For the past month, since I finished a draft of my sixth Joe Burgess mystery, A Child Shall Lead Them, I’ve been finished a project I started last summer–retyping, and editing, the mystery my late mother, A. Carman Clark, was working on when she died. The Corpse in the Compost sat in the corner of my office, guilt-tripping me, for years, but I never had time to settle in and work on it. Last summer, I decided the time had come. For two months, when I could, I reread the work, the comments I’d given her years ago, and comments from her close friends. I began to edit, scribbling, as one does on hard copy, all over the pages, along the margins and on the back.
Working on the book was an interesting experience, both because of the memories it brought back of my mother’s voice and world view, but also because I found myself yelling at her, in absentia, when she didn’t tie up a loose end or leave me with her research to fill out some details. It was nice to get to spend the summer with my mother.
In the fall, finding my computer couldn’t read her old files, I started retyping the whole book and putting in my changes. But I am the world’s worst typist, and had to abandon the project for the final touches on a nonfiction work and to finish the ninth book in my Thea Kozak series, Schooled in Death.
The Burgess and Thea taken care of, I was able to come back to my mother’s project late this summer, and finished retyping it last week. Now the book is on my brother’s desk, awaiting his input and corrections.
I don’t have a story idea for a new Thea, although a new Burgess is beginning to percolate. My editor suggested I might consider starting a new series, so I began looking in the filing cabinet, wondering if one of the many “books in the drawer” might become a new series. I knew that I’d written one book in my architect series, and started another, but no matter where I looked, Bones are Bad for Business was nowhere to be found. I searched the cupboards. I looked in the basement. I looked in old filing boxes. Finally, on my hands and knees, I moved some stacks of books on my office floor and there, tucked under a bookcase, was the manuscript.
Gad! I wrote it back in 1996, I discover as I take it out of the folder. Will it stand up or will it feel hopelessly dated. That’s what I will discover in the week ahead, as I dig in and read about Lavinia Malcolm, her struggles to develop the family land in a way that will be respectful of her grandparents’ love for it, while fighting off her ex-husband’s plans for a cookie-cutter subdivision. And then human bones are found in a test pit. It should be an interesting journey down another memory lane.