Bone Blind will be free on Kindle for five days, 9/20- 9/23. Click on the cover for the link and please urge everyone you’ve ever known to get it, because these free downloads are crucial to Amazon algorithms that are beyond my comprehension but determine the success or failure of Kindle novels.
BB is a departure from my other books. Bo Bradley and Blue McCarron are women and track villains all over Southern California. In Turtle Baby Bo even steps over the border, quite illegally, to investigate a case in Tijuana. But BB’s two protagonists are men, and the story is set on the other side of the continent, in Boston.
The jury is still out on whether or not I managed to create believable male characters, a decision that belongs, I think, to actual males. So far the comments are diverse, but not because Finn and Yost aren’t believable. Chuck M. in Wisconsin, for example, doesn’t “consider horror fiction a legitimate field” and so couldn’t see any merit in Finn, the horror writer. Only last week Dan P. in Buffalo sent a wonderful, long critique. Dan, a writer, likes Finn and all his ghoulish research, but “Yost comes off as a lazy, philandering, amoral police veteran…” I love these comments. They mean real guys reading these characters either like or dislike them in their own terms, not because the characters don’t ring true.
But who are Finn Ryan and Warren Yost? How does a female writer create believable male characters of sufficient development to carry the weight of an entire mystery novel?
Finn, the horror writer -
I named him for a maternal grand-uncle who died before I was born. “Uncle Finny” was a landscape architect who designed and built a whole riverfront park for the WPA, and a number of other civic embellishments that are (barely) still there in my home town. As a kid I was proud of all that stonework and those elaborate fountains in the middle of major intersections. Finny Moore was a creative guy, and it wasn’t difficult to transform him, 75 years later, into a horror novelist named Finn Ryan. Much of Uncle Finny’s work is in ruins now, ghostly and inspiring for Finn, whose stories mine a forgotten past for an undead bride.
The character, Finn Ryan, grew up in an Illinois coal mining town not far from my childhood home. There were coal mines all over. I heard the stories of mine explosions, knew kids whose grandfathers, fathers and uncles were buried forever in collapsed tunnels. They were skinny kids, impoverished and haunted, different. They were Finn, who is haunted not only by a mining disaster, but by a disturbing personal one.
And writing horror? I love good horror, the sort that eschews body parts and goes deep instead, into Jungian realms of old-brain imagery – Peter Straub, Stephen King – but especially turn-of-the-century writers – Algernon Blackwood, Lovecraft et al. Writing about a writer writing horror was serious fun!
As a child abuse investigator I worked with police all the time, and liked them. They were tough, workaholic and smart, often jaded and sometimes overly “boyish,” but good guys despite their faults. Yost’s “copness” is an amalgam of real people with whom I worked, and the bawdy stories they told me about other cops.
The rest of Yost, his Boston identity and familiarity with every inch of the Charles River, however, is the gift of a guy named Warren Egersheim, from whom Yost got his first name. I was staying in the Boston suburb of Newton Highlands in the house that would become Finn’s, when I wrote BB. I wanted Yost to be outdoorsy, a guy who worked with his hands, a real man’s man, whatever that is. Floundering around for ideas, I called the Newton Parks and Recreation Department for information about fishing on the Charles , and stumbled onto the perfect model.
For no reason but the fun of it, Warren Egersheim showed up at my door and drove me
around Boston and all the Newton suburbs for two days. He helped me select the towered murder house in Newton Upper Falls and the hidden downtown location of the obscure theater from which a troupe of young actors would emerge as suspects. Warren knew just the spot where Yost would fish the Charles, behind the old Norumbega Amusement Park grounds, now empty and obscured by a freeway motel. Warren took me there and we tramped down to the precise, muddy spot where an alcohol-inspired Yost would fall in the tea-colored river and decide to solve a twenty-year-old murder.
Yost is a big man, but Warren was wiry. Yost is from a long line of woodworkers; Warren had been a glazier. Both are of German heritage. Yost can’t resist a flash of cleavage, but Warren was the kind of guy you know takes his marriage vows seriously. I would have written an acknowledgment to Warren Egersheim in Bone Blind if it had been traditionally published, and sent him an autographed copy. He was such a nice guy. Instead, the manuscript gathered dust for years and I never talked to Warren again.
But tonight, while writing this blog, I Googled his name, thinking well, I can do it now! And I found this.
March 21, 2010
EGERSHEIM Warren W. in Roslindale formerly of Mission Hill Suddenly March 21, 2010. Devoted and loving husband of Geraldine (Higgins) of Roslindale. Loving father of Timothy and Julia and her husband Christian Clement. Dear brother of Joan (Egersheim) Siteman and Mary (Egersheim) Fagan. Dearly loved by many nieces and nephews. Funeral from the William J. Gormley Funeral Home 2055 Centre St. WEST ROXBURY, Friday, March 26th. at 9am. followed by a Funeral Mass in Sacred Heart Church, Roslindale at 10 o’clock. Visiting hours Thursday 3-8 pm. Relatives and friends invited. Interment Mass. National Cemetery, Bourne at 1:30pm. Veteran U.S.M.C. Late employee City of Newton, Parks and Recreation Dept. Late retired Glazier, Local 1044, Boston. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Warren’s name to T.U. Angler Education Program (Mass. Wildlife) 1 Rabbit Hill Rd. Westboro, Ma. 01581.
He died a year before Bone Blind would emerge from its box in the garage to become a book. But stories of the man who was in the 1950′s that young Marine in the photo, live on in a fictional character named Warren Yost. How I wish the real Warren could have seen the novel he helped write!