by H. Kathleen Gresham
Eternal youth. Perpetual beauty. Everlasting love. In Gladys M. Heldman's suspenseful
novel, The Harmonetics Investigation, Josiah Minden, the hypnotic leader of the Harmo-
netics Society, offers all this and more. Seduced by the mysterious, charismatic and
eternally youthful Minden, wealthy women and powerful men fill the cult's treasury
with billions of dollars. From the highest levels of government and finance they come,
lured by glittering tales of dramatic "rejuvenation "and hungry for Josiah Minden s mesmerizing promises of spiritual and physical redemption: Old age need not be. Beauty
need not wither. Love need not turn cold.
Or are there darker, more sinister motives at work? Where does the money go and
what is behind it all? National News magazine sends its top investigative team to find
out. Five reporters risk their lives to infiltrate Minden's bizarre empire, determined to
unearth the truth, whatever the cost. Their investigation probes beneath the Society's
slick, compelling appeal, and discovers a corruption so deep and so pervasive that it
threatens to destroy the very roots of American society. Penetrating a network of ruthless terror, coming face to face with perverted science, sadistic sex, mind control and
murder, the National News team uncovers an organization that will stop at nothing.
H. Kathleen Gresham: When you set out
to write The Harmonetics Investigation
did you think, 'All right, I've been successful in so many things: a Phi Beta
Kappa at Stanford, a ranked tennis player, founder of World Tennis magazine,
and the Virginia Slims Women's Tennis
Circuit, and I've helped get women on the
boards of the Fortune 500.' Did you
think, 'Well, let's see if I can write a best
Gladys Heldman: (laughing) No, I've always wanted to write a book. When I was
seven years old I used to think as follows:
'One day I will swim the Atlantic Ocean.'
That was part one. The second one was
T will be Tarzan's mate.' And the third
fantasy was, 'One day I will write a novel.'
It was just a fantasy, (laughing) Anyway,
I never thought I could sit down and write
a book—plot it and write dialogue, describe costumes and have people come in
and out of rooms. I just thought, 'Well,
I've tried so often, and I've never got
past page 2. I'll just give it another try.'
But I didn't think 'Will it sell?', 'Can I
get published,' or 'Will they make a movie
out of it.' First, I wondered if I could
finish it. Then I wondered if it would be
so terrible that nobody would want to
HKG: So you had been writing all along.
GH: I never got very far-page 2 or page 5
because I never really had the germ of
an idea. Once I had the theme I thought,
'Well, let me give it a chance this time.
Maybe I can do it.'
HKG: How did you develop the theme
for your novel?
GH: Well, I guess all of us know hundreds
of people who are into cults or into read"
ing booKs which give instant answers—
How to Be a Millionaire in Six Weeks,
How to Be Beautiful, How to Appeal to
Your Husband, How to Live as a Single,
How to Live as a Married, How to Live as
a Divorcee. If you write a book that
gives the answers, you'll get on three talk
shows immediately and your book will
sell millions. So it doesn't matter what
[it is about] as long as it provides answers. People pay $350 to give up smoking. And [they pay money] to psychiatrists, 'tell me about myself. I, I, I, me,
me, me.' There are not only the books
[and the therapists] with the answers,
but there are the metaphysical and
religious cults, such as est, which not only
attract people who have great emotional
needs, but . . . also . . . people who seem
remarkably strong and quite intelligent.
People that I know have dabbled in
Scientology, Psychocybernetics, Trancen-
dental Meditation. I know young people
who've gone into Moonies or Hari Krishna. I must know at least a dozen people
who are born-again Christians and who
speak in tongues. All of these people are
believers; all, looking for answers.
What I tried to do in my book was to
give the Harmonetics Society some of the
qualities that would attract people.
Americans idealize youth and at the same
time fear death and disease, so the Har
monetics Society provides a corps of doctors and nurses to postpone disease and
death and to bring back beauty and
youth. There's the hint of rejuvenation,
but just as important is the ritual, which
offers affection and love. You join and
immediately you have hundreds of
friends. The Society of course, appeals to
people of every age, but more so to older
women and particularly to rich women,
so the ones that I have doing part of the
investigation (into the Society's activities)
are the ones most easily able to enter the
Society: older, rich women in New York.
As one sees just reading the book, these
women are considered past the age of
creative thinking. [As though] because
they're female and because they're old
they couldn't possibly be of help. Jade
(the main character) has more respect
[from] people because she's got youth.
Although I don't hammer it at the reader,
it's a book about older people and about
our strange [values] : plastic surgery to
make ourselves look younger and younger
and younger and the degradation of anyone over 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 ... A
woman of 40 or 50 has had it if she suddenly enters the economic market. If she's
30 or 35, she still has a chance. At 40 or
45 she's too old. We call 65 elderly now,
we give the elderly basket-weaving and
ceramics. Instead of saying would you
like to learn to play the piano, practice
five hours a day, and perhaps be able to
do something with the piano in two
years? We think no, they don't [have
time; let them] do basket-weaving. So
this [idea] is not hammered; it's only implied in the book. I didn't write a book to
lecture! I wrote a book to entertain, but
somehow my ideas kind of creep in.
HKG: I wondered if this story had been
in the back of your mind for a while or . . .
GH: Yes, for at least four years.
HKG: Did you hope to put across some
GH: Well, I'd rather have you say [so]. I
tried not to lecture, and yet my own
thoughts are there. I would call it a feminist book, very, very much. I think that
every woman who reads Breakthrough
has known a Dr. Franzhold, the arrogant
German doctor in the book who treats
'the little woman' as the little child. Another element in the book was that, in
looking for answers, people turn unques-
tioningly to doctors. If they questioned a
little bit, they might stay a little healthier.
continued on next page
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