"There is always a brave new world," said Poirot, "but only, you know, for very special people. The
lucky ones. The ones who carry the making of that world within themselves."
— AGATHA CHRISTIE
In October 2005 I received a letter from a reader who was going to be in Houston — my home
— over the Thanksgiving weekend; she wondered if she might spend some time with me to nail down
the ideas she had explored in my books. I agreed, with the understanding that I had a purpose of my
own: I wanted to use our conversation, taped and edited, as the basis for a new book I had in mind.
At her request I have replaced her name with another, of her choosing. What follows is a lightly
edited transcript of our dialogue.
Although references are made herein to the fact that I've written other books, the reading of these
other books is not in any way a prerequisite to reading this one. To put the matter a different way, in
writing this book, I have not assumed that the reader will be familiar with any of the ideas put forward
in earlier works.
Elaine [after an exchange of the usual civilities]. As you can imagine, I'm very curious to know about
the book you're working on.
Daniel. It would be nearer the truth to describe it as a book I've been struggling with on and off for the
past five years — at least. I'll try to explain... When I finished Ishmael, I imagined that I'd done what I
set out to do a dozen years before. I thought that this was it and that my work was done. A very naive
Elaine. Why naive?
Daniel. Because no one with anything important to say has ever managed to encompass the whole of it
in one book. What I learned from writing Ishmael was how far short I'd fallen. This is what the
thousands of letters I received told me. Readers loved the book but came away from it with serious
misunderstandings of what I was saying. I thought I could correct those misunderstandings with a
second book, The Story of B. From the reaction to that book, I saw that a third was needed. Th