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Jerry (sometimes Jerome) Oster

Jerry (sometimes Jerome) Oster

Journalist, novelist, playwright, attempted poet

Jerome Oster

Born 1943 in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

»Stare.«

An admonition of the photographer Walker Evans. Or maybe not. I’ve often seen it quoted, but have never been able to find the source. I’ll take out to dinner anyone who can find it.

It goes on:

»It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.«

Where do you live?

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA (by way of Carlsbad, New Mexico, my birthplace; Florence, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Bakersfield, California; Sacramento, California; New York City; Hoboken, New Jersey; Madison, New Jersey).

What do you do for a living?

I’m retired after working 12 years as a journalist, 12 years as a working novelist, and 12 as a university fundraising and news writer.

Your Hobbies are …?

Riding a bike, walking/hiking, tennis, reading, studying calculus and geometry, listening to music (jazz, techno, contemporary classical), watching alternative television and movies.

What’s the last book you can remember?

Alistair MacLeod, »No Great Mischief«

And the last movie you’ve seen was …?

»Café de la Flore« directed by Jean-Marc Vallée,

The last time you’ve listened to music it was …?

Charlotte Gainsbourg, »Stage Whisper«.

Your last accomplishment has been what?

Had a new right hip installed and learned to use it.

Which historical character do you admire – and why?

Lawrence Durrell, Jack Kerouac, Paul Scott, Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway—they wrote fiction that can be read over and over again.

Which reform has been a real advancement for mankind?

Lately, gay rights.

Who is your hero in everyday life?

My wife, Trisha, who works tirelessly and creatively on behalf of NGOs all over North Carolina; my daughter, Lily, for her curiosity and empathy.

Any favorite thing or things?

Oceans, sounds, lakes, rivers, creeks.

Your absolute favorite quote?

»In a work of nonfiction we almost never know the truth of what happened. The ideal of unmediated reporting is regularly achieved only in fiction, where the writer faithfully reports on what is going on in his imagination …« Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman.

What brought you to writing?

On one of my first assignments as a news reporter, I attended a a crowded news conference by the head of the transit workers union, whose strike had shut down New York’s subways and buses. I ended up standing behind the union boss and noticed him moving one of his aides so that he wouldn’t block the view of television cameras. He used just the tip of his little finger to exert pressure on his aide’s arm. No one but me noticed. I wrote a dry story about the event, but it was the gesture I wanted to write about. There was no place for a story like that in daily news reporting; there began my desire to write fiction.

Describe your path to what you’re doing now ….

Is passion important for you?

Writing has been a little like breathing—something I simply have to do.

Your thoughts about mastery and failure?

I don’t think about perfection and, therefore, not about failure. I just do the best I can.

Fears are …

I don’t have any.

Has there been a point in your life when you had any regrets?

No.

Money is important. … Or isn’t it?

It was nice to make a living writing nothing but my fiction. When I had to write journalism or fundraising pieces, I still kept writing my own work. So I’d say staying creative and keeping my self-respect were more important than money.

Tell us a bit about inspiration and creativity.

All my books and plays have started small: a face on the subway, an item in the back pages of a newspaper, something someone said, a movie, a song. Once I have the idea, it’s a simple matter to build a world around it.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

…I get up before dawn, read a few pages from some books that help me stay sober, eat breakfast (usually at a local café), read the newspaper, read from a book I’m in the middle of, study a little math (geometry and calculus), eat lunch, take a walk or ride my bike, cook dinner most weekdays for my wife and me, watch some television on my iPad (Danish and Swedish and Belgian crime dramas, American copies of the same), read a little more from my current book, lights out by 10 pm. You’ll notice I didn’t mention writing. These days I have nothing to say.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

As I said, from a face on the subway, an item in the back pages of a newspaper, something someone said, a movie, a song.

How important are media like newspapers, tv, the internet for your creative process?

If there were none of things, I could still write.

If you had to choose: Hammett, Chandler, Ambler, Simenon – who would be your favorite writer? If none of these just pick another one … And tell us why?

My favorite authors: Paul Scott, Lawrence Durrell, Alistair MacLeod, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald. My favorite crime novelist, hands down, Raymond Chandler.

Is there any advice you could share with someone who wants to become a writer?

Find a time of day when you can write without interruption and make it your own. During that time, either write or do nothing, but don’t read or talk on the phone. Above all, stay off the Web and email.

Is there anything in the way of a legacy you hope to leave behind?

Is there something in the way of a legacy you hope to leave behind? I’ve written 23 (I think) novels, a full-length play and some short plays. I’ve also taken some care to write well in letters to friends and family. That’s my legacy.

Fiction

Port Wine Stain, 1980,
DE: New York Babylon, 1986,
NE 1993, ISBN-13: 978-3499427589, Ü: Werner Waldhoff

Final Cut, 1980,
hitherto unpublished in German

Municipal Bonds, 1981,
hitherto unpublished in German

Sweet Justice, 1985, Lt. Jake Newman
DE: Dschungelkampf, 1995, ISBN-13: 978-3499432149,
NE 1998, ISBN-13: 978-3499433160

Rancho Maria (California Dead), 1986, 1988
hitherto unpublished in German

Saint Mike, 1987
DE: Saint Mike, 1998, ISBN-13: 978-3499429248,
NE 1999, ISBN-13: 978-3499433795, Ü: Kerstin Ruge

Nowhere Man, 1987, Lt. Jake Newman
DE: Nowhere Man, NE 1999, ISBN-13: 978-3499433788, Ü: Martin Hielscher

Club Dead, 1988, Lt. Jake Newman
DE: Kältesturz, 1990, ISBN: 3499429535, NE 1993, ISBN-13: 978-3499429538

Internal Affairs, 1990, Sgt. Joe Cullen
DE: Death Story, 1991, ISBN: 978-3499430118
DE: Warum ich?, 2015, ISBN: 978-3945684009

Violent Love, 1991, Sgt. Joe Cullen
DE: Violent Love, 1992, ISBN: 9783499430371, NE 1995, ISBN-13: 978-3499430374

Fixin’ to Die, 1992, Sgt. Joe Cullen
DE: Dirty Cops, 1994, ISBN-13: 978-3499431084

When the Night Comes, 1993, Sgt. Joe Cullen
DE: Wenn die Nacht kommt, 1994, ISBN: 3499431556,
NE 1998, ISBN-13: 978-3499431555

Experience Blues (als Nick Bell), 1995
DE: True Love, 1996, ISBN-13: 978-3499432354

Nightfall, 1997
DE: Sturz ins Dunkel, 1998, ISBN-13: 978-3499433036,
NE 2008, Buchgemeinschaft

Lust, 1998
DE: Wollust, 1999, ISBN-13: 978-3499433346

Kiss Di Foxx Good Night, 1999
DE: Versuchung in Rot, 2000, ISBN-13: 978-3499228084

Alma, 2011
hitherto unpublished in German

September, 2012
hitherto unpublished in German

Short stories

Höhenangst, 2001
ISBN-13: 978-3921305034 (Hamburger Abendblatt)

Theatre, film, tv

Photoblog on tumblr (a bit older, it’s dated 2011)

The “Coastal Project”  — Walk the coast of North Carolina

THE E N D

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