SanTan Sun News Article about “Not on My Watch”
Chandler author’s 2nd novel right out of headlines
Chandler author Howard Gershkowitz’s second novel departs from science fiction and focuses instead on fraud and corporate greed.
A couple years ago, Gershkowitz, a Chandler resident for 19 years who has been in the financial services industry for 35 years, published the “The Operator” – a novel set in Prescott that involves time travel, the economy and romance.
This time, his new book, “Not on My Watch,” is a thriller inspired by some news stories he read. It involves a nurse who, with her broker/boyfriend, must stop the merger of the only locally owned, independent hospital with a ruthless conglomerate out of Boston intent on turning it into a Medicare mill. “This book was inspired by an article about a hospital back east that was indicted for Medicare fraud to the tune of $100 million.” Gershkowitz explained. “I thought that was outrageous, especially because of the business I’m in where corporate greed often takes center stage.”
He recalled how he had interviewed a hospital chain administrator while doing research for the novel “and was assured nothing of the kind could happen there because of their checks and balances.”
Four weeks later, Gershkowitz read that one of that administrator’s hospitals in the southeast was similarly indicted on Medicare fraud totaling well over $100 million.
“They were recommending unnecessary procedures to seniors specifically because they were easy to perform, relatively benign and carried the highest reimbursement rates in the Medicare universe,” said Gershkowitz, calling it “sickening to hear about.”
“Watch” was actually written before “The Operator” while Gershkowitz was attending a creative writing class at Scottsdale Community College.
“It was initially a short story,” he explained “but it motivated me to continue expanding it till it was a full-length novel.” He recalled writing the bulk of it in longhand as he sipped coffee in the Starbucks inside the Barnes & Noble bookstore, where the novel begins.
After failing to get any nibblers from publishers, he put that manuscript aside and started work on “The Operator” – which continues to sell well. Then he turned back to “Not on My Watch” and had a harrowing discovery: “It wasn’t very well written. It was my first attempt and it showed.”
Gershkowitz applied the lessons he learned in editing and writing “The Operator” and now believes “Watch” is even better than it.
It’s also been thoroughly researched and Gershkowitz said he made sure that even the streets, buildings and other landmarks in his book exist and were accurately spelled and portrayed.
Still, Gershkowitz is busy on his third novel, about assisted suicide, that also was inspired by something he had read.
“I have two other manuscripts in the works, ‘License to Steal’ and ‘The Painter,’” he said. “The characters are all different, as are the plotlines and underlying issues.”
His hope is to have all three novels completed in the next 18 months.
Though he has been in the financial planning business for three decades, Gershkowitz said, “Writing is what I hope to be my next career.”
after the vaccines arrived on scene, that it was “There was such uncertainty everywhere, even difficult to concentrate on writing.”
“I’ve always journaled,” he said. “I’ve always written poetry. I always wanted to be a writer, but I knew I had to earn a living. My son works with me. He’s also my best friend. He and I talk about making sure there was consistency from page one through the final lines required constantly re-reading and adjusting things,” he said.
As for the subject itself, besides reading, he also relied on a retired Arizona State University professor, Sharon Lohr, who has published several books on crime data and studied Medicare fraud.
Yet, anyone who might think the pandemic and its shutdowns and workat-home orders comprised a boon to Gershkowitz’s muse would be mistaken.
Indeed, he’s found the pandemic a huge distraction.
“There was such uncertainty everywhere, even after the vaccines arrived on scene, that it was difficult to concentrate on writing,” he said, admitting it was “ironic that I had more free time during the shut-down, yet the motivation to write seemed to evade me.
He said his son, Robert Gershkowitz, a financial planner, recommended writing classes. The determined Howard has taken classes at community colleges and Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, as well as in workshops around the country.
“People told me I have a natural talent for it,” he said. “Coming up with ideas for stories and poetry and even novels isn’t a problem. You need to be able to work on characterization and the plot.”
Gershkowitz is planning a couple book signings – 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Tempe Library, 11 a.m. Nov. 6 at Desert Foothills Library and Nov 13, I will be in Prescott at the Elks Lodge for the PAAHC Thumb Butte Book Festival. “The Operator” has five-star ratings on Amazon.com and on Goodreads.com.
Both “Not on My Watch” and “The Operator” are available at Amazon.com.