Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Books · Misery Bay Probes an Unlikely...
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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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