OUR WRITERWORKING GUEST TODAY IS DICK MOOMEY, A MAN OF MANY TALENTS, SKILLS, AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS, AS YOU’LL LEARN IN THE INTERVIEW BELOW. DICK’S BECOME A FRIEND OF MINE VIA CYBER-SOLSTICE EVEN THOUGH WE LIVE 3000 MILES APART AND HAVE NEVER SHAKEN HANDS NOR LIFTED A GLASS TOGETHER. NEVERTHELESS, I KNOW HE HAS A TALE OR TWO TO TELL, AND I THOUGHT READERS OF WRITERWORKING WOULD ENJOY HEARING A FEW OF THEM.
AT THE END OF OUR CONVERSATION, YOU’LL FIND AN OPPORTUNITY TO LINK DIRECTLY TO HIS CURRENT HOT LITERARY NUMBERS.
NOW, ON TO DICK MOOMEY.
WW: Before we get down to literary matters, I’d like you to talk a bit about your theater background, both as performer and director. What got you interested in stage work in the first place?
DM: In 1964, the Teacher’s Association decided to do a Broadway show to establish a scholarship in honor of our high school principal who was killed in a car accident the summer before. This was the first of twenty productions by the Monroe-Woodbury Teachers in Orange County, NY. The director was one of my music teachers who asked me to participate. I told her I could play the part of the rear end of the horse. By some form of luck I was given the part of Curly in Oklahoma and thus the beginning of 40 years in theatre. In the meantime I was principal of the Middle School and involved in trying to sell a new school to the public. But I was young then.
WW: What are two or three of the favorite roles you’ve played, and what made them special?
DM: I always loved the role of Oscar in The Odd Couple. I played it twice for two different productions. The director said it was type-casting and I tried not to be upset at being called a slob. Twice no less. In the musical field, I played about six leads in big musicals. I guess the biggest challenge was the part of Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate. Doing long songs by myself in the middle of the stage took some doing, but I guess this was my favorite. I also played Sky Masterson, a fun role.
WW: And what about directing? Can you name some favorites there and talk about them a bit?
DM: After some years of appearing in musicals, I thought I knew enough to try directing. When it seemed no one else was interested in directing, I put my hat in the ring and came up with Finian’s Rainbow, which surprised a lot of people. Not too many knew of this show. It is still my favorite and we even invited lyricist Yip Harburg to attend, which he did, appearing with two lovely ladies, one on each arm. He even came on stage to talk to the audience. They loved it, but one of the cast members thought he talked too long. Maybe he did? I also did Pajama Game that same year, but of the many shows I’ve directed it is impossible to pick favorites. Like your children, they all are favorites. Brigadoon, Carousel, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Sound of Music and on and on including a goodly number of non-musicals. You Can’t Take It With You was my favorite non-musical.
WW: I also understand you’ve starred in productions you’ve also directed. What’s it like switching back and forth between acting and directing?
DM: Actually, I never starred in shows I directed, but in every musical, I appeared in one fashion or another. In my direction of Oklahoma, years after the first one, I appeared in the most beautiful Indian head dress and costume. I sat on a boat during “It Was A Real Nice Clambake” in Carousel, and I sat at a table in Cabaret. I did play the dour undertaker in Our Town, but I was in a very black costume and almost blended into the scenery. My accent was pretty good, though. I’m not sure I could pull off a starring role while directing. A clashing of egos, most likely.
WW: All right, over to more novelistic activities now. What pulled you toward the crime and mystery genre?
DM: I always liked reading these books, so when I decided to write a novel I just naturally turned to this genre.
WW: I know your The Reluctant Witness is based on actual incidents that occurred when you were a boy growing up in upstate NY, close to the Canadian border during WWII. (Truth in advertising here. I was Solstice Publishing’s editor for this book.) How about a quick summary of the autobiographical details?
DM: My mother often took in boarders and usually teachers, but in the summer of 1942, she decided to board two masons who were hired to lay bricks in the ice cream plant. One was a sourpuss and a drunk, the other, Ernie, became my friend. We did things together including taking pictures along the St. Lawrence River, and my mother thought he was great too. A few months after the two left, my father came in with a copy of The New York Times with a photo of eight spies who had been caught in an FBI sting. Right in the middle was Ernie. He was sentenced to death, because he was a naturalized citizen, then had the sentence commuted to life and finally deportation to Germany. His job was to take pictures of possible landing sites for submarines who would bring espionage agents to the area. We all figured his role did little to alter the war as few if any photos ever got back to Germany. Not long after, the FBI descended on our little town to interview my parents and especially me, I was lucky they didn’t think I was a junior spy. They even went to the ice cream factory and tore out all the bricks. No bombs. They even tore out the bricks over our kitchen door which Ernie had replaced for Mom. Definitely, no bombs there. You said quick, but this is just a thumbnail sketch of the factual part of The Reluctant Witness.
WW: Aside from the Nazi spy activities that form the core of the action in The Reluctant Witness, one of the most exciting scenes recounts the appearance of Babe Ruth in your main character’s small town. He was on a train tour to sign baseballs in various locations. Did you yourself really see and get an autograph from the Bambino?
DM: I did embellish this scene a bit to fit the story. However, I did accompany my mother to the nearby town of Malone, NY where the Babe was scheduled to appear and sign autographs, especially balls. A huge crowd was gathered and when the Babe appeared I thought I’d pee my pants. Anyhow when it came by turn, I went up to the Babe with my brand new 25 cent ball. He messed my hair and signed the ball with a fountain pen. As I turned to go back to my mother I brushed up against one of Babe’s associates and the signature was messed up. I went back to my mother, crying, and she took out her good hanky and wiped the rest of the ink off and told me to go back up and get it signed again. Which I did, and the Babe even called me Kid. I might be the only young man to ever get the great Babe Ruth to sign his ball twice. I still have the very faded ball.
WW: The Boston Connection is your latest release from Solstice publishing. It takes place on and around the campus of a small private college. What was the genesis of this “seething” tale?
DM: I set out to write the first of a trilogy featuring a beautiful Boston PI and the ‘seething’ part was not there to begin with, but once I saw the possibilities of a pair of villains and wanting to make them most unique, I inserted the part you call seething. There are four sex scenes in the book, two among normal people; i.e., husband and wife. The other two are those which bring the antagonists to the front. Only at the end can the discerning reader know who the antagonists are but also to know why those sex scenes took place. The ending should come as a complete surprise, but I wonder if the reader connects the persona of Zorro and the mad woman. I’ll tell, but not here. The Saratoga Connection and The Cape Cod Connection are awaiting a publisher.
WW: In addition to multiple love affairs, The Boston Connection, also features multiple possibilities for the perpetrators of the novel’s crimes. Is that your normal novelistic M.O.? If so, would mind discussing your philosophy behind how you weave your villains into the action?
DM: Boston is one where I tried to build two villains, both with their own agenda. In my other books I try to keep the reader guessing but only with one possible antagonist. Every villain has to have strong and menacing personas which make the ultimate ending more satisfying. The blending of the bad guy into each story is unique to the plot line of the book. In all of my books, except The Reluctant Witness, which is an adventure, I try to have at least three to six possible candidates for the antagonist. In my upcoming novel, The Valley of Good and Evil, the villain is a victim himself, which gives the tale an unusual twist. I don’t recall books that have a bad guy exactly like this one. You could say Jekyll and Hyde, but that was a chemical-induced villain.
WW: Tell us a bit about your other projects, past, present and future. Where might we find Dick Moomey’s work popping up next, and what can we expect it to be like?
As I mentioned earlier, The Valley of Good and Evil will be coming out this summer. I’m about 100 pages into The House of Brabant, a potboiler, jewel thief thriller with an international flavor. A gang of jewel thieves are plotting to rob the vaults of the Royal Houses of Europe. The setting is in a small town in the USA and then moves to Europe and Brussels, Belgium and the first target, The House of Brabant. I also have a Young Adult Novel, The Mystery of Ghost Lake, which centers on home grown terrorists and a young man of fourteen and assorted friends who try to foil the thieves goals.
WW: Thanks, Dick, for a look at a unique career, on-stage and off. Too bad this format doesn’t allow for an excerpt from you singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.'” The best I can do is say, “Oh, What a Beautiful Interview,” thank you, and wish you the best of luck with the The House of Barbant as well as your other projects.
And, lest we forget, here’s how you can not only check out but purchase those fine works Dick discussed in the interview. I can attest to the fact that they are most rewarding reads, and I have reviews of both at the Amazon sites to back up what I’m saying here. Click on the image to get on over to Amazon and give yourself a treat.