Our guest blogger today is Patricia Skalka, author of the Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery Series. The fifth book in the series, Death by the Bay, was published this month.
Of the five books in the Dave Cubiak Door County mysteries, Death by the Bay is the most personal.
In the first four volumes, both the characters and the plots were born in my imagination. The concept for Death by the Bay evolved from a true story that my mother told me when I was ten or twelve. She grew up on a small family farm in central Wisconsin in a community of Polish immigrants. Few spoke English and most had large families. One neighboring couple stood out because they had only one child, a daughter with a disability. One day, an itinerant doctor, or someone posing as such, told the couple that he could help their child. The specifics became blurred over time, but in one version, he talked of a special school where children like their daughter could learn to live independently. I remember my mother saying that he offered to provide free medical care, treatments that would alleviate her condition and even “cure” her.
The stranger was educated, persuasive. The desperate couple believed him. Thinking they were acting in the best interests of their precious only child, they allowed him to leave with her. They never saw her again.
I was horrified. I could not believe that such evil existed in the world. But there was more. Months later, the same predator or one of similar ilk came to my grandparents’ farm. His target was my mother’s younger sister, Rose, who’d been afflicted with polio and as a result was unable to speak or walk properly. Aware of what had happened to the neighboring family, my grandmother picked up a broom and chased the man out the door.
Before I became a novelist, I was a nonfiction writer. My stories about human drama, women’s issues, and medical advancements appeared in many print and online publications. The story I always wanted to write was the story of the couple whose daughter was stolen under false pretenses. But there was no paper trail, no way to research or document the events.
So, I did the only thing I could: I fictionalized the story. This tragic tale I heard decades ago became the seed for Death by the Bay. Though I shifted the locale, altered the circumstances, and developed a contemporary plot line, the basis of the story remains unchanged. Death by the Bay is a tale of the powerful preying on the weak, a tale of the educated taking advantage of the unknowing. It is a story that, unfortunately, continues to repeat itself in various ways throughout the world today.
Death Stalks Door County, Death at Gills Rock, Death in Cold Water, and Death Rides the Ferry, winner of a Midwest Book Award. She is president of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime and divides her time between Chicago and Door County, Wisconsin.is the author of
Visit Patricia’s website to view her upcoming events and more: http://www.patriciaskalka.com/