John P. Davidson’s journey, the path that would eventually lead him to write “The Obedient Assassin” began when he was a young man visiting in Mexico. In this interview, the author discusses how he went from a casual visitor to the author of a novel about a deposed Russian leader who was assassinated in Mexico on Joseph Stalin’s orders.
“I spent six months alone on a Texas ranch writing short stories to test my resolve as a writer,” said Davidson. “While there, I read ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ without having any idea what I was getting into.” The works known as “Remembrance of Things Past” are an English translation of a more than 4,000 word, seven-volume series written in French by Marcel Proust. The English translations of the series were published between 1922 and 1931.
During his time on the ranch, Davidson said, “I swam the Rio Grande River with undocumented Mexican workers and hiked through South Texas brush country to research ‘The Long Road North.” (Davidson’s first book, “The Long Road North,” was published by Doubleday in 1980.)
“I have been going to Mexico City since I was 19 and it has taken me decades to really understand the culture,” said Davidson. On one of his trips, Davidson had an epiphany that inspired “The Obedient Assassin.” He said, “Walking through the Trotsky House Museum in Mexico several years ago, seeing the bullet holes in the walls, I began to wonder why I didn’t know such a dramatic and amazing story—particularly given that I had been to the museum before. I slowly understood that I had been so indoctrinated by Cold War rhetoric that I couldn’t recognize Trotsky’s basic humanity until after the fall of communism.”
Eventually, Davidson did recognize Trotsky’s humanity along with something else. He said, “Today, when political rhetoric has become so irresponsible and inflammatory, I would like for readers to see how dangerous propaganda can be. In addition to being a love story, ‘The Obedient Assassin’ is the story of Ramon Mercader’s political education.”
With the idea for a book in mind, Davidson began the writing process. The process was nothing new to Davidson, he’d held senior editorial positions at Texas Monthly, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and Vanity Fair. As a freelance writer, he’d contributed to magazines such as GQ, Fortune, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, and Elle.
It was Davidson’s experience as a writer that helped him realize there was a way to make his book better. He said, “I wrote three drafts of ‘The Obedient Assassin’ as nonfiction before deciding it had to be a novel, telling the story from the point of view of the assassin.”
Whether Davidson will write another novel remains to be seen, however, he will definitely keep writing. In fact, with the novel completed, yet not sold, Davidson needed a new project. While he waited for his agent to find a publisher for the novel, he took on an assignment that demonstrates his proficiency as a writer. He said, “I went undercover to a butlers’ school for Harper’s Magazine to write about income inequality and the super-rich. The story was on the cover of the January issue.”
Learn more about John P. Davidson on his website at johnpdavidson.com.
Find Terry’s featured content with real scam tips, more bestselling author interviews, and book reviews at terryambrose.com.