For those of you who are just discovering my blog, a little up front information: I’m currently rereading the entire Cork O’Connor series, something I’ve never done. This as a kind of celebration of the fine-looking trade paperback editions of my backlist released this summer. I’ve been waylaid for a while by other concerns, but I’m back on the journey.
While driving on my current book tour, I’ve been listening to the audio version of Copper River done by Recorded Books. It’s a terrific reading by David Chandler. And the story, I have to admit, is pretty damn good, too.
There’s an issue at the heart of Copper River. It’s a book that deals largely with the question of those children in our society who we turn our backs on, the thousands of children who go missing every year and are lost to us. They’ve been abused, abandoned, and become the targets for all kinds of predators. In the Ojibwe culture of old, the children were the responsibility of the entire village. Everyone was “uncle” or “aunt” or “grandmother” or “grandfather.” There are no villages today, not for the Ojibwe and not for the rest of us. And our children suffer for it.
The opening of this book, when I began to conceive it, concerned me. It deals with the killing of a child, which is something I promised myself long ago I would never write. I’m a father, a grandfather. I don’t like to read about children being murdered, so why would I want to write about it? But I knew this was the right opening for the story, and the question was how to compose this scene in such a way that it would be powerful and heartbreaking, but also would not turn readers away. This was the most difficult opening for a book I’ve ever written. And in its way, it may be the best.
What follows is a pretty compelling tale of children who stumble into more than they’ve bargained for, and the adults who step up to the plate to help, Cork O’Connor among them, of course. The story features a kick-ass female security consultant named Dina Wilner (a holdover from the previous book) who, judging from the emails I continue to receive about her, is clearly a favorite with readers.
My own favorite characters in this book are the two teenagers at the heart of the story: Ren and Charlie. Having raised two kids, I recall clearly the teen years. Oh, God, were they tough. Teens are hard on adults. But they’re also vulnerable in so many ways. I tried to capture this dichotomy between the tough surface and all the uncertainty that lies beneath. In the end, I really loved these kids.
This story takes place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the only Cork book to be set significantly outside Minnesota. And one of the other big challenges was to write it in such a way that even if readers weren’t familiar with Mercy Falls, which sets up the situation of Cork’s retreat to the U.P., they could still fully enjoy the story. If you’re among those who fit this description, I’d love to hear your take on how well I accomplished this.
Listening to the story on tape, honest to God, I kept saying to myself, “This guy’s a pretty good storyteller.” And I love the way this book ends, just language itself. See, I impress myself pretty easily.
Up next, Thunder Bay, which is my favorite book in the series.
See you down the road!