Wine and Travel Writer Kia McInerny

hen I lived in Tucson, our 7th grade English teacher took the class on a field trip to the Tijuana bullfights. The heroics of the sport seemed dubious to me. But I started reading "The Sun Also Rises," by Ernest Hemingway. I was previously unacquainted with Hemingway, associating him with a series of grainy sport-fishing photographs taken in Cuba for Life magazine. The book made a strong impression. The cover was new. The pages were uncut. I was probably the first student to check it out from the school library, and possibly the last, as the cotton town of Marana, Arizona, population 75, was not much for high-toned stories of promiscuity ~ let alone Europe.

At age 13, I became convinced my life would be just like Jake Barnes' or, failing that, Lady Brett Ashley's. I accepted the tragic fact their affair was doomed, due to Jake's ambiguously described war wound, but thought their romance was fine and high-minded just the same.

At age five in Westport, Connecticut, I began composing poems on a toy typewriter that was a gift from my aunt. I found an audience for my stories in kindergarten, using my milk carton as narrator. Peas and Cheerios also contributed inspiration. Following my parents' move to Tucson, I wrote Poe-inspired short stories.

In my twenties, it came to me that I could not possibly be a lost child of the Rockefellers.' I obtained a law degree and passed the California bar. The first individual who sought out my legal services was a Mafia don from a Florida prison. I declined. Not before musing upon the proper attire for a client interview in a penal institution. After an interesting if unpredictable career trying to rein in high-flyers in real estate and finance, I took up writing again. Every morning I wrote at a Brentwood café, scribbling over my double latte, and handing out dollar bills to the area's nattily-dressed panhandlers.

I was not the only one foisting cash on strangers then. It was a time of "trickle-down" economics. Ten-dollar bills were freely conferred upon parking valets, car wash attendants, polite young men in the street. I was happy to participate, until the morning I overheard my personal panhandler admit he made more than $100 a day. With his pressed jeans and solid work ethic ~ showing up every day to shake down rent-control preppies ~ and the time I was spending away from my practice, I would soon be unable to match his income. I decided to be a published writer.

Having admired the novels of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett (I read "The Long Goodbye" during breaks at the Bar exam) the first book I wrote was an LA-Noir detective novel titled Murder in Malibu, featuring laidback, forty-something Harrison Gavin.

Soon I had the interest of several agents. Sending a book off to a New York agent with an auspicious letter of introduction is exhilarating. This was a happy time. I was an author. The writing was, as Hemingway might have said ~ good. In the first agent's decline letter, however, she revealed a sadistic streak. Her tone went beyond patronage into malice. Puzzled, but undeterred, I went on to write two more novels, a series of stories and a score of wine/travel features. In terms of an enthusiastic following, I think my star burned brightest in kindergarten. Yet, as Jake Barnes might observe, in the writing game, there are always more adventures to come.