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Archive for November, 2012

It’s taken some verification of author availability, and a couple of slight calendar changes — but our 2013 book schedule is now finalized!

Click on our very own MAF stocking MAF Stocking with 2013 Bookmarkto see what fun reads await us in the New Year!

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Bryan Gruley Reading to Audience

Bryan surprised and delighted Murder Among Friends (MAF) members and other attendees when he opened by reading a selection from one of his early mystery favorites — “The Crisscross Shadow”, by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys)

Bryan Gruley talking about his novels

Bryan shared just how the Starvation Lake “Trilogy” came to be, as well as a preview of the novel he’s currently working on. His other reading was from “Ghost Towns of Michigan, Volume I”, by Larry Wakefield which he used as an example of how such stories can inspire creative fictional directions in his own writing.

Special Cake for Bryan Gruley's Visit

Murder Among Friends provided a fitting conclusion — and celebration to Bryan’s Starvation Lake books with this Hockey helmet-themed cake congratulating him on his hat trick.

"Hockey Pucks"...

As has been our tradition with Bryan, we also offered up some culinary “hockey pucks” — also known as Hostess Ding Dongs.

Bryan Gruley Staking His Cake

Bryan was also game for our newest tradition — staking the cake.

Bryan Staking Cake - Take 2

In fact, when we told him we referred to it as “staking the cake” he offered this version…!

Augie Aleksy from Centuries & Sleuths

Augie Aleksy from Centuries and Sleuths Book Store provided copies of Bryan’s books for attendees to purchase and get signed. We especially appreciated Augie’s own classy sign in the right hand picture!

Pavel Datsyuk Action Figure Present to Bryan

We also couldn’t let Bryan leave without our Toe Tagged chocolates — and a final tease about his beloved Detroit Red Wings. Since he’s branching out in new directions and developing new characters, we thought he could use a model to play — er — work with… (Pavel is also one of Bryan’s favorite players)

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Please Note: There are a few “spoilers” in this discussion.

MAF members gathered last night at 7:00 to discuss the last book in Bryan’s Starvation Lake trilogy, The Skeleton Box which attendees agreed was yet another well-written, thoughtful, and enjoyable book – with the caveat that most would avoid living in Starvation Lake (“those people are crazy!” was one comment. Perhaps so, but reading about them was fascinating and many found they had not guessed the murderer of Darlene’s mother Phyllis. The dual murders (one present day, one in the 1950s) and the ties that are revealed between the two, impact many of the residents of Starvation Lake – most particularly, the main character, Gus Carpenter, his once and future girlfriend deputy Darlene Esper, and Gus’ mother Bea.

There was a fair amount of discussion about the decisions Bea made in terms of cutting off her friendship with the third member of her best friends group: Soupy’s mother, Louise Campbell, and leaving the Catholic Church when she’d been a devout member as a child and teen. Many agreed both decisions were understandable, but that losing the friendship with Louise and the revelation of Bea’s part in the 1950’s murder of the nun could have led to her death at the end of the book. It’s fairly open for readers to decide whether she (probably unintentionally) caused her own death on the treacherous Dead Sledder’s coiling descent, or if it was the slippery conditions and a pure accident.

Leaving some things open to interpretation – (or perhaps someday further development!), added to the realism of the different strands of the story. Will Gus and Darlene fully commit to each other? (Indications here are good) Will the River Rats youth hockey team ever win the state championship? (If they don’t they’ve learned to appreciate what the teams do accomplish) What will Gus do now that the Pilot is gone? Will Soupy ever get out of debt?
Greeted with a round of applause, Bryan joined the group at 7:30 to relate just how the Starvation Lake trilogy came to be – and the first thing he told us is that referring to the books as a trilogy was something of a misnomer. Stating that writing a trilogy implies having a vision of where things will go he went on to tell us just how happenstance the books were for him. When he wrote Starvation Lake, it took him by surprise to find that people consider it a mystery. He had no plans initially to go on with a Starvation Lake series, and had actually written another book after the first book that had no connection to it. He’s now happy that it will never see the light of day.

Instead, he found a story about events that later became key to the plot of the second book, The Hanging Tree. Bryan – and MAF members as well – fondly remember a key character in that book, Gus’ cousin, Gracie. In creating these two, Bryan found that there was a definite link between Gus and his mother Bea running through them that then became the focus for the final book, The Skeleton Box. While this connection could be considered the basis for a trilogy, it was unintended. At this point however, Bryan is ready for moving in a new writing direction. Members congratulated him on stopping where it is right for him, instead of continuing when his heart isn’t there.

While not ruling out the possibility of revisiting Starvation Lake down the road “possibly with the characters set 10 years [from The Skeleton Box]”, he gave us a preview of the story he is now working on. It will be a stand-alone centering on a character named Daniel, a brilliant young man who is a genius at math, but not dealing with fits his of anger. In classic Bryan style, it sounds like a thoughtful character study woven into a suspense-filled tale.

Thanks to Augie Aleksy of Centuries & Sleuths book store, we had books available for Bryan to sign for anyone who wanted to purchase one. We also gave Bryan two parting gifts from the group: our chocolate decked with the charming toe-tag and a tongue-in-cheek “hockey character for Bryan to manipulate” – an action figure of Pavel Datsyuk, one of Bryan’s favorite Red Wing players. We generously refrained from countering with Patrick Kane – or other favorite Blackhawks… 😉

In short – a great time was had by all and we will all be looking forward to seeing where Bryan takes us next. (Photos to follow in next MAF post!)

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This past Sunday, The Chicago Tribune had an article that features Centuries & Sleuths book store and its owner Augie Aleksy, features in the picture below. As you can see, Augie is a very fun (and knowledgeable) mystery person to have around. Augie will be helping us out for Bryan Gruley’s visit this Thursday night by offering copies of Bryan’s books to purchase and have signed. Click the graphic to go to the Trib’s article for more fun reading!

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Skeleton with Box graphic Read Bryan Gruley’s last book in his Starvation Lake trilogy, The Skeleton Box by November 15th and not only will you know what’s in the box, you’ll be able to talk to Bryan about the book!Bryan will be at Lisle Library at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 15th to talk about the book, finishing the trilogy, and what’s up next. As he is also a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist, we can also ask what he’s been work in this area as well. Augie Aleksy, owner of Centuries & Sleuths Book Store, will also be on hand for those who would like to purchase one of the Starvation Lake books and have Bryan sign them.And as “Gruley’s Groupies”, Murder Among Friends members will be presenting Bryan with yet another surprise treasure 😉 — and then treating him to a beer at the Bavarian Lodge after closing!

And the word on The Skeleton Box could not be more positive — as this quote from Chicago’s own Sara Paretsky proves:
“Bryan Gruley is a gifted writer, and in The Skeleton Box he’s turned his gifts to the secrets and lies which ultimately rip apart Starvation Lake. Gus Carpenter, editor of a local paper on its last legs, finds himself in the center of a murder inquiry when his mother’s best friend is killed – and his mother becomes a prime suspect. Gruley writes elegiacally about small town America, but his deepest love is for its newspaper.”

So don’t miss Bryan’s Starvation Lake series swan song — see you on Nov. 15th!

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