Behind the Pages

Check out the back story behind my books.

How did you think of that story?

Where do you get your ideas?

See below to get an insight into the cobwebs inside my mind that make these stories.

Puzzle at Peacock Perch

Full disclosure, I live in a senior active adult community in sunny Florida. It’s great.

After living my whole life in the Chicago area, I was charmed at the collection of people from all over the world. There were Southerners, Midwesterners, New Englanders, New Yorkers, Canadians, Australians and Europeans, all living together. The varying cultures and differences were a refreshing change.

The other revelation was the vast experiences and knowledge from their former occupations. It was like a giant think tank. If you needed to know something, no matter what it was—from rocket science to exotic plants—chances are someone had done that for a living.

And with all the community activities, everyone spent a lot of time together. It soon became clear to me that there were very few secrets.

So, during the pandemic, I wrote an interactive whodunit play, with the help of our small community theater group, which lampooned how the gossip mill, both verbal and on social media, can take on a life of its own and help solve a mystery. Since we performed it on Zoom, attendees played detective in small groups and discussed clues and suspects. That gave birth to the Secret Senior Sleuths Society.

And in this book series, I can delve into the process of the detective work more with its twists and turns and explore the suspects, learn more about what motivates the detectives and take a peek at what it’s like to live in a typical American senior community. It’s probably not what most people expect of a retirement community.

It’s an interesting examination of a micro-society, although somewhat exaggerated, and how word-of-mouth can skew perspectives.

The Sailor and the Songbird

I’ve always had a special attachment to the WWII era. I love the movies, the clothes and the music. Who knows, maybe I was there in a past life. This is not a true story, merely a machination of my mind on what could have been, but I did know a real sailor on the USS Franklin – my father-in-law, LeRoy Hamilton. He was a young airplane mechanic who was thrown into the water and survived the long and arduous trip back to New York with the ship. He didn’t talk about the war much at all. Both he and his family were full of pride at his service, but it wasn’t discussed.

After his passing, I was able to interview some of his shipmates from the Franklin who lived nearby for the local newspaper on the 50th anniversary of the Franklin explosion. Looking in the rearview mirror a half-century later, their memories were foggy on the names and dates, but they spoke fondly about their comrades. And their recollection of their experiences during the incident was still crystal clear.  As I looked at pictures of the young men they were at the time, I saw the glint in their eyes with the joy and hope of the lifetime ahead of them. They didn’t look like old men, just guys.

It wasn’t the first war to end all wars, but with a sense of global purpose, a housing shift from an urban to a more suburban society, and the lasting impression of women who really worked and earned a living, it was a mark for changes to come. And they lived it. 

Beck’s Rules

I worked at the Herald-News in Joliet, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, for several years. One of the city editors, John Whiteside, was enthralled by a decades-old cold case of a newspaper reporter, Amelia Molly Zelko, who disappeared in the 1950’s. It was a big story for a couple years, but time pushed it to the forgotten past. Whiteside brought the case back to life nearly 30 yA decades-old cold case of a newspaper reporter, Amelia Molly Zelko, who disappeared in enthralled one of the city editors, John Whiteside,ears later with a series of columns over nearly the next 30 years. He made her an urban legend in the area. Unfortunately, the case was never solved. I worked with a different editor in a different department of the paper, so I didn’t know Whiteside, and to be honest, I never read his columns in detail about the Molly Zelko case, but I always remembered the passion he conveyed that the injustice should be righted and truth be found. I always thought that would be a great story. I decided to fictionalize the entire case, not about Molly Zelko or the aspects of her unique story, as inspiration to think about my own journalistic career and who I wanted to be as a newspaper reporter. I didn’t read or research any of Zelko’s story, as I wanted it to be the mere jumping point for my mind’s tale. I wanted to feature my own experiences as a journalist and highlight aspects of the surrounding towns where I grew up. Outside the area, no one really knew Molly Zelko’s story. And this book is not her story, but this series is an interesting fiction about what a character like her would do. The main character, May Beck, is a composite of fictional and real newspaper reporters and female sleuths I admired, like Rosalind Russell in My Girl Friday , Lois Lane, and the Nancy Drew series of books. A couple of the stories May Beck investigates in Beck’s Rules Series are ones I dogged as a young reporter on the beat. This first book is a different take on her origin story. The other books in the series will feature May Beck’s unrelenting quest for truth and unquenching thirst to solve mysteries.

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