Clancy Martin is a professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He's also one-half of the Ethics Professors, a regular feature on Walt Bodine's morning radio show. And according to an interesting piece in this week's Newsweek, the prof just published a novel stuffed with true-crime called How to Sell, the meat of which is somewhat autobiographical.
"The first half of the book, especially, takes place when I'm a teenager and concerns things similar to what I
was exposed to in the jewelry business," Martin says. "The second half is much more
fictional. It's a coming-of-age story: this confused kid learns a few
lessons about life the hard way."
In real life, Martin was roped into his ex-con brother's unscrupulous
jewelry business in Texas after being kicked out of high school for a
drug problem. "I hated the business," he says. "It was just so full of
trickery and deceit."
In his late 20s, it became part of his morning routine that, while high
on cocaine, "I'd take my Glock, this Austrian handgun, and I'd go back
to the executive bathroom and...I'd
stare at myself in the mirror, trying to make myself kill myself. But
I couldn't do it, thank God. It was a very difficult time in my life."
He stayed with the jewelry business throughout college and graduate
school at the University of Texas at Austin. He later won a fellowship
to work on a dissertation on Kierkegaard in
Copenhagen, Demark. The jewelry business sucked him back in when, in
1993, his wife became pregnant and he needed the money. He ditched it
again in 2000 and sought his PhD, writing his dissertation at the
University of Texas in Austin about Nietzsche's
theory of deception. He was hired at UMKC in 2003. After years of
swindling diamond-buyers, he now teaches -- wait for it -- ethics.
He uses his own story in the classroom all the time, he says. "It's
good material! I talk about my dangerous road and my recovery."
He got an advance to write the novel but otherwise won't make any
profit off book sales until after the sale of "the first 66,000 copies
or so," he says. You can catch his first reading next Wednesday, May
13, at Rainy Day Books.
And if you're really lucky, I'll post some of his expert tips on how not to get screwed while buying jewelry, in a later post.