Ray Merritt has enjoyed a successful writing career for over thirty years. His A Thousand Hounds (Taschen) was selected Best Book of the Year, 2000, by New York Magazine. The New York Times called it a “goody pack.” Entertainment Today awarded it “most creative book of the season” and Animal Fair dubbed it “a masterpiece.” Full of Grace (Damiani) was named PDN Magazine’s Best Book of the Year in 2007. Oprah Magazine called it “dazzlingly elegant, elegiac and exhilarating.” Kirkus dubbed it “gripping” and Publishers Weekly “captivating.”
Clamour of Crows, represents Ray’s entry into the world of fiction and similar accolades followed. Kirkus calling it “A tightly plotted debut mystery that mixes foul play, wordplay, and humor that will appeal to mystery buffs who don't require sex and gore—and to those harboring fond memories of reading J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll.” Library Journal hailed it, reporting that “Merritt's fiction debut is a sparkling blend of wit, puzzles, and suspense.” A National Public Radio broadcast said that “As revelations about money laundering, contested wills and all manner of financial crimes and misdemeanors continue to make the news, Clamour of Crows could not be a more timely tale.” And Blackstone Audio produced an unabridged audiobook version.
Ray, his wife, Carol, and their shelter dogs, live in Sag Harbor and New York City. With that, I introduce Ray’s blog
* * *
“The question has been posed: Why do so many lawyers write fiction? For some the answer is simple: Because they can. Eric Gardner gave us Perry Mason, John Grisham created Jake Brigance, while Scott Turow, Meg Gardiner, Richard North Patterson and Louis Auchincloss all have created riveting stories told with engaging narratives. Most of these writers were litigators who honed their writing skill by authoring briefs and arguing cases and in doing so they often had to use their imagination to craft the defense of clients or forge the prosecution of defendants.
“I envied their opportunity and experience, for corporate lawyers rarely create scintillating prose. They write contracts, not briefs. They have no eloquence, no flourish . . . just the facts, so to speak. No one has ever been enthralled by a merger agreement, an indenture or an acquisition contract.
“So why after many decades of numbing my imagination with turgid dry text would I—a lifelong corporate lawyer—attempt to cross over and write fiction? The answer lies in the challenge and also in the opportunity to educate, elucidate and entertain. Fiction writing involves creativity and as such is an art form, permitting one to set the facts and circumstances in such an order that they create a new, albeit imagined, reality. It is the written embodiment of one’s own imagination. Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Goethe called it the process of 'becoming.' For a writer moving from the frozen prose of the law, it is indeed that. Writing fiction releases your inner Cliffy as you go beyond the simple recitation of facts and reposition them into an alternate reality that informs, educates and entertains—and hopefully enlightens.
“I find writing fiction a challenge. It tests your mettle as a dreamer. Perhaps the difference between composing fiction and writing facts is the same as the difference between the photojournalist and the art photographer. The first is fact-limited and fact-driven; the second has no limits other than the size of the paper. In a sense, that is what I find in fiction writing—the page is blank. There are no restrictions. You are not limited to reality. You can test your mettle as an artist... and a dreamer. Chesterton said that fairytales are more than truth, 'not because they tell us dragons exists; but they tell us dragons can be beaten.' Clamour of Crows is in large part a modern-day fairytale.
“I must confess I’m not adept at public speaking. I would have made a terrible preacher. Perhaps that is why I never wanted to be a litigator. For me, fiction writing is an outlet for creativity—a seductive pulpit. I find it therapeutic and pleasurable. The act of creating a story is a special kind of high. As a storyteller, fiction permits me to tell stories without breaking professional confidences. It allows me to explore new challenges instead of dwelling on old ones and in the process to raise questions without giving answers. Put under oath, I would have to confess that I do it because I like it. Telling a good story puts me in a better place. For me, fiction is not an escape from reality but a way to revisit it. I like life’s ambiguities. I respect man’s imperfection. In the preamble to Clamour of Crows, I wrote: 'Most men die forgotten. Heroes and villains live on. The best and the worst and a few who were both.' Humanity’s best trait is its imperfection and that is what I like to write about.”
* * *
WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS below. If you wish to get in touch with Ray directly you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Clamour of Crows is readily available from Amazon and other online retailers as a hardcover or ebook, through your local bookstore, or directly from us at a 50% discount if you mention reading about it on this blog by emailing email@example.com and placing your order, or by phone, Monday through Friday, between 11AM and 5 PM (EST) at 631-725-1101.
Anyone else out there who is interested in writing a blog for The Cockeyed Pessimist can also contact me at that same phone number or by sending me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).