I can’t wait for my readers to explore what’s in The Skeleton Box.
The Skeleton Box was inspired by a true story: the disappearance of a Roman Catholic nun from a parish on Michigan’s Leelenau Peninsula in the early 1900s.
Hundreds of people swept through local swamp and forest land looking in vain for young Sister Mary Janina. A few years later, a woman who had worked at the parish confessed to a priest in Milwaukee that she had murdered Sister Janina and buried her beneath the church.
I first read about the nun’s murder in a collection of true Michigan tales by the late Larry Wakefield, and later in Mardi Link’s splendid book, Isadore’s Secret. Certain images stuck with me and, as with the shoe tree in my previous novel, The Hanging Tree, I had to write about them. Still, The Skeleton Box tells a very different story than the real one that precipitated the longest murder trial in Michigan history.
When I wrote my first novel, Starvation Lake, I didn’t set out to write a trilogy. Heck, I threw away an entire book between the first and second ones. Yet, with The Skeleton Box, I think I’ve completed an accidental trilogy that revolves around the relationship between the protagonist, Gus Carpenter, and his mother, Bea. People who know me might say that in some ways it mirrors the relationship I had with my Mom. In retrospect, they might not be far off.
It’s been quite a week.
Just the other day, my agent Anna DeRoy of William Morris Endeavor finalized a deal with writer-director John Gray, who has optioned THE HANGING TREE for a film. John’s a hugely successful TV screenwriter and director who in recent years has shifted to making feature films. He wrote me a passionate letter about the book and, while recognizing that these things take a lot of time, I’m hoping that he might actually get a movie made.
On Friday, July 15, I left The Wall Street Journal after nearly 16 years. I still love the paper and my many friends there, but a great new opportunity arose and I figured, what the heck, why not try something really different before I get really old.
So on September 6, I’ll start as a reporter-at-large at Bloomberg News, specializing in big features for Businessweek. I’ll be able to roam widely and bore in deeply on the sorts of narrative and investigative features I’ve loved writing at all of the newspapers I’ve worked for. But it’ll be a different kind of writing—magazine-style—for different people and a different company. Fingers crossed that I don’t fall on my face!
For now, I’m on vacation, and heading up soon to Big Twin Lake, where I’ll be hanging with family and friends for a week or so—and I’ll be sure to pay a visit to the real Starvation Lake.