Part J.D. Salinger, part Patricia Cornwell

Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, having a weird morning. A newspaper columnist wrote about my books this morning, describing the ways real-life crime has resembled my fictional version.  Maureen Milliken, the columnist for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, writes about missing toddler Ayla Reynolds and murdered Bangor teenager Holly Boutilier, both notorious Maine cases, and the ways they parallel the crimes in my novels Port City Black and White and Home Body.

It’s an interesting piece, I think (but I would). Milliken reads my books and mysteries and is a writer herself. She talks about the difference between crime in fiction and crime in real life. So she gets it right. So why am I a bit unsettled?

I’ve had a little time to think about it and I’ve concluded that because I haven’t had a new book since 2011 (there’s another in the pipeline) I’ve put my public face on the shelf. And since I’ve been writing, a solitary exercise, I’ve gotten used to being alone, both in the study and in the rest of my life. Going about my non-book business, working on the house, riding my bike, chatting with people in town.

In my small town people have some notion about what I do, I guess. I once overheard someone giving directions at the general store, telling someone to go past the house “where that writer guy lives.” Is that what they mean by being a local landmark?

What this all points to, the calls about the newspaper column (I just got off the phone with a buddy who asked me if I knew where Jimmy Hoffa was buried) and the slight discomfort at being out there again is the push and pull of this writing business. Writers want to be left alone to do what they do. But then they want someone to read what they’ve written. And talk about it. And, yes, write about it in the paper.

I always say that most writers (especially after a long run of appearances) long to be J.D. Salinger, hiding out in a small town, relishing their anonymity. But the other half of them wants to be on TV, see glowing and prominent reviews in the New York Times. It’s a push and pull.

If we’re lucky we end up with a sort of writerly detente. We write alone, then venture out into the public eye, survive to write again.

And the writer’s life goes on. Thanks for reading this. Now it’s back to work. I hope you don’t mind if I close the door.


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2 Responses to Part J.D. Salinger, part Patricia Cornwell

  1. Joan Emerson says:

    Gerry, I’m knocking on that closed door just long enough to offer my opinion that it is quite a nice piece, that newspaper article. And I think you identified the real truth: “In the fictional world a modicum of justice is dealt out. That’s something that’s not necessarily true in the real world. If real life can’t figure this out, let’s create a world in which we can . . . .”

    Okay, I’ve said my little piece . . . now you can shut the door again and go back to that writerly work. Thanks for an insightful post.

  2. Rhonda Lane says:

    Balance too often feels like a moving target. In a small town, everyone knows – or think they know – everyone else. As long as the kids didn’t TP your house last night, you’re probably okay. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for your article which made me smile.

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