Jesse Miles grew up in central California, where his ancestors had arrived from Arkansas and Oklahoma during the dust bowl migration. When he was eleven years old, his father took him on a business trip to Los Angeles. While his father was in meetings at the State building, Jessie walked around downtown L.A., saw a movie, and bought a Dragnet water pistol. While gazing at the ocean from the Santa Monica Bluffs, he decided he wanted to live in L.A.
During his college years in Orange County and Los Angeles, his part time and summer jobs included work as an insurance investigator in the Hollywood area. That work experience provided some thought-provoking insights into the human condition, laying part of the foundation for his writing detective novels.
He earned an MBA at UCLA and put in three decades with a large corporation, working mostly in computer security. Over the years, he worked with a wide range of law enforcement and military intelligence veterans, learning many lessons of criminality, investigations, and survival. Jesse currently lives in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles. His interests include classic films, pro football, and Formula 1. In his spare time, he goes to the gym and hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains.
FAQs with Jesse Miles
What made you want to write?
During my corporate career, I went through a phase where I read all the Raymond Chandler mysteries back-to-back. The stories jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. I had never seen words used so economically and so effectively. I knew then that I had to write L.A. private detective fiction. This was a big turnaround for me. I had been a science fiction reader since the age of ten. During college, I had entertained the idea of writing science fiction, but not crime fiction.
How did the Jack Salvo character come about?
Full-time work and youthful restlessness made writing difficult, but I hacked away over the years, and the Jack Salvo character began to take shape. I read Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Elmore Leonard, Ross MacDonald, Robert Parker, Mickey Spillane, and others. I read some of their novels a second or third time. I read Raymond Chandler again and again, with a special reverence.
Most of Salvo’s qualities are traditional. Like a knight or Western hero, he has to be strong and brave, and possess a hard-wearing sense of justice. He has to feel empathy for victims and anger at predators. He has to be a soft touch for those in need. Like a savvy cop, he observes the human condition with a balance of cynicism and hope. With regard to integrity, he is no angel, but always honorable.
Where did the philosophy angle come from?
When I was in college, there was a brilliant young professor in the Philosophy Department. He wasn’t athletically inclined, but he had the size and appearance of an NFL quarterback. He had movie star looks and a top-drawer Ph.D. We’ll call him Professor X. In addition to publishing scholarly papers in philosophy journals, he was a true educator. He wasn’t happy until he saw light bulbs blazing over his students’ heads. He was mild-mannered and polite, like Clark Kent. He was the sort of man who would speak to the custodian in the same cordial tone as he would to the college president.
I don’t know what sparked this thought, but somewhere in the development of the Jack Salvo character, I asked myself, “What if Professor X were a tough guy with a short fuse? What if he were inclined to punch the noses of the phonies, bullies, and other degenerates he encounters? What if he had a compulsion toward frankness and sarcasm that precluded his fitting into a scholastic setting?” It seemed like an entertaining blend of erudition and grit, and I went with it.
Where did the espionage angle in DEAD DROP come from?
My corporate career was with a large aerospace company. I worked mostly in computer security and other phases of security. My coworkers included retired LAPD cops who had shot down armed robbers, raided porno movie productions in the Hollywood Hills, and met Chicago gangsters at the airport and “suggested” they go back where they came from. My favorite cop stories were of the 1950’s “Hat Squad” detectives who were stationed in the Los Angeles City Hall. I also worked with retired military intelligence officers who had done clandestine work in various worldwide locales.
As a group, the retired cops and operatives were conscientious, tough, and honorable. They were a good-natured group with an appreciation of ribald humor. They were also somewhat deficient in their written communication skills. I was frequently pulled into committees and special projects, so I could write the final report.
One of my career high points occurred during a security conference in Arlington, Virginia. I found myself in a small group that included California Congressman Bob Dornan, FBI Associate Deputy Director Oliver “Buck” Revell, and a Russian KGB defector named Stanislav Levchenko. I’ve often thought that my being in that rarified air was the starting point for the espionage story in DEAD DROP.
Where did the Russian ballet angle come from in CHURCH OF SPILLED BLOOD?
Some of my readers are surprised that CHURCH OF SPILLED BLOOD takes place against the background of Russian ballet. They ask me, “How the hell did you ever get interested in that?”
A few years ago, I was working in an office full of computer programmers. On a Friday morning one of the programmers came to work wearing a long face. We’ll call him Spike. He said, “My wife is making me go to the f****** ballet on Sunday. I have to wear a f****** suit and sit there like I have a stick up my ass and watch people prance around the stage in weird costumes.” The guys in the office, including me, were deeply sympathetic. We knew nothing about ballet.
Monday morning Spike came into the office and said, “The ballet was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” Wide-eyed and dead serious, he described the dancers’ strength and agility, how the dancing blended perfectly with the music, and the great-looking Russian ballerinas. Spike was a smart, educated, macho sort, and I figured if he liked the dance performance, there must be something to it.
I bought two ballet videos, and I was impressed, to say the least. The big turning point was when I saw the Mariinsky Ballet perform live in L.A. Since then, I’ve seen the top Russian companies many times, mostly from the front row. The Russians are analogous to the NFL. The other ballet companies around the world are more like college football.
The best ballerinas have a rare combination of athleticism, artistry, girlishness, and guts. They endure rigorous training and a brutal selection process. They perform in front of discerning audiences, without a trace of stage fright. The French call it sang froid (cold blood). I call it heart-warming.
When do you write?
I like to get up early and write for five or six hours. After that, my brain usually slows down. I try to write another two or three hours in the evening. On occasion, I get in a zone and write all day and into the night.
I have a story idea (or a manuscript). May I send it to you for your review?
For legal reasons, I cannot accept unsolicited material.
Do you answer the emails you receive?
I review my emails, and I enjoy hearing from my readers, but I cannot guarantee a response to all of them.