When I began writing Slave Graves in the early 1990’s I was looking at a typical plot. From the classic files of plots (I think there are 22 possible in the old Greek plays) the one I liked was the stranger coming to town, finding love and cleaning out the bad guys. This, as you might notice, is the traditional Western cowboy movie plot of Hollywood
Then, to comply with the tradition of southern writers always being immersed in southern history, I knew that my region, the Chesapeake, had to play a part in the story with its interesting ambience of place. I had met Michener at a cocktail party in Maryland when he was working on Chesapeake and I suspected he was working on describing the same thing. Whether he accomplished it or not, is the reader’s opinion. As a youngster growing up in Maryland, most of my examples used in conversation with my pals sooner or later brought in a comment about local history, or the kid’s jingle from Dixie, ” “My feet stink but yours are rotten” We were all historians of sorts, especially about boats. It was not hard therefore for me to visualize my characters and story with reference to the Revolution and the Civil War. In that same culture women also had a certain independence and respect sharing with their men the needs of the family and local townsfolk. These people had all carried guns to battle against the combatants of all sides, Tories and Rebels, Union and Southern, of the past. Most ancestors of current families indeed went back to those days. In the cultures of the region among the peoples of different colors, strengths existed, albeit somewhat different among the cultures, but equally resourceful and strong. Each had their own wonderful story.
In Slave Graves I chose to pit an outsider, archeologist Frank Light, who digs up a hidden secret protected by some of the local citizens. This group served an innuendo of violence toward Light and his team, a violence which grew to murder. The owner of the land where Light works, Terment, is the proper antagonist, someone of evil but as usual having his own goodness.
In all my work I enjoy the technical research. This book required work on bridge building, coffer dams and pile drivers. If there was ever a phallic symbol for the book, the pile driver served that purpose as it hammered the earth for bridge support construction. Archeology too served as a scientific interest for my readers. Many visits to archeology digs taught me that the science is overwhelming, with its own language and spirit.
Of course like all of us in today’s world I enjoy fantasy. In my books you will find ghosts, some friendly, some not. In a later blog I’ll describe the ghosts of Slave Graves.