Earl Stagg's Speaks On Setting
My wife and I spent most of our lives and raised our two daughters in and around Baltimore. Like most Marylanders, when we wanted to get away, we’d go to the ocean. That meant crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the part of the state known as The Eastern Shore and following Route 50 for two hours to the beaches along the Atlantic coast. Our favorite destination was Ocean City, a jewel of a family resort town with a wide boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants that seems to go for miles and a white-sand beach that goes even farther. Our girls went from toddlers to teenagers in the years we spent weekends and vacations there.
It was a natural and easy choice to set my first mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, there. We had moved away from Maryland by then, but my memories of Ocean City were so engrained, I could write it without research.
My protagonist, Adam Kingston, lives in a sixth floor condo apartment on the Boardwalk in Ocean City. My favorite times there were early morning and late evening, and I wanted Adam to experience them as I did. Here’s a morning scene from the book.
He went into the kitchen, poured a fresh cup, carried it into the dining room, opened a sliding glass door, and stepped out onto his patio.
* * *
The green-carpeted patio ran the full width of the apartment and extended out twenty feet. Adam stood at the concrete retaining wall and looked toward the Atlantic Ocean. From the horizon to the surf, the morning sun spread its glaring reflection in a jagged golden path across gently tumbling waves. On the wide beach between the surf and the Boardwalk, seagulls and sandpipers scurried over freshly combed sand, searching for crumbs of food missed by giant cleaning machines.
As far as he could see in either direction, hundreds of sea birds floated above the surf, diving and snatching when they spotted a morsel behind a receding wave. Their frenzied squeals punctuated the constant rush and slide of water against sand to complete the familiar symphony of a seashore morning.
* * *
In this scene, Adam is on the Boardwalk at night.
During the day, he thought of the Boardwalk as a thoroughfare for the hordes who trod its tireless planks and rode its shuttle trains in sun-bleached pursuit of their pleasures. He liked it better at night when the superficial noises of the day surrendered to the ageless voices of the sea and wind. He walked across it now with his hands deep in his pockets, listening as the soft lapping of cresting waves became gentle accents above their own rhythmic onrush and retreat into themselves, letting cool, salt-laden breezes playfully tease him from one direction then another.
No stars were visible, and the moon was a hazy gray splatter on an endless, black canvas. Far out, beneath a barely discernible horizon, a brightly-lit cruise ship slid past nodding pinpoint lights of small fishing boats. He watched a couple stroll barefoot along the surf, their pants legs rolled up, their inner hands linked, shoes and socks swinging in their free hands.
Watching them, he thought of other nights on the beach, of blankets spread on the sand, of chilled wine disguised in paper cups, of sitting with Caroline for hours, listening, feeling, touching.
* * *
I don’t consider myself good at descriptions, but I hope these passages did some justice to a setting that will always be dear to me.
MEMORY OF A MURDER
A Mystery Novel
By Earl Staggs
Available through bookstores and from Amazon or B&N online.
****Earned 13 five Star reviews on Amazon and B&N****
Adam Kingston, a widowed former FBI agent, is drawn into the mystery of a sixteen-year-old murder. When this triggers a rash of new killings, he must call upon all his resources to keep himself and those
around him alive. Past and present collide even more when he is forced to collaborate with homicide detective Brenda McCort. His attraction to her challenges his devotion to his beloved late wife. In a suspenseful, action-filled race toward a climactic showdown with the killer and the revelation of murderous secrets of the past, Adam is forced to face truths about his own personal future.
Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
I hope you’ll drop by my Blog/Website at: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com and visit with my special guest for the day.
While you're there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.
Also while you’re there, don't forget to sign up for the drawing on December 9. The first name drawn from those who comment will receive a print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second winner will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of sixteen of my best short stories.
Earl, I lived on the Eastern Shore (Cambridge) when I was first married. 1951-52. I wasn't really enamored with the place at the time. We went back several times for visits and I learned to enjoy the charm, even when we stayed right on the Chesapeake Bay during Hurricane Isabel. Enjoyed your post!