"I have an older brother and sister and when I was a little kid, my sister had all the Nancy Drew mysteries and my brother had all the Hardy Boys mysteries," Elias told The Park Record. "As soon as I learned to read, I read every one of those and have been hooked on mysteries ever since. I find them engaging, entertaining and, on occasion, very moving."
So, it was a natural step for the violinist to start writing his own murder/mystery novels. To date, Elias has written four books "The Devil's Trill" (2009), "Danse Macabre" (2010), "Death and the Maiden" (2011) and his new book "Death and Transfiguration."
Elias will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of the Park City Library's author luncheon that will be held at Deer Valley's Silver Lake Lodge on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
"As you know, writing was not my first career, because music was the main thing for many years," Elias said. "Now, when I get invitations to do things for my book, I get tickled about it."
When the musician first wrote "Devil's Trill," he knew absolutely nothing about the publishing field.
"That was probably to my benefit, because if I had known more, I probably would have been discouraged from writing," Elias laughed. "But the publisher, St. Martin's Press, was intrigued by my main character Daniel Jacobus and that there weren't too many books written about the world of classical music, particularly by musicians themselves. So, they offered me a two-book deal and after those were completed, they invited me to write two more."
The books are all set within the classical-music world and Jacobus is a blind, crotchety former violin virtuoso, who is an amateur sleuth.
"It's funny how the book thing came into my life because it was almost by accident, the same way as when I first went into music professionally after college," Elias said. "I started writing 'Devil's Trill' back in 1997 and it was originally intended to be for violin students. It was going to be a 'how-to' guide that was set in a fictional story about a stolen Stradivarius, just to make the lessons interesting."
For 10 years, Elias asked people read it, which helped him morph the novel into a traditional 'whodunit' set in the world of classical music.
"The whole aspect of how to play the violin receded well into the background," he said. "But if you know something about classical music, the titles are inspired by that world."
For example, "The Devil's Trill" is a technically challenging sonata by Giusseppe Tartini and "Danse Macabre" is a piece of music by Saint-Saëns, he said.
"'Death and the Maiden' is the title of a string quartet by Schubert, and in the book, members of a string quartet mysteriously disappear one by one," Elias explained.
"'Death and Transfiguration,' on the other hand, is a piece of music by Richard Strauss for full orchestra. So, my setting is in a symphony orchestra and is a tale of revenge between the sleuth and the tyrannical director of this orchestra."
The beauty of the stories is that readers don't have to know about classical music to understand the writing.
"I always tell people that it's great if they know the music, but it's absolutely unnecessary to know anything about music to enjoy the books," he said. "I was very careful about that. Everything you need to know is within the chapters."
Elias said the Jacobus character had to have some depth and perception.
"I knew I wanted him to be kind of crotchety and both a wonderful musician and perceptive sleuth," Elias said. "The reason why I wanted to make him blind was on a metaphorical level. The thing that always troubled him was the increasing visual aspect of performance and the increasing pressures put upon musicians to make their product more entertaining.
" making him blind, I could make him only perceive the music through his ears and that's the way it should be," Elias said. "The blindness made him have more contact with the art that he loved, and at the same time, it enhanced and made him a better sleuth as well."
After publishing "Death and Transfiguration" earlier this year, Elias decided to take a break from writing.
"I'm thinking about other projects, but that is not to say that this is the last book I'll write," he said. "I may go back to it at some point, but after putting out four books in four years, it's like being in a symphony orchestra. After a while, you need to step back and refresh yourself. That's what I'm doing and it's regenerating my creative juices."
Elias played in the Utah Symphony for 23 years and performed with Boston Symphony for 13 years prior.
"Although I have retired from Utah Symphony, I still go back to Tanglewood each summer and play with the Boston Symphony for eight weeks," he said. "That's how I get my orchestra fix."
Elias is also the director for the Vivaldi by Candlelight concert series that will celebrate its 30th anniversary of the series on Dec. 15 at the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City.
"I feel fortunate to be the director at this point of the series' existence," he said. "It's been one of the really fine contributions of the musical scene in Salt Lake over the decades and I hope to keep that tradition alive."
He is looking forward to speaking at the Friends of the Park City Library luncheon.
"Whenever I'm invited to do an event, whether it's at a book club or bookstore or luncheon like this, I feel both flattered and honored," he said. "For the presentation, I will be talking, but also giving some musical performances with my violin to illuminate what the book is about. If anyone wants to hear some of the music that I'll play, they can visit www.geraldelias.com /."
Gerald Elias, retired associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony and author of mystery books set in the classical music world, will be the featured speaker at the Friends of the Park City Library's annual Author Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 16. The luncheon will be at Deer Valley's Silver Lake Lodge, starting at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are being sold at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave., and are $40. Tickets are $35 if purchased from a Friends member. Tables of 10 are available for $350.