Ellie Brown of Redfield Publishers interviewed Larry Kahn before the launch of his first novel, The Jinx, as the millennium turned.
ELLIE BROWN: This notion of the 20-Year Jinx is really quite bizarre. When did you first have the idea to write this book?
LARRY KAHN: I first heard about the 20-Year Jinx in a high school Civics class. The teacher was joking about the 1980 election, which was still a couple of years away at the time. I wrote a short story with a similar theme in my freshman writing class in college.
BROWN: Did you start to wonder whether The Jinx was real when Reagan got shot in 1981?
KAHN: No. I try to keep an open mind about things that can’t be proven untrue, like psychic phenomena and extraterrestrial life, but rampant paranoia is not a part of my being.
BROWN: So you’re not worried about the 2000 election?
KAHN: I’m very worried about the 2000 election, but I don’t fear for the next president’s life.
BROWN: (Laughing) So, seriously, what are your concerns about the 2000 election?
KAHN: I’m afraid that we’re going to miss the opportunity to celebrate the millennium by doing something really big. I’m afraid that politicians will continue to get wrapped up in petty issues and miss the big picture.
BROWN: Revolutionary change, not evolutionary change. That’s one of the themes you hit hard in The Jinx. Is that what you really want to see?
KAHN: I don’t want to spoil the book for readers who want to experience the plot twists as they come, and I don’t know if we need to go to the extremes that the politicians go to in The Jinx, but yes, I believe that we need to take several steps back, look at the biggest problems facing the country today, and develop innovative solutions to those problems. The Republicans’ fixation on cutting taxes for the wealthy boggles my mind.
BROWN: Who among the current candidates do you think is most likely to bring about revolutionary change?
KAHN: Bill Bradley. I asked him to write a foreward for The Jinx, but he declined. He is the only one out there talking about making any one issue a national priority, and it just so happens that it’s the same issue I believe should be our focus–race relations.
BROWN: When did you develop such a keen interest in race relations?
KAHN: I’ve had a strong sense of fairness since I was very young. There were not many African-Americans in my school system growing up, but I wasn’t blind to the civil rights movement in the Seventies. I guess I first experienced racial divisiveness firsthand in college. We had one black student in a suite with eight guys. He was a nice guy, but one of the others made him really uncomfortable, so he moved out. I noticed a similar polarization in the cafeteria, in classes, all over. Then in law school, at Yale, we studied Constitutional Law and learned how discrimination against African-Americans had been sanctioned by the government for so many years. The unfairness seems so obvious, yet there are still people today who violently object to the mixing of the races in any way.
BROWN: Some of the descriptions of the white supremacy movement in The Jinx were mind-blowing. Are things really that bad?
KAHN: I was shocked. I did most of my research using the Internet, and most of the information I used in the book–their use of the Internet, the history, their beliefs–are accurate. Fragmentation of their efforts still seems to be the status quo, but the radical fringe scares me. There are people that believe that the millennium will bring the Apocalypse, and I have no idea whether there is any kind of joint undertaking by the white hate groups to do harm to African-Americans and Jews in this country when the millennium turns. I hope not, but that’s not the type of thing they’d advertise on the Net. Let’s just hope the FBI is doing their thing.
BROWN: Let me shift gears. How much of Ben Kravner is Larry Kahn?
KAHN: (Grinning a crooked grin) No fair. I thought this was going to be a softball interview.
BROWN: I lied.
KAHN: Fair enough. I think every author writes from personal experience to some extent, but I made a conscious effort to distance myself from Ben. For one thing, he’s more than ten years younger than me and is single. I got married the summer after I graduated law school, so I never had the conflict between work and romance that seems to pervade Ben’s mind. He’s also much more outgoing than I am even though he still suffers from some inhibition. He’s a lot like I’d like to be.
BROWN: Are you a dreamer like Ben?
KAHN: Definitely. Writing The Jinx after incubating the idea for 20 years was a dream come true. We’ve already touched on it, but I also dream big when it comes to politics. I’d like to see an end to racism in my lifetime.
BROWN: The Jinx is very much about emotional legacies. How have your parents influenced your life’s direction and how would you like to influence your children?
KAHN: That’s a good question. I think I was a very independent child, and the greatest thing that my parents did for me was to let me make my own decisions. We didn’t sit around and have family debates about national issues, but they encouraged me to read, motivated me to always strive to do my best and somewhere along the line they must have taught me to love.
BROWN: And your kids?
KAHN: That’s tougher because saying I’d do things differently comes across as critical of my folks, and that’s not my intent. I’m probably teaching my boys the same basics, but maybe placing more emphasis on personal satisfaction than on financial success. I was never pushed into being a lawyer, but that was held up as an example of a worthwhile career mostly because of the money. There are many things that are rewarding about a career in the law, but it’s a grueling lifestyle and there’s really not much to show for it after you’re gone.
BROWN: What do you want to show for your life after you’re gone?
KAHN: There’s another similarity between me and Ben–I have this tendency to lead with my chin. Well, first and foremost, I’d like my two boys to grow up to be happy, successful, honest, hard-working gentlemen. What better legacy can a man leave than that? That’s the easy one–“Loving Husband and Father” should be on every man’s tombstone. It’s tougher to talk about tangible evidence of my time on Earth because I’ve got an ego, and I don’t like to admit it. Sure, I’d love for The Jinx to be successful and widely read and acknowledged to be a good, intelligent piece of writing. I’d love to write more books. But even if I don’t find that public acclaim, I’ve got something tangible to hand down to future generations of Kahns that says I was here and I created something lasting. If that sounds like a man riding the back end of a midlife crisis, it’s only because it’s true.
BROWN: One last question. There are four women in The Jinx. Are any of them based on your wife and which of them is your favorite?
KAHN: Well, first, that’s two questions.
BROWN: Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.
KAHN: (Laughing) Okay, okay. No, none of them are based on my wife. I intentionally stayed away from basing the main characters on people that I know and love. They’re all products of my very vivid imagination. My favorite–that’s a tough one. You know which one Ben ended up with, but I don’t want to give that one away to the readers. They’re all very different. Debby has that sweet and playful side to her that I like, but she can be deceitful. Trust is important to me. Christy is a ball of fire. She’s so tough and ornery she’d probably intimidate me. Kimberly is every guy’s fantasy, but she’s not as well-developed as the others. She’d be fun to play with for awhile, but I’d get bored if I didn’t find any more dimensionality. LaRosa’s intelligent, beautiful, but maybe a little bottled-up and too high-powered for me. All those meaningful debates might tire me out. I’d rather just cuddle.
BROWN: Thank you very much, Larry.
KAHN: You’re welcome and thank you. I don’t get to talk about myself all that often.
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