Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Attica ladies love murder and talking about books

Last night, I had a blast talking about murder with a group of women from Attica.

Now, before you go bonkers, please note that these were very nice and proper ladies from Attica, the Michigan town just north of Imlay City - not the notorious or infamous prison in New York state.

And the murder that we discussed happened in my novel, "A Formula for Murder." The Attica Ladies Book Club (I just named them that because it sounded cool) has been meeting regularly for 13 years. In that time, they've read dozens of books - everything from best sellers by nationally recognized authors to independent publishers.

I've got to tell you that I was delighted when my book was selected as reading material for the club. But then I did handstands and back flips when they invited me to come down to their rural community just outside the edge of Metro Detroit and join their discussion of my book.

Betty Dean hosted the meeting and led the discussion. We met in her living room, gathering around a warm fireplace while a freak January thunder and lightening storm added booming sound and flashing light as a backdrop to our chat.

 A tantalizing spread of munchies and cold and hot beverages provided fuel and sustenance for members of the book club. They had possession of my book for more than a month, but most had finished reading it recently. I could tell right away that they were fired up and ready to talk it through.

Let me just say that these ladies were more than ready to chat. Before my plate was filled and I could reach for the salt, they peppered me with questions about the book, the story line, the characters, and how it all came to be.

They wanted to know how much of this work of fiction really happened: "Did Nick, or a reporter you know, really lose his pants in a bar over a bet?" Yup, that really happened. And so did most of the other incidents in the book. The story was written from my experiences as a journalist and newspaperman working in mid-Michigan for more than 30 years.

"Are you Nick, is he your alter ego?" No, Nick, like all of the other characters in the book, are conglomerations of people I have worked with or known in the business. However, the name - Nick Steele - is real. I went to high school with Nick Steele and always loved his name, thinking it would make a great byline in a newspaper and a great lead character in a novel.

"Did a band director really take advantage of young girls at Central High School in Bay City as described in your book?" The abuse actually occurred, as I described it, at Flint Central High School. I changed the location of that incident to fit the overall story.

They asked me aspects of the story that I had not even considered. And they even offered up what I thought was an interesting alternative ending.

After just over two hours of non-stop discussion, I was worn out and they were tapped out of questions. From my point of view, it was a great night. Lots of fun with a group of bright-eyed, intelligent readers.

Over the next two months, I am scheduled to meet with a half dozen other book clubs and discussion groups.  I only hope my next discussion groups are as tuned into murder and books as the ladies from Attica.

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