Behind The Words with Author Jerome Charyn


Welcome Jerome, we’re very excited to have you on Reader’s Entertainment. Today, we’ll be talking about your latest novel RAVAGE & SONS. Bur first, tell our readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live? Is writing your full-time job?

I live in Manhattan with my wife and my cat.  I don’t consider writing a full-time job – I am almost like an apprentice shoemaker trying to build the perfect shoe.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for 80 years.  I wrote my first novel when I was five.   It was a Western.  It had a lot of blood.

What does your typical writing day look like?

I don’t like to have too many obligations.  I work as hard and as long as I can.   Sometimes the music comes, sometimes it doesn’t.  You have to learn to be patient. The song is hidden somewhere – it will come out.

Tell us about your latest release? Where the idea came from? Perhaps some fun moments, or not so fun moments?

My latest novel is about the Lower East Side, which remains my spiritual home. My grandparents lived there, we visited them every week, and I wandered around the streets.  I saw the poverty. I saw the constant movement, the great sadness, and even as a child I knew I would write about the Lower East Side one day.

Could you share one detail from your current release with readers that they might not find in the book?

I would answer this in the opposite way: There weren’t things that I left out.  I wrote this book over many years and in the middle of writing this novel, I acquired a cat, and I thrust the cat into the tale.  Her name is Chloe.

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? Why?

This is a Jekyll and Hyde tale – a Jewish Jekyll and Hyde. A very rich man who preys on young women. He would reward these women after he hurt them.  I was bothered by this character – I wanted to understand him. I wrote a prelude showing how he had been violated and humiliated and had turned into a monster.

If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be?

I would be Ben, Ben Ravage.  The young man who goes to Harvard and comes back to the Lower East Side as a kind of evil knight, fighting crime and depravity. He fails and we mourn with him.

If you could spend the day with your character, what would you do? What would that day look like?

It would be a miraculous journey.  I would go back to the land of my childhood and see the sad melody of the streets and bathe in it. 

What’s your take on research and how do you do it?

I read and read and look for details.  Sometimes you have to read for a month to find one historical detail that you can use, but that detail can add to the mystery of what you are writing. I feel like I’m a deep-sea diver on dry land.  

Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write?

It’s hard to say which writers influenced me, I can only say which ones I love.  The two I love most are not even novelists – they are Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.  And what I love about them is you never know where their language will take you.

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

I’m an avid ping pong-player. I play religiously with my coach.  I was once a tournament player in France.  I played an exhibition match with the world champion.  He won.

Your favorite go-to drink or food when the world goes crazy!

I discovered magic food at a stand at the West Village Farmers’ Market.  It’s made by Native Americans; it’s called pumpkin nut bread.  I devour it every day.

Do any devils appear in your novel?

No one has ever really looked into the sad poetry of the Lower East Side during the period of great immigration from Europe.  Henry James wandered these streets and was horrified, thinking that Yiddish would devour the English language.  What a fool he was, for such a great man, Yiddish devoured nothing but itself and has only enriched the English language.  Note: Henry James appears in the novel.

LOL! Thank you for such a fun and enlightening interview!! Give Chole an ear scratching for us!!

Jerome’s novel RAVAGE & SON releases tomorrow:::

A master storyteller’s novel of crime, corruption, and antisemitism in early 20th-century Manhattan

Ravage & Son reflects the lost world of Manhattan’s Lower East Side—the cradle of Jewish immigration during the first years of the twentieth century—in a dark mirror.

Abraham Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, serves as the conscience of the Jewish ghetto teeming with rogue cops and swindlers. He rescues Ben Ravage, an orphan, from a trade school and sends him off to Harvard to earn a law degree. But upon his return, Ben rejects the chance to escape his gritty origins and instead becomes a detective for the Kehilla, a quixotic gang backed by wealthy uptown patrons to help the police rid the Lower East Side of criminals. Charged with rooting out the Jewish “Mr. Hyde,” a half-mad villain who attacks the prostitutes of Allen Street, Ben discovers that his fate is irrevocably tied to that of this violent, sinister man.

A lurid tale of revenge, this wildly evocative, suspenseful noir is vintage Jerome Charyn.