David Harshaw was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. It was the last year of the Baby Boom and also the year the Beatles took America by storm. David’s early years were spent on Long Island, where he had an idyllic childhood of tree forts and stickball games. The neighborhood kids left home and the morning and stayed gone all day. David’s mother had a large bell on the front porch that she would ring when it was time for dinner. You could hear it blocks away.
After graduating high school, David enrolled in Lehigh University to study chemical engineering. At some point in his sophomore year, though, he realized he wasn’t that interested in math and science anymore. They were too abstract. He then transferred to the University of Louisville, where he declared a major in English. He had decided that he was going to be a writer of fiction.
Like many young erstwhile writers, David was more in love with the pose of saying he was a writer than with the actual hard work of writing. He started three or four novels but never finished any of them. He also wrote a few short stories, but when he could not get them published, he gradually ceased writing except on cocktail napkins and sales receipts.
After getting his undergraduate degree, David held the romantic idea that getting experience in the real world would jump-start his future writing. He took jobs as a short-order cook, a carpenter, and as a bartender. He did have one actual job as a writer, working at a start-up magazine about the city of Louisville. The magazine folded after three issues.
As his twenties faded, David recognized that due to his inability to put pen to paper his dream of being an author was probably dead. He then did what so many English majors turned bartender find themselves doing – he went to law school. There, he soon discovered that criminal law interested him more than any other subject. Criminal law is the study of frailty, compulsion, vengeance, and redemption. Each case is unique. No case is an abstraction.
After law school, David became a public defender and remains one to this day. He represents poor people accused of crimes who cannot afford an attorney. He has stood by his clients both at trial and on appeal. For the last twenty years, he has mostly represented death row inmates. When asked how he can help a convicted murderer, David says that just because someone may have done something awful doesn’t mean they have lost their humanity.
David is happily married with two grown children. He started writing fiction again a few years ago. Derby is his first novel.
Follow him on Instagram – david.h.harshaw
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