It’s a truism that tragedy and emotional turmoil are often found in the background of writers, and I’m no exception to that. Short version: My father was a pilot who died in a plane crash in 1956, when I was just shy of 9, after which my mother more or less retreated from emotional involvement with her four children. She was there, but not, if you know what I mean. Lonely and grieving, I turned to books for company and solace. A few years before she died, my mother acknowledged that I’d basically raised myself, and that I’d done a pretty good job of it.