Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bay City guys book club always eager for a good read

Bay City guys are always looking for a great book to read and they can't get enough mystery, suspense and murder.

That's what I found out when I spent the evening Tuesday with 16 members of the Bay City Men's Book Club, which meets at the Stein Haus restaurant and tavern on the city's East Side.  Members bought my book, "A Formula for Murder," about a month ago and read it before inviting me to dinner, beers, and discussion.

Now, you should know that this is a dedicated group. They have met every month to talk about books since 2000, and have not missed once despite the normal occurrences of illness, foul weather, pestilence, plague, catastrophe or, the worst of all, bad hangovers.

Tuesday evening was no pushover, either. As I rolled into Bay City, the temperature dipped to 12 degrees with stiff, icy wind, and continuous snow showers. But this hearty, heady group of readers, who hail from all walks of life, showed up ready to have fun and talk about books.

I could tell that they were particularly interested in "Formula" because it is based in Bay City, a town with a style and attitude of its own and a place they have loved for many years. Realizing this, I was suddenly a little nervous. These are smart guys who know all about Bay City. Who was I, a former newspaperman who no longer lives in their town, to write about a place near and dear to their heats, souls, and, most importantly, their wallets.

Well, I'm delighted to report that the guys said they genuinely enjoyed the book and were brimming to their bushy eyebrows with questions.

"Where did the idea for the work of fiction come from?" they wondered. I told them about my friend and co-worker from the Flint Journal, Dave Fenech, having a horrible reaction to mixed medications and that became the method for killing.

The wanted to know why I moved the school abuse, which became the motive for murder, from Flint to Bay City. One member of the group recalled the specific incident that happened in Flint - a band director develops a  harem of young girls, gets pushed out of the school and then moves to Florida and then on to Georgia to continue his predatory ways.

My response: Murder is too common in Flint, it goes unnoticed. Bay City is a safe, relatively peaceful community that loves to party and play hard. Murder is a better story in Bay City. Plus, I worked in Bay City for 24 years. I know the town and its people. Writers write what they know. "Formula" is a story that would work well in Bay City.

The guys wanted to know about the characters: "Where did Nick Steele come from. Tanya sounds too beautiful and wonderful to be true, where did she come from? Was there really a Dave Balz? And what about the Castrator, the female publisher?"

The name Nick Steele was lifted from one of my old high school buddies. All the characters in the book are conglomerations of people I have known or worked with over the years.

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