Today crime writer Neely Tucker is taking the reins of the CTG blog to talk about the real life places, and events, that have inspired his two recent books THE WAYS OF THE DEAD and MURDER, D.C.
So, over to Neely …
“The Ways of the Dead” and “Murder, D.C.” are based on very real Washington neighborhoods with very real histories, and both novels are based on very real events.
“Ways” takes as its inspiration a real-life serial killer named Darryl Turner, who police say killed as many as nine women, most of whom were in the low-end drug trade. He killed all of them on or near a two-block long street called Princeton Place. It’s about two miles north of the U.S. Capitol. In the late 1990s, when the novel is set, this was a predominantly black neighborhood, in which older residents were middle class and took very good care of their homes, but were surrounded by drug dealers and crack houses (abandoned buildings where addicts get high).
The recent film, “The Butler,” about the long-time butler to several U.S. presidents, is about a man who lived in this neighborhood.
In 2000, as the court reporter for The Washington Post, I covered the initial proceedings against Turner. The contrasts of the neighborhood struck me, and that was the beginning of “Ways.”
“Murder” moves about four miles south, to a little-visited part of D.C. known as “Southwest.” Here’s your handy travel tip: D.C. is divided into four quadrants, with the U.S. Capitol acting as the dividing point. “Northwest D.C.” is the land north and west of the Capitol, and so on.
Southwest DC is a tiny quadrant, just south of the Capitol and quickly cut off by the Washington Channel or the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, there were at least two “slave pens,” or jails where enslaved African Americans were kept and sold, in the area.
If you go along the National Mall today, by the Air and Space Museum, you are less than two hundred meters from an antebellum slave pen. There was also a very large slave auction house just across the river, in Virginia. Again, if you saw the film “12 Years a Slave,” that’s where the man was actually first held.
So I created a fictional knob of land, Frenchman’s Bend, imbued it with the combined histories of these nearby slave pens, and set it along the waterfront. It’s a cursed, gothic sort of place that no one wanted to touch after the Civil War, due to horrors that had gone on there. Think of it as an open-air haunted house. By the late 20th Century, it’s a very unpleasant drug park, the most violent place in the most violent city in America — which D.C. really was at the time.
Welcome to the real estate upon which turns “Murder, D.C.,” and the fate of Sully Carter.
Huge thanks to Neely Tucker for stopping by to talk Locations.
MURDER, D.C. will be published in hardback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “When Billy Ellison, the son of Washington, D.C.’s most influential African-American family, is found dead in the Potomac near a violent drug haven, veteran metro reporter Sully Carter knows it’s time to start asking some serious questions – no matter what the consequences.
With the police unable to find a lead and pressure mounting for Sully to abandon the investigation, he has a hunch that there is more to the case than a drug deal gone bad or a tale of family misfortune. Digging deeper, Sully finds that the real story stretches far beyond Billy and into D.C.’s most prominent social circles.
An alcoholic still haunted from his years as a war correspondent in Bosnia, Sully now must strike a dangerous balance between D.C.’s two extremes – the city’s violent, desperate back streets and its highest corridors of power – while threatened by those who will stop at nothing to keep him from discovering the shocking truth.”
THE WAYS OF THE DEAD will be published in paperback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “The body of the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington, D.C. It is murder, and the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys from a notorious gang.
Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects that there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know. With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge due for a court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry, in spite of some very dangerous people telling him to shut it down.”
To find out more about Neely Tucker and his books hop on over to his website at www.neelytucker.com and follow him on Twitter @NeelyTucker