Today we have a piece written by Patricia Skalka, author of the Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. The third book in this series, Death in Cold Water has recently been released in paperback.
In real life, people and relationships continually shift and change. They do the same in fiction. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises I encounter in writing the Dave Cubiak Door County mysteries comes from seeing how the characters evolve from one book to the next. Death in Cold Water, the third book in the ongoing saga, finds protagonist Dave Cubiak firmly ensconced as the heroic sheriff even as he continues to struggle with the issues of grief and loss that propelled his move to Door County. But he is no longer the same character he was in Death Stalks Door County, the book that kicks off the series. Over time, and the course of three volumes, he transitions from a forlorn, drunk recluse into a man who slowly learns to trust both himself and others and one who learns to love again.
In describing the heroic detective figure, Raymond Chandler once famously said “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero.” Chandler’s description does not fit the flawed and tragic protagonist we first meet. He is mean (punishing himself for the deaths of his wife and daughter); he is tarnished (having drunk himself out of his job as a Chicago cop); and he is afraid (fearful of life, of making more mistakes); he is not a hero (initially he stubbornly refuses to help solve the mysterious murders plaguing the county). After his moral compass swings back into place, all changes. Cubiak’s plight endures him to readers who empathize with his failings and see themselves reflected in his struggles.
Although I create the stories and control the words that fall upon the page, more often than not I feel like a bystander, one who records events as they occur and documents the shifts in relationships between my fictional characters. I always imagined that Dave Cubiak and the erudite physician Evelyn Bathard would be friends, but I never planned for Bathard to become a father figure to the sheriff. Yet that is exactly what happens. The process begins in the second book and intensifies in Death in Cold Water.
Meanwhile, Mike Rowe makes his entrance in book two as a minor character. His role is expedient. Cubiak needs access to a fast boat, so I introduce a hot-shot young deputy who owns the high-powered Speedy Sister. I cast Rowe as a minor figure but then the muse takes over and in Death in Cold Water, the deputy plays a pivotal role. Even more interesting, at the same time, almost magically, Cubiak emerges as something of a father figure to the younger man.
Did I mention love? In book two, both international photographer Cate Wagner and local vet Natalie Klein appear as romantic interests. In Death in Cold Water, one of the two wins Cubiak’s heart. But I’m not telling which. The answer is one of the series surprises.
Death Stalks Door County, Death at Gills Rock, and Death Rides the Ferry, the fourth book in the Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery series. She is president of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime and divides her time between Chicago and Door County, Wisconsin. A former staff writer at Reader’s Digest, she presents writing workshops throughout the United States.is the author of