THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS—WHO ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS
THEY HAVE BECOME FRIENDS
Over the years, I have found one of the best ways to make a friend is to give him or her a book—one of my books. Here, I am not suggesting 100 percent success, because not everyone reads—and even those who do may not like my style—but I will say that the batting average has been high.
Most people, who have actually read one of my books, seem to regard me as a friend—even though we have never met. That says a great deal about the power of writing and reading. If properly deployed, the written word has an extraordinary ability to break down barriers—to reach out and touch in a positive way.
Given that my thrillers are fairly violent—albeit laced with humor—I am agreeably surprised by this. Evidently my writing has some quality which appeals widely. Do I know what it is? I blush to admit this, but do you know, I don’t!
But surely a writer knows what works, much as a musician knows what chords will arouse an audience?
All I can say is that if I do, I don’t know I do—which is a somewhat embarrassing admission. On the other hand, maybe it makes some sense because if I did know, I would probably be self-conscious—and my writing would go to hell in a hand-basket.
Quite deliberately, I don’t normally think about how I write, but since I am focused on that subject right now, the thought has occurred to me that perhaps one of my strengths is accessibility. I tend to drop all barriers when I write, though quite why, I don’t know. I think of myself as a fairly private person, yet I seem to be willing to step into the literary world with my barriers down. When writing, I truly, madly and desperately want to communicate—to reach a certain truth which tends to be obscured during much of our normal interaction when we are primarily concerned to keep up appearances.
That said, I’m exaggerating. I do try and write with truth, but desperation is not part of the equation. Communication has its own volition.
Enough introspection. Let me quote from a fan letter that I ran across today. It moved me greatly. What a handsome way to compliment an author. Such thoughtfulness gives one hope. In a troubled world, there are nice people out there.
Dear Mr. O'Reilly
I have a couple of your books, and am always looking for more.
You don't write down, and it's a joy not to have to struggle with an author who is trying to write for an audience which cannot read for long at any speed. I think you could probably write about onions or aligning the tires on a car, and make it interesting. Fortunately, you write about things that I like reading about.