Left Isis
Right Isis

March 19th, 2024

Jeff Siger

My Tell Me Your Story guest for March is one of my favorite fellow authors, the inimitable Jeffrey Siger. Jeff fled his career as a name partner in his own NYC law firm to live and write mystery thrillers on a Greek island. The novels in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series are always full of twists and turns, besides exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece in a tell-it-like-it-is style while touching upon the country’s ancient roots. The New York Times picked him as Greece’s thriller novelist of record, and Reader’s Digest Select Editions described him as one of its “new favorite authors.” He’s received Lefty and Barry “Best Novel” nominations, been Chair of Bouchercon, and served as adjunct professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College teaching mystery writing. Jeff blogs Saturdays on murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com and the 13th book in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, At Any Cost, has just been published. PLEASE don’t miss this series! Check out Jeff’s website at http://www.jeffreysiger.com

This is My Story…and I’m Sticking to It.

by Jeffrey Siger

If asked for an elevator pitch presentation of my life, it would go something like this:
I’m a mill town Pittsburgh kid who grew up with thoughts of becoming a writer/creative artist, but to please my Depression Era parents, I went to college intending to be a doctor, and ended up in law school on my way to Wall Street. There, I achieved significant financial success as a name partner in my own law firm––until a chance conversation with a longtime family friend led me to walk away from my legal career at its peak to write Greece-based murder mysteries on the Aegean Island of Mykonos.
To fill in the gaps just a bit…
I always had a passion for the arts, and as a high school freshman I won a national art award for sculpture. My parents praised me for it, but also suggested I concentrate on academics to better position myself for college and a financially secure professional career.

I’d also held childhood thoughts of becoming a writer, only to be utterly discouraged when my high school English teacher arranged for a senior to read one of his essays to my freshman class. That senior happened to be a teammate of mine on our school football team and his essay was simply spectacular. I instantly knew I could never be as good a writer as he or as any of the millions out there who likely could write at least as well. So, I added writing to my abandoned dreams of a career in the arts and retreated to an academic curriculum aimed at being the first in my family to graduate college.

The irony of it all is that, even with thirteen published books in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series to my credit (the latest being the just released AT ANY COST) and more on the way, my judgment was right about my teammate John Edgar Wideman. I could never be as good as John, for he is one of America’s greatest living writers, celebrated by such distinguished literary honors such as the PEN/Faulkner Foundation Prize (twice), MacArthur Fellowship, O’Henry Award, Lannan Literary Award, American Book Award, and Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

By when it came for me to select a college, I’d already fixed on becoming a physician. No question about it. That’s why I turned down an offer from Columbia University in favor a local college with a great reputation for getting its students into medical school. I saw no reason to take advantage of the broader array of career paths available at Columbia because, at eighteen, I knew precisely what I wanted to be in life. Besides, in the back of my mind lingered the thought that New York City (NYC) might be too big a place for this mill town kid.

But the Fates had other plans in store for me.

In college, I fell in love with political science and decided to abandon medicine for a professorial career in academia. When I told my father of my revised plans, he offered me more practical advice, “That’s great, but what are you going to do to eat?” With that in mind, I settled upon law school and from there it was on to the fast-paced, challenging world of heady litigation at a Wall Street law firm.

As exciting as that work was, I sensed there was something missing in my life, and immersed myself in pro bono activities that brought me face-to-face with some of the hot button issues of our times. I investigated suicides in NYC jails and helped establish programs that brought about institutional changes in corrections; defended Vietnam Era student protestors massed on NYC streets and occupying university buildings; and served in tip-of-the-spear capacities on roughshod Presidential and local campaigns–while respectfully declining to run for Congress.

Professionally, I joined friends who’d left our Wall Street firm to form their own law practice and served there as a name partner for more than three decades. Along the way, I became a principal owner of one of the hottest restaurant-bars in NYC’s emerging East Village.

In other words, I WAS LIVING THE LIFE.

Then came my fateful trip to Pittsburgh for a family event. I fell to talking with a friend who asked me what I haven’t done in my life that I wish I had. My knee-jerk response was “creative writing.” She said she felt the same way. Two days later, when I was back in NYC, I received an email from her containing a paragraph beginning with “Once Upon a Time.” I wrote back a paragraph, she reciprocated, and we went back and forth like that for months without either of us saying a word to the other.

One day, she called me out of the blue to say that she and her husband spent every other day waiting to see what I’d write next. She said they loved my writing, and I should do it full time. I said thank you very much, but giving up a financially secure law practice for likely writer’s poverty was not my idea of a sound decision. She said that nonetheless I should write something. And so, I did. Two drawer novels.

A few years after 9/11, I came to realize that writing was far more rewarding to me psychically than practicing law and took the leap my friend had suggested. I left for Mykonos to write about a place and people I’d known intimately for twenty plus years. And I’ve never looked back.

That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. In large measure because Mykonos is where I met my wife. ☺ But there have been other perks. For example, remember that youthful goal I had in college of becoming a professor? Well, my writing life gets credit for making that happen for me. Twice now, my alma mater (Washington & Jefferson College) has invited me to serve as an adjunct professor of English, teaching a semester-long seminar on Mystery Writing.

In reflecting upon the story of how I got to where I am today, I think the plot line is simple. Out of love, my parents pushed me toward what they thought would serve me best in life; and as surprised as they might have been at their stubborn eldest son actually listening, when it mattered most for my future, I did.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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