tour. He later traveled with his agent and performed in many other towns in China. Though Hecht described difficulties in performing in China (unsanitary conditions, red tape, and unpredictable power outages), he called it an "adventure that touches and challenges a musician's body, heart, mind and soul," and "the opportunity to build a connection between nations and cultures."
Hecht published his first book, Skull Session, in 1998. The book features protagonist Paul Skoglund, a man whose work, life, and mind have been compromised by his Tourette's Syndrome. Paul, whose father committed suicide and whose son also has neurological problems, decides to leave the work world and restore his aunt's old house. The house has been vandalized, either by local teenagers, or as Hecht suggests, a more sinister source which may be linked to Skoglund's father's death. As Skoglund delves into the mystery with his girlfriend Lia, he also explores the workings of his own mind. Library Review critic Elsa Pendleton called the book "a marvelous mix of modern Gothic horror and romance." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that after Hecht's fifteen-year musical career, "he has brought welcome artistry and elegance to his new field."
The question at the base of Hecht's next novel, The Babel Effect, is the root cause of violence—where exactly does violence and anti-social behavior come from? Dr. Jessamine McCloud, haunted by her sister Allison's murder by terrorists at Ghiza, thinks that the origin may be viral, part of what she terms The Babel Effect. In her work at Ridder Global, a Boston-area think tank, she constantly moves closer to a definitive answer. Her husband, Dr. Ryan McCloud, also works at Ridder Global, and when he returns from a dangerous trip to Congo, he learns that she has been kidnapped. It seems to Ryan that Jess was closer to the truth than either of them had guessed. As Ryan searches for his wife, he finds a convoluted network of government, military, religious, and business organizations with a deep interest in The Babel Effect. "This is essentially a novel of ideas, based upon real science; but through its sympathetic characters, it is well grounded in human truths," observed Christine C. Menefee in the School Library Journal. "The moving climax proves that Hecht is a writer with both skill and soul," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who concluded that the book "is for readers who demand texture, intriguing information and a provocative thesis along with their thrills." Booklist reviewer William Beatty called the book "an intellectually stimulating example of the thriller genre."
City of Masks introduces recurring character Lucretia "Cree" Black, a parapsychologist and ghost hunter from Seattle. In her inaugural outing, Cree investigates a haunting at the Beauforte House, a 150-year-old New Orleans mansion. The mansion's resident, Lila Beauforte Warren, is the sister of Ronald Beauforte, a member of a prominent New Orleans family who fears his sister is losing her mind. She claims that a ghost with the head of a pig regularly assaults her while she sleeps. Lila and psychiatrist Paul Fitzpatrick search for answers and the electromagnetic broadcasts that Cree believes occur as the source of true hauntings. Few answers surface, but Cree eventually sees the ghost herself and is attacked by it. A vital clue is found during Mardi Gras, when Cree notices a number of costumed revelers wearing pig-head masks. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "sharp, fast, and deft, a gripping story that with the skill of a Wallenda walks the tightrope between the real and the supernatural." Booklist reviewer Michael Gannon noted that the "authentic, supernatural locale contributes the requisite spooky atmosphere" and that "the eccentric characters are well drawn and believable." In Cree Black's second outing, Land of Echoes, she travels to New Mexico and a boarding school for gifted and talented Navajo children. One particular child, fifteen-year-old Tommy Keeday, is plagued by frequent seizures that not only afflict him but also immobilize the people around him. Medical testing fails to reveal a physical cause, and Cree suspects a case of possession by a vengeful spirit. Cree and her team again apply high-tech resources in their search for supernatural influences. Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher commented that the story is "creepy and convincing." Library Journal reviewer Joel W. Tscherne observed that "details about Navajo culture and beliefs add nicely to the story," which continues the Cree Black series "at a high level."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Birosik, Patti Jean, The New Age Music Guide, Colliers Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Booklist, December 1, 1997, Eric Robbins, review of Skull Session, p. 611; November 15, 2000, William Beatty, review of The Babel Effect, p. 587; December 15, 2002, Michael Gannon, review of City of Masks, p. 737; February 15, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Land of Echoes, p. 1042.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of City of Masks, p. 1555; December 15, 2003, review of Land of Echoes, p. 1415; May 1, 2005, review of Puppets, p. 496.
Kliatt, November, 2004, Bette Ammon, review of Land of Echoes, p. 48.
Library Bookwatch, August, 2004, review of Land of Echoes.
Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Elsa Pendleton, review of Skull Session, p. 76; February 15, 2001, Linda M. G. Katz, review of The Babel Effect, p. 202; January, 2003, Joel W. Tscherne, review of City of Masks, p. 154; January, 2004, Joel W. Tscherne, review of Land of Echoes, p. 156; December 1, 2004, Douglas C. Lord, review of Land of Echoes, p. 180.
People, January 19, 1998, Pam Lambert, review of Skull Session, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, November 25, 1996, Judy Quinn, "Viking Books a 'Skull Session,'" p. 19; August 11, 1997, "Fiction First for Fall; A Chorus of New Voices Bides to Be Heart through Novel Undertakings," review of Skull Session, p. 255; November 17, 1997, review of Skull Session, p. 54; November 13, 2000, review of The Babel Effect, p. 87; January 6, 2003, review of City of Masks, p. 38; January 5, 2004, review of Land of Echoes, p. 39.
School Library Journal, August, 2001, Christine C. Menefee, review of The Babel Effect, p. 209.
Penguin Putnam Web sitehttp://www.penguinputnam.com/ (November 11, 1999).