When retired Army intelligence officer-turned-novelist Harris Kligman sits down at his computer, he truly has no idea what will happen.
“I probably would have failed a college writing course,” he joked. “I never use an outline.”
Fans of his novels and children’s books don’t seem to mind. Throughout his fiction plots, the 85-year-old Kligman draws from his decades spent crisscrossing the globe for his civilian commodities job and Army assignments, giving a glimpse of a life that has been everything but boring.
“In all my novels, I always put some facts as well as the fiction, so the reader can learn something, like about the rich history of a particular country,” Kligman said. “That way, they walk away learning something and may be inquisitive to do more research, to spur their imaginations.”
Intelligence officer, world traveler
Kligman, a Philadelphia native and son of Russian immigrants, entered the Army in 1958. He had always enjoyed writing but didn’t often get to, “except for business reports,” he said.
What his jobs didn’t offer in the way of writing opportunities, they made up for in travel. Kligman spent three-and-a-half decades living in and visiting all corners of the world: Vietnam, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Kenya, all around South America. He became fluent in Korean and Spanish and passably proficient in French.
While living in Asia, he earned a black belt in Hapkido, a martial arts method. He did it all while raising two sons with Nancy Ann, his wife of 54 years.
“I’ve often thought a weaker woman would have washed her hands of the whole ordeal, but women like my wife ― well, it takes a strong person to realize how wonderful and how strong these women are,” said Kligman, a retired major.
His son Rob often saw interesting people coming and going from his childhood homes. Who were they, he wondered? What did they have to do with his father?
About 10 years ago ― long after his father had retired ― Rob broached the subject. Why not write a couple of pages, Rob suggested, about where you spent your time and what you did? Kligman agreed.
“I had an old computer downstairs in what I called the dungeon in my basement,” Kligman said. “So what started out as a page or two about my background developed into a 370-page novel.”
From then on, Kligman and Rob established a routine: the elder would write a few hours a day, figuring out the plot as he went along, then the younger would have the finished product bound at a local stationery store. Friends and family would read and critique the manuscript ― then it would find its place in a carboard box in Kligman’s bedroom office.
When COVID-19 lockdowns hit, the Kligmans decided it was now or never, self-publishing eight novels and two illustrated children’s books so far. “The Shaolin Covenant” has been the author’s favorite to write, while “The Profession” has been his best-seller. Most of his titles are also available on audiobook.
Some of his novels include a military element, and every character is based on people he has met. He is currently working on his 11th novel and hopes to have it out in 2023.
No matter what, Kligman said, he plans on writing “until someone knocks on my door and says, ‘Hey Klig, it’s time to go to the happy hunting ground.’”
“I have a wealth of experiences and characters all stored upstairs between these two ears,” the retired Army intelligence officer said. “I love to bring these characters to life and bring someone an interesting reading experience.”