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Just Color Moore a Novelist

April 10, 1988|VAN GORDON SAUTER

On that trip, Moore also drove down to Camden Street, where he set the decaying boarding house in which Judith Hearne lived. At the turn onto the street, there is a large wall. And Moore treasures a photograph showing some graffiti on the wall which read: Judith Hearne is alive and well.

Back in Malibu, Moore settles into his studio every morning and works at an electric typewriter. Although his son from a first marriage is in the computer business, Moore has never made the transition.

"There are two kinds of people," he said. "People who want to write, and people who want to be writers. There is a truth to writing that I have found, which is extreme concentration for a short period of time. It is as if you are a nurse in an intensive care ward and the patients (the characters of the novel) may die. You've got to give constant attention to them."

In "The Color of Blood," the two key characters are Cardinal Bem and the Communist prime minister, Gen. Urban. Both are threatened by tangible and philosophical demons, while half a million Warsaw Pact soldiers are poised on the country's Eastern border, prepared to march if either man loses his footing in their precarious balancing act.

"You know," Moore cautions, "there is no identification in the book of Poland. It's much easier for a novelist to invent a country. I didn't want the burden of facts."

But Moore talks--and writes--with authority about this unnamed but obvious country. And framed on the wall of his study is his press credential issued years ago by the Polish government.

What is now in Moore's typewriter? A script for a five-hour film about Coco Chanel ("in real life she was a monster") being produced for Canadian television. "The Color of Blood" will probably be filmed in England by Granada Television.

"We 'serious' writers are more enthralled by film than we admit. I find it fascinating. Hitchcock taught me things about film that could apply to all fiction. I now have an entire shelf of novels behind me, and for the first time I am enjoying writing for film. I do write more cinematically now."

When Moore and his wife drive up to Oxnard to see the movies, it is she who instinctively grasps the direction of the plot. "I have a childlike block about that," he said. "My wife always knows what's going to happen. I don't.

"I don't start a book with a plot. I put characters in a state of crisis and see how they deal with it. I don't know how it will end."

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