Pearson, Ridley 1953-(Wendell McCall, Steven Rimbauer)
PEARSON, Ridley 1953-(Wendell McCall, Steven Rimbauer)
PERSONAL: Born March 13, 1953, in Glencove, NY; son of Robert G. (a writer) and Betsy (an artist; maiden name, Dodge) Pearson; married second wife, Marcelle Marsh; children: Paige, Storey (daughters). Education: Attended University of Kansas, 1972, and Brown University, 1974.
ADDRESSES: Office—P.O. Box 715, Boise, ID 83701. Agent—Albert Zuckerman, Writer's House, Inc., 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Novelist and screenwriter. Worked variously as a songwriter for a touring bar band, a dishwasher, and a housekeeper in a hospital surgery suite; composer of orchestral score for documentary film Cattle Drive. Bass guitarist for Rock Bottom Remainders (literary garage band), with Dave Barry, Amy Tan, and Stephen King.
MEMBER: Writers Guild of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Raymond Chandler Fulbright fellowship in detective fiction, Oxford University, 1990.
Never Look Back: A Novel of Espionage and Revenge, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.
Blood of the Albatross, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.
The Seizing of the Yankee Green Mall, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Undercurrents, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Probable Cause, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Hard Fall, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.
The Angel Maker, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
No Witnesses, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
Chain of Evidence, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.
Beyond Recognition, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1997.
The Pied Piper, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
The First Victim, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
Middle of Nowhere, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Parallel Lies, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
(As Steven Rimbauer) The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red, foreword by Stephen King, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
The Art of Deception, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
The Body of Peter Hayes, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (television miniseries; based on the book of the same title), American Broadcasting Corp., 2003.
Author of screenplay adaptations of his novels Probable Cause and Undercurrents. Also author, under pseudonym Wendell McCall, of Aim for the Heart, St. Martin's Press. Contributor to the anthology Diagnosis: Terminal, edited by E. Paul Wilson, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
ADAPTATIONS: Angel Maker, No Witnesses, and Undercurrents, were optioned for film by Home Box Office; Hard Fall was optioned for film by Amadeo Ursini; film rights to Probable Cause were acquired by Ted Hartley of RKO. Several books by Pearson have been adapted as audiobooks, including Parallel Lies, Brilliance, 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Ridley Pearson writes police procedurals about serial killers that some critics consider masterpieces of taut plotting, fascinating forensic details, and enjoyable characters. Pearson's thrillers featuring detective Lou Boldt and police psychologist Daphne Matthews—whose on-again, off-again romance provides the series with a continuing subplot—are set in the author's former home town of Seattle, Washington. Although some deem the author's characterizations flat and his plots implausible, others find Pearson's novels impossible to put down. "Some procedurals stress forensic detail, while others emphasize the multidimensional humanity of the cops. Pearson does both, and the combination continues to be unbeatable," wrote Booklist contributor Bill Ott in his review of Pearson's Chain of Evidence.
Pearson's 1986 novel Blood of the Albatross features spies, F.B.I. agents, a naive sailor, and a mysterious woman, all stock figures in crime novels. Accordingly, Newgate Callendar commented in the New York Times: "There is nothing new here, but the writing is ebullient, the author has a good time with the conventions, and so should the reader." By the time The Angel Maker, was published, nearly ten years later, Pearson had become a celebrated writer of forensic thrillers whose recurring characters Boldt and Matthews and the often highly technical trails of evidence that wind through his work were now celebrated by some reviewers. "Pearson's engaging forensic detail—he makes complicated, potentially disgusting facts almost entertaining—and brisk prose will have readers racing to the cliffhanger climax," averred a critic for Publishers Weekly in a review of The Angel Maker.
Reviewers of more recent Pearson procedurals have continued to praise the author's ability to incorporate the latest technological aids to detective work without slowing down the action in his taut plots. In No Witnesses a serial killer bent on exacting revenge against a food company begins poisoning the company's products, faxing extortion notes, and using ATM's to retrieve ransom money, thereby leaving no physical trace for Detective Boldt to track down. "Mr. Pearson's grasp of investigative technology is truly impressive," noted Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times, quipping: "O brave new world, Mr. Pearson has your PIN." Booklist contributor Ott found Pearson's shift from forensic thriller to techno-thriller well executed. "As in past Boldt-Matthews adventures . . . the combination of meticulous investigative detail and excruciating, screw-tightening suspense is utterly riveting," Ott enthused in his review of No Witnesses.
Boldt and Matthews return in Beyond Recognition, a thriller about a serial killer who disposes of his victims' bodies with rocket fuel, which burn so hot it leaves almost no trace behind. "Moving from one punchy scene to the next, this fuse-burning suspense tale is wonderful reading for a wide audience," noted Molly Gorman in Library Journal. Although a Publishers Weekly reviewer complained that Beyond Recognition is not up to the standard of earlier Boldt-Matthews procedurals, Booklist contributor Ott again praised Pearson's ability to "never stop playing the reader's emotions," creating a rhythm to his plot that builds excitement to a fever pitch. "You have to be a bit of a masochist to give in to a Pearson plot, but when you do, it hurts so good," Ott concluded.
Pearson brings the suspense home to Detective Boldt in The Pied Piper, in which the detective's own daughter is kidnapped after Boldt begins to get close to identifying a serial kidnapper. "The plot begins simply and becomes wonderfully complex," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who recommended the book even to first-time Pearson readers "who may be tempted to pick up earlier novels to see whether they're all this good." The eighth novel in the series, The Art of Deception continues Boldt's adventures, as the detective investigates a pair of suspicious deaths that ultimately point to a murderer who may not be finished yet. With the help of forensic pathologist Matthews—who finds herself with an unwanted admirer in the person of a local deputy sheriff—Boldt follows the trail of both murderers only to find them intersect in a novel that a Kirkus contributor cited as "on top of the summer's pile of procedurals" due to Pearson's "handsome command of detail and breathless pace." Calling the novel's "atmospheric descriptions of Seattle . . . deadon," Library Journal contributor Jeff Ayers dubbed The Art of Deception "hands-down one of the best thrillers of the year." In Booklist, Bill Ott also commended Pearson's setting, noting that the novelist's "detail-rich treatment goes well beyond the typical cliches of dark passages and abandoned storefronts" and praising the "Boldt and Matthews" novels as among "the mystery genre's greatest pleasures."
Pearson shifts the scene from Seattle to Connecticut and leaves Detective Boldt behind in Chain of Evidence. In this novel Detective Joe Dartelli suspects that a series of suicides may actually be murders committed by his former mentor, forensic specialist Walter Zeller, a troubled man seemingly intent on exacting revenge for the murder of his own wife years before. Although a critic for Publishers Weekly declared Pearson's plot unbelievable and his characters "generic, if appealing," this reviewer also stated: "What Pearson does better than any other current thriller writer is forensic detail," and Chain of Evidence "stands as one of the best novels yet by this author."
New York Times contributor Stasio remarked upon Pearson's facility with incorporating gadgets and difficult technical or medical information into his plots, but bemoaned the fact that this ability does not carry through to his characterizations: "For someone who can be so lucid about complicated technical subjects like DNA mapping, Mr. Pearson has his problems writing about life-forms," Stasio noted in a review of Chain of Evidence.
A friend of horrormeister Stephen King, Pearson "conspired" with King in a literary hoax in 2002. Following the television airing of King's Rose Red, about a haunted mansion built on a Native American burial ground by the wealthy Rimbauer family in the early twentieth century, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red appeared on bookstore shelves. With an introduction by King, the book was purported to be the work of Steven Rimbauer, based on the diary of his late aunt, with editorial commentary by Joyce Reardon, Ph.D., an expert in the paranormal. Only after this book was dramatized as an ABC miniseries was Reardon announced as the actual author and perpetrator of the hoax. As a novel, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer presents the backdrop to King's book, and focuses on the writer's marriage to a wealthy oil magnate who will not pay heed to Ellen's concerns about the otherworldly occurrences in their luxurious new home. Noting that the fictional Diary "stands well on its own," a Book Haven contributor commended Pearson's adoption of a diary format, which "gives readers a voyeuristic thrill."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1994, p. 1993; September 1, 1995, p. 6; December 15, 1996, p. 693; May 1, 2001, review of Parallel Lies; June 1, 2002, Bill Ott, review of The Art of Deception, p. 1646.
Entertainment Weekly, October 27, 1995, p. 83.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of The Art of Deception, p. 911.
Library Journal, January, 1997, p. 149; May 1, 1998, p. 156; July, 2002, Jeff Ayers, review of The Art of Deception, p. 122.
New York Times, October 56, 1986, section 7, p. 28; August 1, 1993; November 20, 1994; October 22, 1995.
Playboy, December, 1995, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1993, p. 74; April 5, 1993, p. 28; August 5, 1994, p. 85; June 19, 1995, p. 17; September 18, 1995, p. 11; June 3, 1996, p. 62; December 16, 1996, p. 42; July 13, 1998, p. 63; July 1, 2002, review of The Art of Deception, p. 53; July 8, 2002, Dena Croog, "'Rimbauer' Author Unmasked," p. 18.
Book Haven,http://www.thebookhaven.homestead.com/ (August 28, 2003), Amy Carother, review of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.