ABOUT Robert Pajer

Robert Pajer
Robert J. Pajer was born in Yonkers, New York. He has been a correspondent for Mini-World Magazine written in English for Japanese readers, and has written articles for American magazines that dealt with religious topics in American culture. A Handful of Dust is his first novel. He spent o More...


Take one of the most famous missing persons of the 20th Century, a renowned New York State Governor, a 21st Century crazed Navy Captain, and place them in 1930 depression-riddled New York City, then toss in a 21st Century hotshot FBI undercover agent and you have the ingredients of a fast paced thriller that will keep you awake turning pages. A Handful of Dust is the story of FBI agent Matt Wells battling his own emotional pain and guilt. Wells is selected by the NSA to journey back in time and find fugitive Navy Captain Walter Kinlaw, who is determined to assassinate Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Judge Joseph Crater. In Kinlaw's room, newspaper clippings of the Crater disappearance are found along with photographs of Crater and New York Governor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who appointed Crater to his judgeship. Crosshairs are drawn over both of them. What does the Navy Captain want with Crater and FDR?

Handful of Dust took eleven years to complete. There was an enormous amount of research involved because the novel takes place in the 21st Century and in 1930. It revolves around the strange disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater on August 6, 1930 and the corruption of New York City's Tammany Hall run government. While researching the book I was at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan and viewing the Crater files. I had access to the files because of the wonderful Freedom of Information Act and one veteran detective standing in his office door frame said to his partner, in a low voice as I walked by, "I can't stand that new law. You never had civilians down here in our file rooms. Nothing is sacred anymore." I smiled at him and he rolled his eyes and walked back into his office. I've been thanking the legislators who passed the FOIA bill ever since.

Robert Pajer's 'A Handful of Dust' is a great read--a gripping and historically accurate tour of New York in 1930 and the events surrounding the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater. Anyone interested in the period should find it fascinating, as I did."--Richard J. Tofel, author, Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater, and the New York He Left Behind.

    The single most amazing thing about Robert Pajer’s fast-paced, hugely enjoyable novel A Handful of Dust is the no-nonsense, whirlwind way he gets down to the business of his plot. That plot is, as we used to say, a hum-dinger: a rogue U.S. naval officer has used experimental technology to leap backwards in time, intent on stalking and killing Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt before he becomes president—and straight-shooting (we hope) FBI agent Matt Wells has been ordered to go back in time himself to kill the would-be assassin and preserve the timeline we all know and love.
    Most authors, facing such a corker of a premise, would bolt the thing out of the starting gate by spending too much time on the how of time travel (Michael Crichton’s Timeline makes this mistake for about 200 interminable pages). Pajer dispenses with this in basically one paragraph and a bit of dialogue—the explanation’s just as convincing as it needs to be in order to get us to the main meat of his plot: FDR, the past, the plot.   That plot is wonderfully, almost dementedly, explosive.
Steve Donoghue, Historical Book Society