Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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Misery Bay Probes an Unlikely Suicide

Glen Young - July 25th, 2011
Misery Bay Probes an Unlikely Suicide
By Glen Young
Fictional sleuth Alex McKnight is back and his fans are pleased, but no
more so than his creator, Michigan-born author Steve Hamilton.
Returning in his eighth novel, McKnight ventures west from his home base
in Paradise to ominously named Misery Bay, where he is asked to
investigate the suicide of a college student, a young man who appeared to
have it all, but who instead hangs himself from a large, lonely tree near
the shores of Lake Superior.
After a five year hiatus that saw Hamilton publish a second stand-alone
novel “The Lock Artist,” Hamilton decided McKnight’s return should have
the reluctant hero veer west. “I knew he had never gone west in the
U.P.,” Hamilton says. “I knew it was very different out that way; I knew
he’d have to wander out that way some time and get in trouble.”
Hamilton knew the only way he could have McKnight find the mystery of the
western U.P. was to travel there himself, so he drove the Seney Stretch
along M-28, eventually landing in the tiny town of Toivola. When he saw
the nearby sign for Misery Bay, Hamilton knew he had found the right spot.
“It’s not even on the map, unless you have a really good map,” he says of
the bay.

IMAGINING DETAILS
Absorbed in an environment he describes as “forlorn and forgotten,” he
began to imagine the details of his new project.
“Like any crime writer, I asked myself what’s the worst thing that could
happen here,” before fixing on the new book’s entry point, the suicide of
a promising young man. He says the location is perfect for Alex’s next
adventure, “because it’s such a lonely place and there’s this big tree
overlooking the lake.”
The tree figures prominently in the story.
As he has for all his Alex McKnight novels, Hamilton resurrects other
colorful characters, chief among them Jackie Connery, owner of the
familiar Glasgow Inn in Paradise, the spot McKnight is likely to be
sipping on a cold Molson while waiting for something to happen. Jackie is
as taciturn as ever, opening the story by telling some unsuspecting
snowmobiler in a pink suit to leave and never come back when the man
tramples on the local affinity for Lake Superior.
The first major twist in the story comes when Roy Maven, another recurring
character and chief of police in Sault Ste. Marie, calls on McKnight with
the hope of enlisting the sleuth’s help. Turns out the dead boy’s father
is an old colleague of Maven’s. “Theoretically they’ve always been on the
same side, even though they knock heads sometimes,” Hamilton says of the
tension in the relationship between Maven and McKnight.
As the boy’s father struggles to make sense of the suicide, he turns to
his old buddy Maven. “It’s like the ultimate heart-breaking mystery,”
Hamilton says of the weight of the suicide. Of the questions surrounding
what drove the young man to suicide, Hamilton believes, “It’s almost an
impossible question to answer,” which necessarily becomes the novel’s
purpose.
Enlisted because he might be more likely to get the boy’s college pals to
open up, McKnight reluctantly, as always, agrees to give it a shot,
expecting to find little useful information, eventually uncovering more
than enough to unravel the details that resolve the case.

ANATOMY OF A CHARACTER
Hamilton believes Alex McKnight has evolved since the first novel in the
series, the Edgar Award winning “A Cold Day In Paradise,” published in
2000.
“He still blames himself for what happened,” Hamilton says, referring to
the shooting death of his partner when McKnight was a Detroit police
officer, a shooting that occurred 14 years earlier. “When you first meet
him, it’s been a few years since all this stuff happened in Detroit and
he’s hoping not to deal with it.”
Dealing with it is a major current in the novels. McKnight has moved north
to forget, but he can’t. Surrounded by his past, both personal and
professional, the retired cop finds he’s constantly being called upon by
new friends to help.
Though Alex McKnight took a hiatus, Hamilton did not. Still working his
day job at IBM, he also managed to keep writing, turning out stand-alone
mysteries in “Night Work,” and “The Lock Artist,” both well received by
critics and readers alike. “It’s strange to think of a fictional character
as needing a break,” he says of McKnight, “but he really did.”
Hamilton also wanted to take a break from his fictional creation. “I never
want it to get easy. You can tell when someone hasn’t burned a lot of
calories on a middle book,” he continues, explaining he didn’t want
readers to think of him this way.
He believes the experience of the stand-alone books has been helpful. “I
hope I became a much better writer having gone through it.” He feels the
break from the series was necessary. “That was all I knew, and I sort of
had this idea ‘that you need a break or you’d be stuck.’”
Having returned to the series, Hamilton has plans for even more. “I can’t
imagine ever not wanting to go back to Alex,” he says. “I’m working on the
next book, and it’s Alex. I’m sure I’ll stay with him for the next two.”
About his absence from Michigan, Hamilton says the space is helpful to his
writing about home. “If you’re in the minute details every day and you get
to look back, you might miss something.” From the distance of his New York
home, he believes, “I can look back and know what Michigan is… I know for
a fact I couldn’t have written these books if I hadn’t moved away and had
a chance to look back.”

Steve Hamilton will visit the Mackinac Island Public Library on August 26.
For more details about his books and his book tour, visit
authorstevehamilton.com.
 
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