Author Dete Meserve asks in her novel “Good Sam” (Melrose Hill, 2014) whether acts of kindness would ever make the nightly news or front pages of print media. “We are constantly bombarded with stories about senseless murders, natural disasters, tragic accidents, massive fraud and the dark side of the American dream,” she notes on her home page. “I wondered what would happen if someone were doing extraordinary good? Would the news media even cover it?”
Meserve is the final author in year four of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Author Series. She and Santiago wrap the series at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, on the deck of Cafe Aroma.
With a background in broadcast media, much of it in public radio and television, Meserve understands the headline-grabbing nature of what is dark — accidents and atrocities to which we are drawn and cannot look away. In her present career as president of Wind Dancer Films, she develops and funds films and television series, and must, therefore, know what the public wants to see and what sells.
However, just as Kate Bradley, her central character in “Good Sam,” understands the dark underbelly of urban living, covering the “Bummer Beat” (tragedy) — the alleyways and neighborhoods of Los Angeles that are avoided by most — for a TV station, Meserve is fascinated by how even the most deeply wounding acts and events call out people who come to help, motivated by a desire to assist and do good. That was her impetus to write “Good Sam,” reviewed by Kirkus Reviews as “a fast-paced mystery/romance that’s well grounded in the nitty-gritty details of TV news.”
And in a life-imitates-art story, “Good Sam” the novel has inspired readers to perform acts of kindness. Meserve posts their “Good Sam” stories on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/GoodSamBook.
Meserve has moved steadily through the corridors of Hollywood power in her job bankrolling major studio film and television projects. She knows, as she said, how to “land your ship on a dime,” and that every dollar spent needs to show up in the product. Because of her experience as a movie executive, she decided, as a first-time novelist seeking publication, to go the self-publishing route. She had won the 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards Contest in Women’s Fiction and wanted to retain rights and control of how her novel would be marketed. “This way it’s my own and the readers’,” she said. “This is a powerful message, the search for good, and I wanted it to be handled in a certain way.”
Asked about how she writes, Meserve said, she starts with character, in this case her protagonist and the central idea of how a jaundiced news reporter, good at covering the seamy side of back-alley beats, learns to find hope in following a good Samaritan story to its conclusion — who is the person or persons leaving $100,000 in cash on the front porches of the down and out in Los Angeles and why is he, she or they performing these acts. Asked if she knew how her novel would end when she began, she said no, she didn’t. “There are three phases to writing a novel,” she said. “In the beginning you start out, in the middle you get stuck and an ending must be earned,” – from the progress of the characters and events that play out in an engaging fashion.
Said Meserve of “Good Sam” and a second novel also featuring Bradley, “I’m truly convinced that there is far more good going on in this world than the news media have time or commercial inclination to tell us.”
There is no charge for Santiago’s interview with Meserve, but Santiago advises, since all events have been standing-room only, to arrive early to secure good seats.