- Nails That Failed: A Medically Factual Mystery (2013)
- Conspirators of Revenge (2006)
- Tribute to a Champion: A fight for life (1981)
- Grinning & Grinding: A Collection of America’s Dental Humor (1995)
J. John Portera, a Mississippi writer born in West Point, MS, has written his second novel entitled Nails That Failed: A Medically Factual Mystery. The book was published in 2013. His first major novel was called Conspirators of Revenge, published in 2006. Portera graduated from the University of Mississippi with a B. A. degree and accepted a graduate fellowship in English. He had hopes of becoming a writer, but strong family pressure to enter a medical field made him change his mind. Deciding on a career in dentistry, he earned a D.M.D. degree at the University of Louisville. He then practiced Cosmetic Reconstructive Dentistry for twenty-nine years, teaching dentistry from 1976 to 1984 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson where he was the 1984 Teacher of the Year. Portera has now retired to write. He has three daughters, Katie, Carrie, and Anni and has returned to West Point to live.
Nails That Failed: A Medically Factual Mystery was published in 2013. The story is a murder mystery that draws from Portera’s knowledge of dentistry and his knowledge of the deadly amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. It tells of the conflict between two half brothers and the psychopathic wife of one of them. His first major novel was called Conspirators of Revenge, published in 2006.
Conspirators of Revenge is a murder mystery thriller set from 1979 to 1980. The story is set in numerous cities but primarily takes place in Memphis, Oxford, Jackson, Philadelphia. Portera worked literally twelve hours a day for ten months to complete his novel. His other works include Tribute to a Champion: A fight for life and Grinning & Grinding: A Collection of America’s Dental Humor.
In addition to writing, Portera carves exotic hardwood and now does bronze sculptures. He has done life-size busts of native Americans such as Sitting Bull. He has other interests as well. He makes jewelry, enjoys astronomy, studies military history and Native American cultures. He also enjoys traveling throughout the Southwestern United States and riding his motorcycle.
When and where were you born?
West Point, Mississippi.
Who were your parents?
The late JOHN PAUL PORTERA and ROSE MARASCALCO PORTERA
Do you have brothers and/or sisters?
One deceased brother, Coach Charles A. Portera (Tribute To A Champion was written about him–my first published work); no other siblings.
What do you remember about growing up in Mississippi?
Mississippi is unique in so many ways, yet it is quite difficult to specifically recall any uniqueness I might have felt as a youngster…..it was all I knew. In retrospect, and as an adult, I think the entire state perhaps possesses an intangible idyllic and romantic aura about it. Perhaps this is “why” so many artists and writers have their roots in Mississippi.
To whom were you married?
Suzanne Haley–divorced–three daughters by that marriage.
Where did you go to high school, and when did you graduate?
West Point High School, 1960.
What kind of student were you?
Quite intelligent and creative but did not apply myself. I made A’s and B’s without much studying–a C here and there. I became a “professional student”…..honed my mental skills like an athlete does his or her body…..after going to Ole Miss and, particularly, after entering professional school at the University of Louisville in 1965.
When did you become interested in writing?
I was in “pre-med/pre-dental” at Ole Miss, but after taking a course in Shakespeare, it changed my entire thinking on what I “wanted’ to do; however, even though I accepted a graduate fellowship in the English Department at the Univ of Mississippi, some family members convinced me that I should give up the idea of becoming a writer–for obvious future financial earnings potential–and, as a result, I accepted the position at the University of Louisville and took leave of my dream to become a writer for many years.
Who are your favorite authors?
Henry James, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, Ruark, Updike, and almost all the American and English Classic Novelists.
Who else might have influenced your writing?
No author in particular–I have developed my own “delivery system” and consider it unique unto my mental processes during the creative writing experience.
Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
Perhaps from a brief conversation with someone–some excerpt from a true event–astute observation of individuals–but, mostly, from the creative cavern of my own imagination.
Why did you change your name for your latest book?
I did not. My full name is Joseph John Portera. I used “Joseph” or “Joseph J.” until my father died and, in honor of his first name–as well as the first name of a deceased only son of mine–“John Scott”, I decided to use “J. John.’ It is just a thing of honoring the dead and using my real name in a different way.
Are your books based on real life events and people you know or have met?
Tribute To A Champion and Grinning and Grinding—
YES. Conspirators of Revenge is primarily fiction; however, the places are real and, to some degree, the character “Frankie Laursen,” did and does exist. Moreover, I patterned all the characters after individuals I have known and/or observed–at one time or other– over my entire lifetime. I cannot say, in complete candor, that “all” the events actually took place…..as described in the novel.
Are any of your books autobiographical in some way?
Yes, my first…..Journey into Darkness.. ….it was too autobiographical to attempt publication after I carefully weighed the pro and cons upon completing it in the early eighties. Perhaps I will publish it at a later date? Right now, I’m focused on writing novels that read like FACT.
How has living in Mississippi affected your writing?
I believe that every place has a certain “heartbeat” to it, something palpable but unexplainable. Mississippi has the heartbeat of a number of great writers resonating through the core of my being. I actually believe that I imbibe some of that into my mind, heart, and spirit–then, in some special way through my writing and sculpting, give it back to those around me in a vicarious way.
Are you working on a new book? If so, what will it be its title?
I cannot share the title at this time, but I can tell you that it is an intense piece of work involving a serial killer who takes the lives of seven women over a 12 year span of time. It is not set in Mississippi but rather in a new locale in the USA. “Matteo”, my narrator in Conspirators of Revenge, will again be the narrator in this novel. This is simply because he is a “forensic psychologist” and perfect for identifying the mental illnesses or emotional aberrations that my novels will present.
- Interview with J. John Portera, 2009