Liars and Tyrants and People Who Turn Blue
Cross Your Heart

The idea for this book came from an article in Newsweek I happened to come across. It seems there are people who can go into light trances and read "auras" around other people that indicate the presence of illness. The article was about technical advances in photography that now made it possible to take pictures of these auras.

The accompanying photographs were stunning -- the brilliant colors, the jagged path each color followed around the silhouette of the person emanating the aura. The technology for capturing this unusual sight is commonplace today, but in the late 70s it was still new.

The vividness of those auras stayed with me long after I'd finished reading the article. What if it were possible to read auras that indicated something other than illness? What if someone could look at another person's aura...and know whether that person was telling the truth or not when he spoke?

So I wrote Liars and Tyrants, a novel about a woman named Shelby Kent who sees a red aura whenever someone tells a deliberate lie. And since everybody lies, she sees the world through a fluctuating haze of red.

Shelby's marriage suffers because of her unique talent. Her husband can't stand all the ribbing he gets because he can never lie to his wife. More sympathetic is Shelby's sister, a concert pianist with a bad case of stage fright.

Shelby works as a consultant to various police departments around the country, even though her testimony is inadmissable in court. Then the UN puts in a call for her services: someone is shipping defective arms to trouble spots in the world. The UN learns who the three people authorizing these shipments are, but it's Shelby's aura-reading that reveals why.

A lot of this story is comedy, and I used chapter headings for the first time -- the only time, in fact. When I finished the manuscript, I sent it off to my agent with a note that this one was SF...but just barely. So I was surprised when he sold it as a mystery.

I shouldn't have been. Genre names are just salesmen's labels anyway, to tell the bookstore owners where to shelve the new books. I was thinking neither "SF" nor "mystery" when I sat down to write. I was thinking only of the story of the world's only living lie detector.


Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine:
"Barbara Paul has given us five previous books, but she has rung the bell loud and clear with this fascinating new work....Liars is a witty book, swift to read, and highly entertaining. Among its many assests is a sister of the human lie detector who is a reluctant concert pianist. She alone is worth the price of the book, and the finish, involving her, is a beautiful device. You'll love every page of this one."

Houston Chronicle:
"Barbara Paul is a pro and it shows in her work. Liars & Tyrants is delicious, if for no other reason than a brief but classic bit of comedy which I will refer to here only as 'Shelby's Artichoke-Murder Monologue'."

The New York Times:
"It's a wacky title, as befits a wacky book, and it is altogether a superior entertainment.... Miss Paul has some barbed comments to make about the power structure. She also has a sense of the absurd and the ability to construct attractive people without making them mawkish. Liars is an offbeat book and rather wonderful in its way."

N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980, ISBN 0-385-15955-2
N.Y.: Pinnacle, 1981, ISBN 0-523-41607-5
N.Y.: International Polygonics, 1991, ISBN 1-55882-110-4
München: R. Piper, as Weh dem, der lügt!, 1993, ISBN 3-492-15570-7

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Page created June 28, 1995; last updated August 20, 2000.