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Tell us where you are from and a little about yourself?

 

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and wrote my first short story in grammar school. It was about a

boy whose toy tin truck was given to the government in a metal drive during WWII that eventually

became part of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atom bomb. A ten-year-old thinking

about nuclear holocaust? I was a weird kid. I didn’t write another story until I was in college. A SyFy work

written in the style of the Golden Age of Scientific Fiction writers. Then, about twenty years ago, I

started writing fiction. I should have kept writing at ten.

 

What was hardest part of creating this work?

 

In a way, MURRAN as a story has been blessed. Once I finished my research and started writing, the

story told itself.

 

What was your inspiration for writing this work?

 

Many years ago, back in the 80s, and based on some of my experiences growing up in Brooklyn, I was

aware of gang members. On the streets you had no choice. Those young teens saw themselves as

‘warriors’ – bad asses, having to prove themselves. As a writer, I thought what if one of the teens in the

gang really wanted to prove his courage. Really show he was a ‘warrior’. Like hunting a bear with

nothing but a knife. But I thought, that wouldn’t work. No bears in Brooklyn unless you break into the

Brooklyn Zoo. I didn’t know where to go with that at the time so the idea just sat in the back of my head.

A decade or so later, I went on African Safari and learned about the Maasai tribe and of their ‘rite of

passage’ to manhood by killing a lion.  Hey! I thought. What if the gang member tried to hunt and kill a

lion? But there were no lions in Brooklyn and that’s when I realized that if the gang member was an

African-American, I could figure a way for him to get to Africa and kill his lion to become a warrior.  The

story of MURRAN just fell into place after that.

 

Of all the ethnic cultures you could have used, why did you select the black culture?

 

The story of MURRAN led me there: To make my main character an African-American. But it also gave

me a vehicle to pursue an alienation theme. If any ethnic group in our country has been alienated the

most, it’s the Africa-Americans because of the manner that they arrived to America. When asked what

tribe are you from of an African-American – there is no answer. But almost every other ethnic and

European culture in our society can point to a ‘tribe’ they came from. MURRAN gives me the

opportunity to provide a way for the threatened culture of the Maasai tribe – a proud and brave culture

with a strong rite of passage for their youth – to be introduced and hopefully embraced by today’s

African-Americans who seem to want to live a true African culture.

 

It seems that you didn’t let much hold you back when adding descriptive backdrop to the story – could

you share some of the personal history you have and added while writing?

 

I wanted the book to be real. Gritty. Raw. The characters and their experiences, and the locals are

composites from real biographies or autobiographies of gang and Maasai life.  The backdrop of the story

comes from my personal experiences of growing up in Brooklyn combined with a large amount of

research on the Maasai.

 

We know that you wrote this work with a purpose – in your own words – what did you want to convey

to the readers?

 

I wanted to show that Black America once had a true unique culture that was abandoned in the mid 20th

century for what they claim is an African-American culture today.  African Americans had a unique Black

culture called the Black Renaissance and it took place in the early part of the 20th century. A Renaissance

steeped in values and a culture unique to Blacks. The music, literature, way of life and culture were a big

draw to the ‘swells’ in Manhattan. Drawing them to Harlem at night to enjoy it. I learned about this era

of Black culture from a book by Tony Brown – part of my research for MURRAN – and how the core

fabric of the black community was torn apart. I myself experienced some of the fragments of the Black

Renaissance as a youth while going to night school at CCNY in Harlem.

 

Do you worry that you may be called a racist for your remarks in the book?

 

Any racist views – supposed or otherwise – held in the book come from my characters own life

experiences. The Grandmother speaks of the Black Renaissance from her personal experience of the

times and how it shaped her opinion of the next generation of Blacks calling themselves African-

American.  Matumbo, as a true African, comes to America to study and can’t understand the attempt of

Blacks Americans calling themselves African.  The characters use the ‘N’ word. I personally do not, and

find it demeaning. In the book, it is only the Black characters that use the derogatory language – not the

whites in the story.

 

Still, you claim that the values held by the Black community in your book are not racist.

 

The values proposed in the book for today’s black community are those of the Maasai. Trey learns of

these values and sees how the Maasai community successfully works while his Black community does

not. When Trey asks why, he is told that the Maasai practice the 3 Rs. Trey replied “Readin, writin, and

rithmatic?” “Hardly” was the response he was given. The Maasai culture’s core values are Respect for

one’s self and others, Responsibility for one’s actions and their community, and the celebration of

Ritual. Is there anything racist about those values?

 

As a white male, did you think it might be thought of as strange writing a story about a culture you are

not a part of and can only empathize?

 

Let’s take an old saying about writing that goes: Write what you know.  I disagree with that.  You write

what you CAN know. I put a ton of research into my stories – then – I find a story polisher who has

experience in the subject matter and have them check my research and add dimensions to the story. As

for Africa and the Maasai, it’s research but also my personal experience of traveling to Africa several

times.

 

How do you feel about your work of fiction addressing such strong moral issues?

Currently we are living in a time of deep political and cultural divides. I feel we need creative works that

hold up a mirror to those divides and propose solutions. I also believe that we need to understand and

engage on this African proverb with our youth of any color or race: “If we don’t initiate the young, they

will burn down the village to feel the heat.” Gang membership is NOT a rite of passage nor is being able

to score high in ‘Grand Theft Auto’.  As the grandmother and old Maasai shaman in MURRAN say ,

“What African-Americans need today is a revival – not a rebellion.”

 

How has this work impacted your life?

 

Murran gave me a way to explore my own alienation I experienced in my late 20s. At that time I had to

radically re-align my social and political positions that I was taught. It was during the 60s. I more or less

self-medicated myself by reading everything I could on alienation and came to realize I still had core

values I could build from. My books are, in one form or another, are a way of exploring that theme.

 

Do you foresee more work like this in your future or will you be moving in a different direction for your

next piece?

 

I am going to stay with the theme of alienation in my next book – a coming of age story of an alienated

American boy growing up against the backdrop of Japan in WWII. It’s called ‘iJin’ which means alien or

outcast. After that, I have an historical ‘WHAT IF’ thriller to write.

 

What does it mean to be a best-selling author?

 

A following: Not so much for the money – though that would be nice – but to know people enjoy what I

create and want to read more. Let’s face it. Every creative person is somewhat of a narcissist. We want

to be liked and that our creations are appreciated.

 

MURRAN synopsis

All Trey wants is power—power over his life, power over his community, and power

over the streets.

His father dead and his mother a drug addict, Trey and his sister Nichelle go to live with

their grandmother in Brooklyn. Surrounded by inner-city crime and conflicting ideologies, Trey

seeks security and recognition by becoming a member of a small street crew.

After being enticed into helping a larger, violent gang and framed for a crime he didn’t

commit, Trey flees to a Maasai village in Kenya with his English teacher and mentor, Mr.

Jackson. Though initially repulsed by the customs of the tribe, Trey slowly comes to value the

traditions and morals of the Masaai and understand what Black African culture truly is. Only

after battling lions, disapproving Maasai elders, and his own fears does Trey begin to understand

what true power and manhood mean and what he must do to achieve them.

Honest and unafraid, Murran is a tale of a young African-American teen coming of age

amidst the pitfalls and threats of 1980s Brooklyn, all the while learning to be the man and leader

his community needs.

 

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