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.
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