Fiction and Nonfiction

My very first book signing took place at a Borders book store here in Las Vegas in 2002. I was geeked because, to my way of thinking, a real store signing made me a real author. That lasted all of three minutes, when a woman approached my little table near the front door and asked me to direct her to the restroom

The second woman actually showed an interest in my book, “Dice Angel.”

“What’s it about?” she asked.


I had my elevator speech locked and loaded. “It’s a mystery novel that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the real Las

She considered my answer for a moment, then followed up with, “Is it a fiction novel?”

Lesson learned. I rarely use the word “novel” anymore because people have no idea what it means. And, to this day, whenever my wife asks me what I’m writing or reading, I’ll tell her, “A fiction novel.”

Not too long ago, during a conversation with a business associate, he happened to mention that he never reads fiction. He said it proudly, as if all these made up stories are beneath him, a waste of his time. A younger version of me would have argued with him. But an older, wiser (and more tired) me just nodded. I’ve given up trying to change the world.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t blog about it. So here goes. When I think about the books that have changed my life, they’re all fiction. From my boyhood favorites, “Phantom Toll Booth” and “A Wrinkle in Time,” to my teenage fascination with the Travis Mcgee mysteries, through my counter-culture heroes Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, to my present-day admiration for Michael Chabon, the books that made a lasting impression are all novels. Fiction novels at that.

I’ll go a step further. These books changed me in a way that no other form of communication ever has. Even more than movies and music (which is saying a lot).

Certainly nonfiction has played a large role in my development (or lack thereof). Biographies, self-help, history, philosophy and the like. But the difference is in the emotional connection. Written fiction draws you in, makes you an active co-conspirator in the creative process. Nonfiction is more of a surface experience (unless it’s written like fiction, which is a whole ‘nother subject).

I guess it boils down to this: Nonfiction gives you the facts. Fiction gives you the truth.

Take that, my fiction-avoiding acquaintance. Of course, he’ll never see this. He’s too busy reading, “Who Moved My Cheese.”