Old river towns abound in stories and I grew up in one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincennes,_Indiana. The wiki, of course, leaves out all the good stuff. The secret escape tunnel from the Harrison Mansion to the Wabash, the bullet hole in the wall. The Indian mound, gypsy encampments, seriously haunted houses and innumerable murders, one (on a train, no less) at the hands of my rascal great-uncle. It was a writer’s nursery.
An introduction by my dad to Adeline McElfresh, local author of 39 pop novels (in which Nurse Jane, later Doctor Jane, was perpetually torn between saving lives and getting married) cinched my future. I didn’t have to choose between nurse, secretary and teacher (although I have been the latter). I could be a writer like Addie! My first published work was a letter to the editor of the Vincennes Sun-Commercial urging that puppy births be awarded the same journalistic attention given to human births, a position with which it is difficult to argue at six.
My first mystery (in fourth grade) was a joint effort of The Page, Padgett and Gilliatt Detective Club. Having failed to uncover any skulls hidden in ancient oaks a la Nancy Drew, we three eager young writers were just as happy to discover a neighbor, in his car, in the dark, with a woman other than his wife. Temporary end of writing career. The neighbor was incensed at our intrusion and called our school to complain. As punishment for sneaking out and wrecking a clandestine affair, we had to memorize “The Song of Hiawatha” in its entirety. “By the shores of Gitche Gumee…” Still love Longfellow but regret that the story we were writing is now lost forever.
After graduating from Indiana University (English major, what else) I taught high school English in St.Louis, married a nice mathematical genius, had a baby boy and finished a Master’s at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Next, a (never quite finished the diss.) Ph.D. at Washington U. and a number of published poems and short stories that I continually struggle not to remember. One of these stories involved a gerbil. Then Houston, TX, where I was the director of the local ACLU and wrote more short stories but far fewer poems.
Author at Last!
Finally, San Diego, where I was a substitute teacher, managed a labor union office, wrote abstracts for academic journals and once as a temp edited a secret-clearance weapons proposal that the courier accidentally left in a pay phone at the airport, pretty much ending any future hope of secrecy. But it was a job as a child abuse investigator for San Diego County’s Department of Social Services that provided groundwork for five Bo Bradly mysteries, Bo’s bipolar disorder reflecting a family member’s struggle with psychiatric illness. Two Blue McCarron mysteries followed, then the Boston-based stand-alone, Bone Blind, most recently a spooky, Boomer, sort-of-magical mystery, The Paper Doll Museum.