Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reading a Novel that Stars Your Hometown

Yesterday, I reviewed Litany of Secrets by Luke Davis – the first in what I hope is a long line of mystery stories featuring Cameron Ballack, a disabled police detective. What I didn’t mention in the review, likely because it would have detracted from what I was describing, is how familiar I am with the geography of the novel.

The story is set in the town of Defiance, Missouri, which is about a 40-minute drive from where I live in St. Louis. Defiance is the area Daniel Boone settled in a couple of centuries ago, and it sits near the Missouri River, right on Highway 94, a windy road through the state’s wine country. Every time we go to Augusta (a few miles to the west) to visit the winery there, we drive right through Defiance.

The Katy Trail runs right through Defiance as well, and I’ve biked the trail a number of times. In fact, it was on the Katy Trail where I had my crash in 2009 (four broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung), and right on the wooden bridge crossing the Femme Osage Creek, which is the locale of one of the scenes in the book.

The headquarters the police work out of in the story is “east of the high school and a minor league baseball stadium” in O’Fallon, Missouri. The baseball stadium in question is the T.R. Hughes Stadium, and my oldest son worked there for the minor baseball team after graduating from college. One of the character’s parents lives in Chesterfield, a St. Louis suburb, and the character herself graduated from Parkway West High School.

The references to highways in the book – Highway 94 in St. Charles, Interstates 70, 64 and 270 – are all real roads. Interstate 70 connects St. Louis and Kansas City; Interstate 64 is the main highway through the St. Louis region; and 270 is the “belt” around St. Louis County.

One scene has the detectives talking to a professor at Fitz’s restaurant in University City, the area we call the Loop. Fitz’s is a real place, and something of a St. Louis icon (think burgers, fries, root beer, and malts). And I got hungry reading the references to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand in the city of St. Louis.

Litany of Secrets is filled with St. Louis references, but that won’t stop non-St. Louisans from enjoying it. It’s a great story. A bonus for me was to read about places I’m so familiar with.


Luke H. Davis said...

Thanks for this follow-up post, Glynn! The geography of realism is very important to me, and it's great to hear how so much of the novel overlaps with your experience as well!

Martha Jane Orlando said...

It's great fun to read about your local area in a novel. I'm enjoying reading the installments of The Presidents Club by FC Etier; not only is it exciting and intriguing, but the Atlanta/Marietta landmarks are such fun to identify with.
Thanks for a great book review, Glynn!