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Look in the mystery, thriller or crime fiction section of any bookstore and the name "Kellerman" is on prominent display. Combined, husband and wife Jonathan and Faye have some 50 novels to their name, and their son Jesse is
a rising star who already has three titles under his belt at age 30.
And in the next few months Jonathan himself will have so many new tomes of his own in stores that readers could be forgiven if they think he's at least three people. Bones, book 23 in his psychologically intense series featuring L.A. psychologist Alex Delaware, releases at the same time as With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars (both from Ballantine), a $75 coffee table book packed with photos of the 120 guitars in his vast and valuable collection. He also served as editor (with Otto Penzler and Thomas H. Cook) of The Best American Crime Reporting 2008 (Harper Perennial), and next March another of his novels,
"I don't set out to be manic or anything, but every so often I get these bursts of inspiration," says Kellerman, 59, a fast talker, speaking from his home Los Angeles, the city where psychologist Alex Delaware again helps homicide detective Milo Sturgis bring a sadistic and twisted killer to justice in Bones. After the bodies of several women, mostly prostitutes, are unearthed, police are puzzled when one victim turns out to be a young musician and tutor. Is there more than one killer on the loose?
"My books come from months and sometimes years of thinking and percolation and taking notes, and they generally come from multiple sources," says Kellerman, a psychologist like Delaware, explaining why it's difficult to pinpoint the inspiration for his latest story. "They always come down to family psychopathology in Southern California and how it can take some nasty turns."
It's much easier to chart the course for With Strings Attached, which Kellerman compares to an autobiography. He worked his way through school playing in bands for weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like. "I never had any money, so I always had really lousy instruments," he recalls. "The minute I got a little bit of money I would trade up and buy a better instrument, and over the years I kept doing it. Then I started to realize that these things were appreciating at a high rate and just wanted to keep buying."
Kellerman has set up a mini-museum in his house that has drawn the attention of musicians and high-end dealers. (It's how he met Andy Summers of The Police, who wrote one of the book's two introductions.) And he has no trouble picking his favorite
guitar -- a classical one from the 1800s made by Antonio de Torres, considered the Stradivari of guitar makers, that he bought at auction last year for $130,000.
The guitar has also helped Kellerman channel his post-writing energy. "I'm also a painter, but I can't paint after I finish writing. A neurosurgeon I asked said it's because you're using the same visual sensors of the brain, you're wearing out the nerves. But I can play music, so practicing for an hour or so is a very, very gratifying thing."
-- Diane Snyder
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