The Schenectady Daily Gazette Article
Delmar Native Chesbro Turned "Insane Idea" into Hit Book Series
The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, NY
July 2000

An article by Marianne Comfort

Copyright © 2000 by The Daily Gazette. All rights reserved.
Reprinted here with the permission of George Chesbro and Marianne Comfort.

During a July 2000 book-signing tour of New York by George C. Chesbro, Schenectady's The Daily Gazette ran an article by Marianne Comfort about Chesbro and the Mongo series. The article was largely based on an e-mail interview. Mr. Chesbro thought you might be interested in seeing the original e-mail questions and answers, as well as the published article in its final form.


I'm sorry we've been missing each other. Anyway, I would like to get some comments from you about your background, your books and the upcoming book signings. So, if we don't hook up via phone, I'd appreciate your written responses to these questions:

(1) I know you grew up in Delmar and graduated from Bethlehem High School. Were you writing at that point? Did anything about those growing-up years in the Capital District inspire you on any of the themes in the Mongo series? Or are the books more inspired by life experiences and interests since moving out of the area?

(2) Your stories are certainly inventive and weave in a lot of elements, from international politics to religion and the mystical. Do you have any special background or interest in politics and international affairs? Or in religion? A lot of your villains are religious fanatics of some sort, whether that's wizards or a televangelist. Do you consider yourself a religious person, or someone very skeptical of religion?

(3) How did you come up with the main character, Dr. Robert "Mongo" Frederickson? He certainly is different from your typical sleuth, and tackles different types of crimes.

(3) How do you characterize your books? I've seen them described as a mixture of mystery, suspense and science fiction, but I'd be interested in what category you'd put them in. Or do you feel you've invented a whole new category.

(3) The release I received noted that the books have been re-issued, and the website notes that they're now back in print. Does that mean they've had another recent printing? Have they been released newly in paperback? I'm not clear on that.

(4) By my count, there are 14 Mongo books. Is that correct?

(4) Will you be reading from any of your works at these book signings? Or just signing autographs? What's it like to be returning to your home territory to promote your books?

(5) And, finally, where are you living now? The phone number tells me somewhere in the Hudson Valley, but I'm not clear exactly where.

I'm sorry to have to conduct interview this way. The questions seem so cold just written out like this. But I am on a tight deadline now and it seems we're having trouble hooking up via phone, so I'd appreciate any responses you can send off on any or all of above questions.

Regards, Marianne Comfort



Good Morning, Marianne!

I, too, am sorry we've kept missing each other on the telephone. However, I will try to be as candid and responsive as possible in response to your very clever inquiries (you are well informed about my work!), and I hope that will suffice.

So now ve shall begin . . .

(1) Re. Delmar's effects on my writing; this will take some time.

No, I did not begin writing while at BCHS, but the seeds were planted there. Despite excruciatingly mediocre grades (I was a steady C to C- student), I suppose I was a pretty successful high schooler. A reasonably good jock, I was the first Freshman to make a varsity team (swimming), and was captain in my Jr. and Sr. years. Well-liked, I was also a skilled politician; Student Council every year, President of Student Council in my Senior year, President of my HS fraternity (Phi Delta Phi) in my Jr. and Sr. Years, King of the Sr. Prom, elected Permanent Class President. Yahoo.

As it turns out, looking back, in retrospect it seems I must have been very depressed. I remember being very impressed by the fact that Eva Marie Sainte was (reportedly) a graduate of BCHS, and I found that most remarkable; I could not imagine how anyone from Delmar/BCHS could ever really "be someone".

In college (Syracuse University) I hit a wall and shattered, and it would take me many years to find and pick up my pieces. I worked very hard, but still could not get better than barely passing grades. I still desperately wanted to be somebody, to achieve excellence, but it seemed I had absolutely no talents or skills to be exploited (I would never be a good student at anything, and my athletic skills were puny compared to the cast of scholarship All Americans on SU teams. Now I most certainly became profoundly depressed, and I imploded into myself. Although my political skills remained intact (elected President of my 500-man Freshman dormitory, rushed by virtually every fraternity on campus) this no longer meant anything to me. I declined membership in a fraternity, left the dormitory to live in a rickety old building off campus. I hurt terribly, and was terribly needy. I felt empty, and to fill that emptiness I fell into an atrocious relationship that I feared I would never escape from. It was in my junior year in college, totally mired and suffocating in this predicament, that I began writing as an escape from my life. Writing was the way I healed myself.

I did escape, and I did keep writing because I had discovered that I needed to write in order to feel whole and centered. It was 7 years before I ever published anything (a poem, for $1.00), but I kept on because I could not feel healthy without my writing. As the years went by and I became moderately successful, indeed launched a career as a full-time writer, I found I hated to go back to Delmar. After a day or so, just one night sleepover, I would find the "myself" I had worked so hard to create just draining out of me, and I would feel, once again, as empty as I had felt in HS (unconsciously) and in college (consciously). Why? Who knows? Undoubtedly it was because Delmar, with its homogeneity, reminded me with who I was then.

My feelings toward Delmar (and, of course, this is not the fault of Delmar, a neat little whitebread town if ever there was one!) is best expressed by the Simon & Garfunkel song, "My Little Town", and is best expressed in my work in Book One of The Beasts of Valhalla when Mongo must go back to his home town in Nebraska (read desolate), a prospect he absolutely abhors.

Aside from this theme in Beasts, most everything else comes from life experiences and interests developed after moving on.

Is that candid enough for you?

2. Re. the stories, thank you for your compliment about inventiveness. I have no idea where the plots come from (although I do try to have one totally insane idea every day, whether I need it or not). I have no special background in politics and international affairs, but I am intensely interested in such matters, and I read a lot. I'm also easily outraged.

Many of my villains are religious fanatics (a) because they're easy, and (b) because I despise them for the boundless human suffering and spiritual starvation they cause. I am not only not religious, but I am totally baffled by how such superstitious, destructive nonsense could possibly have survived to the present day. The only answer I can come up with is that it must have something to do with genetics, and I'm missing the superstition gene. I believe that an addiction to magical thinking, i.e. religious thought, can destroy us all.

For an expanded version of these remarks, I suggest you go to the web site (now and check out my article, Trusting In Wizards At The Dawn Of The Millenium.

Now is that candid enough?

How'm I doing?

3. Where did Mongo come from? One answer might be, "I drink a lot". Another might be, "I really don't know". In the 70's, when I was publishing short stories but had not had a novel published, I was searching for a series character, something different. A dwarf private detective was my insane idea for one of those days. Knowing that such a notion was not only preposterous but a waste of time, I tried to dismiss it and get on with serious business. Mongo would not be dismissed, and I will be eternally grateful; to him for his (characteristic) perseverance in invading my mind and refusing to leave.

4. I don't characterize my books, don't categorize them, and don't presume I've "invented" anything. I just write 'em, and I write about what interests me.

5. All of the books (and the ones to come) were originally published first in hardcover, then in paperback. Then they went out of print for many years. New Print-On-Demand technology has made it financially feasible for Apache Beach Publications to re-issue them now in a trade paperback format. It might interest you to know that a pristine 1st edition hardcover of Beasts goes for as much as $400.

6. 14 Mongo novels seems about right. In The House Of Secret Enemies, not yet reissued, is a collection of the 10 novellas that originally appeared in various mystery magazines before his debut in a novel. I have published 24 novels, upwards of 100 short stories, articles, poetry, etc.

7. I won't be doing any readings, just signing books for any fans who might show up wanting to buy a book. I have done many such book signings over the years, and coming back to my "home territory" doesn't disturb me the way it used to.

8 I live with my wife Robin in Nyack, NY (a really cool town), on the Hudson River, where we have a canoe in the boathouse and a catamaran on the beach. We don't have a lot of money, but we consider ourselves fabulously wealthy.

I understand you and my "official" bio failed to connect, so I will be sending that on in a follow-up e mail.

Thank you very much for your interest, Marianne, and I hope you will find these written remarks helpful. With you permission, after any article appears, I would like to put your questions and my written responses up on the Dangerous Dwarf web site. You and your paper would, of course, be credited. I would also appreciate your sending me a couple of tearsheets of any article that might appear. Finally, I would appreciate your letting me know (phone or e-mail) that you received this and the bio that will follow.

Thanks again, and be well. If you have a chance, please stop by at one of the signings and say hello to Robin and me. A "familiar face" is always welcome at these things (which can be atrocious), even if its a face I've never seen before.

All best,

George C. Chesbro


Delmar native Chesbro turned 'insane idea' into hit book series


George C. Chesbro can't tell you how he comes up with plots that blend mystery, international intrigue, science fiction and a touch of the supernatural. But he admits that trying to "have one totally insane idea every day" certainly doesn't hurt.

The author of the 14-book "Mongo" series says it was just one of those thoughts that, introduced him to his main character, a dwarf private detective, back in the 1970s.

"Knowing that such a notion was not only preposterous but a waste of time, I tried to dismiss it and get on with serious business," he says. "Mongo would not be dismissed, and I will be eternally grateful."

Dr. Robert "Mongo" Frederickson and his brother, Garth, mostly do battle against sorcerers and other "religious fanatics" in crimes that often involve international terrorism, ritual murders and psychological manipulation. While based in New York City, where he is a university criminology professor, Mongo also has tangled with the KGB, the security forces of the Shah of Iran and CIA agents in Haiti.

The adventures were published in hardcover between 1977 and 1996 by, at various times, publishing houses Simon & Schuster, Atheneum and Mysterious Press. The novels found a cult following in the United States, but were more widely popular in Europe, according to publicist materials. Now Chesbro's own publishing company, Apache Beach Publications, run by his wife, Robin Gass, has re-issued the books in trade paperback form.

Chesbro, a Delmar native and graduate of Bethlehem Central High School, will be returning to the Capital Region from his home in Nyack for a series of book signings over the next week.

Healthy outlet

Chesbro, 60, says that in high school he was mostly wrapped up in sports and student governance. His interest in writing grew while attending Syracuse University, when he was struggling with depression. He says that he needed to write "to feel whole and centered."

It was seven years before any of his work was published - a poem for $1 - "but I kept on because I could not feel healthy without my writing."

After graduating from Syracuse University with. a degree in special education, Chesbro taught developmentally disabled children until 1979, when he began writing full time. He has published 24 novels and dozens of short stories in mystery magazines.

Mongo, an ex-circus headliner and martial arts expert, became his most well-known character, first appearing in novel form in 1977 in "Shadow of a Broken Man," which sent the detective on an adventure that involved ESP and international intrigue. Subsequent books had the criminologist tangling with a variety of religious fanatics, from sorcerers involved in ritual murders to a dangerous televangelist whose path was traced through clues in a letter to Santa.

"I have no idea where the plots come from, although I do try to have one totally insane idea every day, whether I need it or not," Chesbro says. "I have no special background in politics and international affairs, but I am intensely interested in such matters, and I read a lot. I'm also easily outraged.

"Many of my villains are religious fanatics (a) because they're easy, and (b) because I despise them for the boundless human suffering and spiritual starvation they cause," he continues. "I am not only not religious, but I'm totally baffled by how such superstitious, destructive nonsense could possibly have survived to the present day."

Chesbro says most of his themes come from experiences and interests developed since moving away from Delmar. But he says the dread he used to feel when returning to his native area is summed up in Book One of The Beasts of Valhalla, when Mongo must go back to his home town in Nebraska, a prospect the character abhors.

Chesbro, who says he no longer becomes disturbed upon contemplating visits to his home town, will be signing his books at several venues over the next week: from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Waldenbooks in Colonie Center; at 7 p.m. Saturday at Flights of Fantasy Bookstore in Albany; at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Waldenbooks in Rotterdam Square mall; and at 7p.m. Friday, July, 7 at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Colonie.

Copyright © 2018, Hunter Goatley. All rights reserved.
Last updated 25-MAR-2018 21:44:34.83.