by Barb, who is packing to go north, and sighing a lot
It’s release day for the fourth Maine Clambake Mystery, Fogged Inn! It’s the first of three books that take us through the off season in Busman’s Harbor, when the Snowden Family Clambake is closed and the tourists have gone home. Busman’s Harbor is a quieter, cozier place. Having made the (braver) decision at the end of Musseled Out to stay in town rather than return to her life in New York, Julia Snowden and her boyfriend Chris Durand are trying to make a go of running a dinner restaurant, sharing space with her friend and landlord Gus who serves up breakfast and lunch.
“Jule-YA! There’s a dead guy in the walk-in.”
The story begins when Gus finds the body of a stranger in his walk-in refrigerator. But who is the dead man? Is he connected to any of the diners who were in the restaurant the night before? Or to the car accident that trapped them there for hours?
When I wrote the first draft of Fogged Inn, I thought it was about coming home, since each of the retirees in the restaurant on that fateful night had returned to Maine to live. But, as so often happens to me, as I got to the end of the first draft, I discovered it wasn’t about that at all. It was about Old Friends.
Once I figured that out, I remembered the commencement address given by actor and writer Mike O’Malley at my daughter’s graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 2006. I admit I went into the event rolling my eyes. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush had already been announced as the joint speakers for 2007, and it didn’t help that my daughter explained who O’Malley was by referencing his show on Nickelodeon. (Of course, now that I know who he is, he’s everywhere.)
It turned out, as it so often does, that my low expectations were dramatically wrongheaded. O’Malley’s speech was heartfelt, wise, and resonated all the more because he had sat where those graduates were sitting. The relevant portion of the speech is this:
“Try as often as you can to give tribute to your friends, to stay in contact, to be at their momentous occasions. Drive across the country and go into debt to go to their weddings, fly across the country and be with them when their parents pass away. You cannot make any new old friends.”
(The whole address is worth a read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:IanManka/Mike_O%27Malley
Then, this fall, long after the book had been turned in, my husband and I lost two old friends in a matter of months and the theme of the book became even more personal and meaningful. At their wakes, I saw people I have known and cared about for years, but whom I rarely see. My generation is not like my children’s. We didn’t have social media to keep us up on what was going on in each others’ lives. We didn’t have e-mail, and long distance calls were expensive and reserved for emergencies. We lost touch more than we should have.
At the second wake, an old friend said, “Why haven’t we seen each other in forty years?” The truth is we had kids, we got more responsibility in our careers, some of us moved to the suburbs, our lives were busy and crazy and satisfying. But there is absolutely nothing like those old friendships, where you can pick up where you left off as if no time has gone by.
At the end of the book I name some of those old friends of my youth. But as the months have gone along since I turned it in, I’ve realized there were even more who should have been listed.
I hope you enjoy Fogged Inn.