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Salisbury artist writes thriller novel with OC twist

(July 19, 2013) It was some years back that a Salisbury architect and painter decided to try his hand at another creative endeavor.

Robert Lewis Heron self-published his first novel, “Artful Deception,” in 2012, taking readers on a journey through Scotland, Greece and Seattle and landing in Ocean City in a thriller merging murder, mystery and deceit.

His creative drive sparked his first writing endeavor, which took two years of after-work writing to complete, Heron said.

“The reason I write is the same as the reason I paint,” he said. “I get my kicks from the process of painting, the process of writing — the creation of something that hasn’t ever been thought of before.”

“Artful Deception” is a first-person account by one of the book’s protagonists, a Scottish artist on a quest for fame, whose story mingles with that of another artist, an American photojournalist and serial killer. The inspiration for the characters and settings came from Heron’s own experiences as an artist and traveler, he said.

Moving from Scotland to the United States in 2001, Heron spent time in Salisbury and then Ocean City, where he still works for Atlantic Planning and Development & Design, Inc. Once critical of the town, he now treasures the attitude of Ocean City locals, which he described as “honest and straight-up” with “no airs.”

“That whole attitude … doesn’t exist in Britain, and that’s one of the things that has endeared America so much to me,” Heron said.

While much of his novel came from personal experience, he deadpanned, “I don’t really have any knowledge of serial killing.” The same humor seeps into the novel’s dialogue, according to reviews on Amazon.com.

“The plot is suspenseful and the dialogue very amusing. For a first novel, it is truly remarkable,” one customer wrote.

Others described Heron’s work as “fast paced,” “suspenseful” and “dark and twisted” with “good … depth of characters.”

Though he had a rough idea of where he wanted the plot to go, Heron’s protagonists dictated the details as he wrote, he said. “Things morphed and ideas came. That’s the neat thing about writing by the seat of your pants.”

The story follows many threads – intentionally, to keep readers intrigued — but characters meet throughout the book. The artist parallels the killer as he uses blood in his paintings to shock and develop his brand, for example.

Since writing his first novel, Heron has started several more. He’s working on his fourth book, a romance story based on a recent trip to Venice, and a book of short stories about Ocean City. He wakes up an hour early each morning to write before work.

“Once something grabs you, you really have to do it, because you want to do it,” he said. “I can’t not write.”

Heron is the artist in residence at the Ocean City Art League on 94th Street, where his works are on display. Readers can buy “Artful Deception” there, at the News Center in West Ocean City and at the Art Institute and Gallery in Salisbury. They can also buy electronic versions for the Nook at Barnes & Noble or the Kindle at Amazon.com and can read the first few chapters or order a paper copy from Amazon.

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