Michael Gruber was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public
schools. He went to Columbia, earning a BA in English literature. After college
he did editorial work at various small magazines in New York, and then went back
to school at City College and got the equivalent of a second BA, in biology.
After that he went to the University of Miami and got a masters in marine
biology. In 1968-69 he was in the U. S. Army as a medic.
In 1973, he received his Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. Then he was a chef at several Miami restaurants, a hippie traveling around in a bus and a roadie for various rock groups. After this he worked for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County, as an analyst, then as director of planning for the county department of human resources.
He went to Washington DC in 1977, and worked in the Carter White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy. From there he moved to the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy analyst and also as the speechwriter for the Administrator. In 1986, he was promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., the highest level of the federal civil service.
In 1984 his cousin, Robert Tanenbaum, a successful trial lawyer, called him from his offices in Los Angeles asking him to look at the first hundred pages of a book he had written at the request of the publishing house Franklin Watts (now part of Scholastic). He says "I called him, and I said, 'This is unsalvageable. It's not a novel, it has no characters, no plot, nothing.'"
In return for half the advance, Gruber rewrote the novel, they renegotiated the contract and went into business. This arrangement continued for 15 books. Gruber says he created the characters and the novels based on stories Tanenbaum told him, or transcripts of cases Tanenbaum had worked on. However, Gruber's credit was limited to a thank you on the acknowledgements page. Eventually the relationship dissolved - Resolve (2003) was the last Tanebaum book Gruber wrote.
In 1988 he left Washington, D.C. and settled in Seattle, where he worked as a speechwriter and environmental expert for the state land commissioner. He has been a full-time freelance writer since 1990, mostly on the Karp novels, but also doing non-fiction magazine pieces on biology.
He started writing The Witch's Boy in 1996, but was unable to find a publisher. So he wrote a thriller for adults, Tropic of Night (2003), set in Miami, Long Island and West Africa which tells the story of a series of ritualistic murders that sweep Miami. The book has strong supernatural elements, although Gruber points out, "there is no supernatural. It's all part of the universe, although the universe is queerer than we suppose." Two further thrillers starring Miami cop Jimmy Paz followed: Valley of Bones (2005 and Night of the Jaguar (2006). In 2005 he also published The Witch's Boy. In 2007 he published The Book of Air and Shadows, a standalone thriller about a lost Shakespearian manuscript. He is also the author of The Forgery of Venus and The Good Son.
He is married with three grown children.
This biography was last updated on 05/30/2016.
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Michael Gruber explains the inspiration behind his 2007 intellectual thriller, The Book of Air and Shadows
The Book of Air and Shadows was born during a conference with an
intellectual property lawyer on a particular afternoon in November of 2003. When
I say born, I mean nearly the whole plot popped into my head and I actually spun
it out as a narrative, really as an extended hypothetical in reference to the
reason I was sitting in the lawyer's office in the first place. The issue at
hand, which I won't get into, was essentially about the value of an oral
anecdote with respect to a work of fiction based on same. For example, a guy in
a bar tells you a story, and then you write a work of fiction about it, and the
guy in the bar comes back at you after the book's been published and says, in
effect, that's my story, all you did was put it into words, so I want to get
credit as a collaborator, you can't claim to have written the book ("our" book)
all by yourself.
So the intellectual property lawyer asks me about the various circumstances involved, and I tell him, and he says that the anecdote guy has a point and might be able to sue me. I might win such a suit, he said, but it would cost a ...
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