*Actors are often directed to dig deep into the depths of their souls to bring life and believability to their characters.
The result is the touchstone performances that are so memorable they become woven into the fabric of pop culture.
Eriq La Salle is arguably one such actor. His role as the Jerri-curled Darryl Jenks in the iconic film “Coming to America” is a classic slice of Americana.
When he played Dr. Peter Benton on the award-winning, history-making NBC drama “ER,” his portrayal of the highly skilled and talented surgeon earned him several NAACP awards for Best Actor along with multiple Emmy, S.A.G. and Golden Globe nominations. “ER” became appointment television and La Salle’s heartthrob status and riveting performance kept viewers watching throughout his 8-plus seasons on the show.
La Salle continued to act in numerous TV movies and series. He foray into directing included returning to direct an episode of “ER” during its final season. His debut as a producer predates that when he was tapped to produce the 1999 TV movie “Mind Prey,” a psychological thriller.
He’s long been known as a triple threat in the entertainment industry with a solid dossier as an actor, producer and director. Now he has ascended to quadruple threat status with adding author to his moniker. If you guessed that his inaugural book is a work of non-fiction or personal account of his life as an actor, you would be wrong – actually dead wrong. His latest book titled “Laws of Depravity” is a fiction murder mystery and psychological thriller.
That’s a mouth full. But the premise is a mind full. The plot line is about a serial killer who emerges every 10 years and viciously murders 12 clergymen during a methodical and well orchestrated kill cycle that mimics the martyred deaths of the 12 Apostles.
“The genesis of the book came about after I had read an article explaining how the Apostles of Jesus were brutally put to death by the cruelest of means. Some were speared, crucified, hanged, dragged through the streets, torn limb from limb – they died horrible deaths,” said La Salle.
For La Salle it was a fascinating article that unearthed a desire that had been gestating since he produced and acted in the TV movie “Mind Prey.” That desire was telling stories that were edgy, gritty, suspenseful and ominously dark.
“Laws of Depravity” combines all of those elements. La Salle penned it determinedly, devoting great time to character development and paying careful attention to details from religious rites to medical terminology.
“It was important to me to create a story that holds up in veracity from a religious point of view, thriller point of view, medical point of view and technical point of view,” explained La Salle. “My mentor taught me something simple but very valuable from the time I was 15 years old; he said the payoff is only as good as the set up.”
The payoff for the reader is a suspenseful journey. The book takes the reader through the surreptitious paces of a depraved killer while the four investigators assigned to the case grapple with their own demons in the midst of trying to solve this illusive mystery. He has invested heartily in creating these characters and his objective is that his readers feel invested in them too.
“Laws of Depravity” may be La Salle’s freshman novel but its debut proves he is a bona fide storyteller. His years of acting, directing and producing have served him well in developing a story and characters that have depth, complexity and life. But the wellspring of his creativity lies in staying connected to his inner child.
“The logo for my production company Humble Journey Productions is a whimsical, 9 year-old boy wearing a baseball cap twisted to the side, walking down a single path,” said La Salle in a moment of reflection. “For me this symbolizes the age when we are at the height of imagination, fearlessness, intrigue and hunger. As long as I can stay in touch with that little boy it will be the conduit of my creativity.”
La Salle is thrilled at the response the book has garnered since it was released over the summer. He’s managed to tell a gripping story written with the lyricism and imagery of a seasoned mystery novelist. His readers overwhelming agree.
His appearances at various book signings across the nation have fans turning out time after time to tell him how much they have enjoyed the book and to engage him in discussions about the book’s overt messages of spiritual accountability, redemption and forgiveness.
“Readers who are fans of the thriller genre as well as those who aren’t have commented that they loved the characters and they loved book,” said La Salle with a tone of humility and thankfulness resonating in his voice. “And many have said that once they start reading it they couldn’t put it down. This is the best validation.”
“This book is ultimately a book about faith,” continued La Salle. “I want to be known as a writer who dared to put faith in a thriller and pulled it off.”
La Salle is slipping easily into his new found role as novelist. These days his creative flow is effervescent. He’s currently working on his second novel “Laws of Wrath” and has developed the concept for his third novel, “Laws of Affliction.” He has even written a 20-page prequel to “Laws of Depravity” called “Laws of Innocence,” which can be downloaded from his site for free at www.lawsofdepravity.com.
But the deeper story here is La Salle’s ultimate goal – to turn his literary endeavor into a franchise that translates into a film series he produces and directs based on his trilogy of novels.
“Content is king,” underscored La Salle. “As African Americans we make great players but we are rarely owners. A black owned franchise in this genre is something that has not been done.”
“Laws of Depravity” is available online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble book stores in Santa Monica and at the Grove Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Book’em bookstore in Pasadena and Eso Won bookstore in Los Angeles.
La Salle’s next book signing and discussion in Los Angeles will be on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at Book Soup bookstore located at 8818 West Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information. For comments, interviews, promotional services, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].