Chuck is Back! The First & Fourth.
I expect you've heard of the Firth of Forth, an estuary (firth) of the River Forth in Scotland, well this is the First and the Fourth for the Scribbler and Chuck Bowie.
First time for the Scribbler and the Fourth visit from Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
And Donovan's Back Too!
Chuck's fourth novel, The Body on the Underwater Road, is ready to launch on July 27th at Westminster Books in Fredericton and as a special treat for all you faithful readers Chuck is back to tells us about writing this series.
I've got my copy and it's next on my list.
Make sure you follow the links below to catch up on Chuck's previous visits.
Take it away my friend,
The Perils of Coming Home
- Chuck Bowie, July, 2018
- Written for The South Branch Scribbler
Thomas Wolfe suggests you can never go home again. As I think of that phrase, I think about those who say a river constantly changes. So, if you stick a foot in, pull it out and place it in exactly the same spot, it will be a different experience, because that previous cubic foot of water has moved on, and the sand and pebbles beneath your foot have shifted. Try visiting your childhood home, and imagine it is exactly as it was when you were seven years old. Or ten. This will not work. You have moved on. A new owner—several new owners!—have changed the old homestead in so many little ways. That vibe of nostalgia or childhood simplicity is gone, together with the plaid sofa and giant flowered wallpaper.
I am in the middle (or maybe nearing the end, I’m not sure) of writing a suspense-thriller series. I’ve finished Book 4, actually: The Body on the Underwater Road. As I mentioned, it’s a thriller so it has murder, bad guys, action, shenanigans, quite serious stuff weaving a plot designed to keep you interested and entertained.
I’ve written three other thrillers as well. The first: Three Wrongs is of the classic variety, with a detailed back story to help you understand why my contract thief is so complex. The second novel: AMACAT is somewhat lighter in tone, but with similar ‘thriller’ elements. I digress to an extent with my third novel: Steal It All, in that it is formatted a bit like a police procedural, and I stray a bit from the ‘loner with his own moral code’ approach.
But Book 4 is different, in a couple of ways.
In The Body—may I call it The Body? (I suppose I could call it TBOTUR; I do like acronyms)—I have written the bulk of the novel with scenes of New Brunswick, my home province. The opportunity cost of such a decision is I fail in my attempt to incorporate four countries in the plot setting(s). This was a conscious decision, where I wished to return home, so to speak, and write a tale set in my backyard. I wanted to show off my home province to you, Gentle Reader, who may have never got here to visit. Shame on you! by the way, for not having made this attempt.
My protagonist, Donovan, is a contract thief who travels the world, separating owners from their material goods, and he does this for great profit. It’s Robin Hood, basically, minus the messy middle element of altruism and generous heart. So, he steals from the rich, and gives to the less rich: himself. But I digress. Anyway, our man Donovan visits a charming New Brunswick seaside town in an attempt to solve a crime and coincidentally cut down on the murdering of tourists.
In hindsight, I now see The Body differs in at least two ways from the other books in the same series. As I mentioned, we visit three locales, but only two countries. I hope my readers don’t feel ripped off; in fact, I’ve had one article written where the reviewer found this reduction in exotic travel to be a tad disappointing.
The other way, though, that Book 4 differs is with fewer narrative arcs to the plot. We find a primary plot, and a secondary plot. Simple. However, what I attempted to do in this case was to analyze an extended family dynamic. In doing so, I wanted to permit the reader to peek through the curtains into someone’s family (someone very rich, in this case) and visualize what home can mean to a fractured, dysfunctional family. My little irony is I do this in my back yard.
I believe I stayed true to my character’s development as a contract thief seeking redemption. And if you, Gentle Reader, read about the Parker clan and somehow think even more highly about your own eccentric brood, well, all the better!
And now back to Mr. Thomas Wolfe. Why can you never go home again? I do not actually believe this, at least, not literally. One can certainly come home, but one cannot expect it to be the same as before. So, I bring our protagonist Donovan to New Brunswick, but somehow, the novel, while still a thriller, is…different. I became interested in how people can change, and I didn’t focus as much on all-action-all-the-time writing. (There is action; I quite like the trouble I’ve placed my characters in, especially toward the end! But I hope you can ‘see’ the towns, the beaches, the estates, the vineyard…)
I tried to add depth to the characters and their families, make them more human, make them real. In doing so, I brought you to quiet, nothing-ever-happens New Brunswick. And I made stuff happen. I hope you like it.
I’m already thinking about Book 5, where I return to lots of action, very bad people, and who knows? Maybe a theft or two. Won’t you come along for the ride?
An Excerpt from The Body on the Underwater Road. (Copyright held by the author. Used with permission)
An old Ford pickup rolled down a coastline country lane skirting the North Shore of Long Island Sound, a few miles from Port Jefferson. Moonlight glanced off the remaining piece of his rear-view mirror, but the faint glow on the gray primer coat turned the truck into a ghostly image of itself. The muffler, one of the few things that worked well, burbled low and smooth, attracting little attention. The lone occupant sat behind the wheel, radio off, his left elbow outside the opened window, catching a bit of the late-night breeze.
The trucked traveled well under the speed limit, further reducing its engine’s sound to a murmur. Harry Rafuse made an abrupt turn into an almost-hidden drive without slowing, slipped the truck into neutral and coasted the remaining fifty feet. The pine branches caressed the passenger side on the way by, making a swishing sound as the Ford came to a stop near a dark building. The engine ticked as it cooled, but other than that, few sounds broke the still night air. He opened the door. His key was ready as he slid from the truck seat and then took care to bring the door to, but not closing it so as to make the latch sound, and in a moment he was inside the small storage shed.
There were no windows and Harry had the lights on as soon as the door was completely shut. He stood at a slight bend since there was no space to stand properly, peering down the tiny path through the middle of the single room. For a building with such an impoverished exterior, its contents were startling in their grandeur. The rear quarter of the compact room was packed to the rafters with scores of paintings. Beside them rested a few European cabinets and hutches, moving van blankets separating the lowers from the uppers. As he moved to the back, he brushed against wooden crates containing art pieces, mementos, statuary, and vases. Hundreds of pieces of antique jewellery rested in glass cases on shelves above the crates. Beside him, individually boxed, were unique, one-off artefacts, most of which had proven provenances, causing their value to quadruple.
“What do you think, Harry? Have we hit the seven million mark yet?” He grinned in the dim light. It would have been so much easier to unload it all in the shops of Manhattan, or in the galleries in the outlying boroughs. But these pieces were known. Known to have been stolen, known to be the trigger that would set the police dogs on him. He shook his head. I’m not going to jail because of laziness. I’ll just have to ship them off a ways, set them loose in Canada, someplace I’m not known. That would certainly change my status. I don’t think the cousins would turn their noses up at me if I coasted into their snobby driveways in a Ferrari.
Harry thought of an incident the other day, when a plainclothes detective knocked on his door for a chat. Did he know about the MacQuart estate having been robbed in April? Did he have any information to share regarding a ruby-and-emerald bracelet, turn of the century, crafted in India? No? Was he sure? Of course I was sure. I was sure not going to chat with you about my business. Jerk.
But that was an anomaly, a crime of opportunism. More than half of the contents of this room came from a single source. An awful grin began to twist his face. I get the goods, and the insurance money changed hands. Sure, someone lost out, but isn’t that the cost of doing business? He laid a hand on the nearest crate, the one containing the MacQuart bracelet. It calmed him to be so close to such wealth, knowing it would soon be shoring up the cupboard-is-bare Rafuse bank account. He smiled.
Some collectors love this shit. Can’t get enough of it. All Harry saw was crap that needed to be converted into greenbacks. The cop, together with the news he received from his now-ex colleague Waugh reinforced his need to leave town. The sooner he split this burg and landed in St. Andrews, the better. And that French guy. He’s going to be just the ticket to unload a big chunk of this, once I move it into Canada. He seemed hungry for business. I’ll give him the business, all right.
Thank you Chuck for being our featured guest this week.
For you readers that want to learn more about Chuck and his stories, please follow the links to his website and his previous visits.