Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Life (and Death) Imitate Art

© Gerry Boyles 2009 all rights reserved

I was driving, and still the story on the radio made me shiver. A body had been found murdered in a shack on the bank of the Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine. The shack was frequented by homeless people. The body was that of a young woman. Her name was Holly. She was 19.

The story ended; I was almost home. I went to the Bangor Daily News online. I shivered again.

I wrote a mystery novel called Home Body, published in 2004. It was about street kids in Portland and Bangor, including a teenage girl named Tammy. She hung around the shelters, befriended a younger boy named Rocky. Tammy tried to warn Rocky about the perils of the street, including an older guy named Crow Man who preyed on the kids. Crow Man liked to drink down by the Penobscot River, under the Veterans’ Remembrance Bridge. I wrote a fight scene down there: Crow Man vs. Jack McMorrow, my series hero. McMorrow won that round. He couldn’t save Tammy. She was stabbed to death.

Back in real life, the murder victim this week was Holly Boutilier. She was from Old Town, near Bangor, was known to area places that serve the homeless, according to the newspaper. The paper published Holly’s photo from her Facebook page. She looks sweet, a little artsy, with dark-rimmed glasses and hair piled up on her head. Her obituary says she liked animals.

Cops arrested a guy they said was Holly’s killer. His name is Colin Koehler, not Crow Man. He’s 34. Cops had to tear-gas his apartment in Bangor to get him to give up. They questioned him for four hours before they charged him with murder. In his photo, he looks big, shaved head growing out. Resigned to his fate.

The reporters in Bangor did a good job. They went to the arrest scene. They went to the shack down by the bridge, where the body was found, and reported they saw discarded evidence tags and a spot of blood. The shack is filled with dirty blankets and clothes. A homeless woman reportedly lived there but she’s not around.

In coming days, the newspaper and TV news will report more about Holly and Koehler. They’ll tell us how their paths may have intersected. Were they acquaintances? Was it a crime of opportunity? How did she die? Who were her friends?

It will all come out, just as it does in the book. Reporters on the story. McMorrow pausing to ponder: “Nothing moved under the parking lot lights. Nothing showed against the glow of the city, across the harbor. The bridge lights glowed red in the sky like the lights of motionless airplanes. I watched for a few minutes, eyes narrowed, looking for some clue in the blackness, some reason for a girl’s life to end in this lonely way.”

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About the author:
Gerry Boyle is a crime novelist best known for his acclaimed Jack McMorrow mystery series, featuring an ex-New York Times reporter transplanted to Maine. Boyle is a former reporter and columnist who spent nearly two decades covering Maine crime. He continues to write as a freelance journalist for magazines, and is editor of the alumni magazine at his alma mater, Colby College. Boyle lives in a lakeside village in Maine where he and his wife Mary have raised three children. This summer he is applying the last touches to DAMAGED GOODS, the ninth McMorrow novel, due out in February 2010. He reports that research for the second Brandon Blake mystery, is almost done.


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks for the post, Gerry. It reaffirms just how small the world is. Yesterday, a 12-yr-old autistic boy went missing in the Lower Mainland of BC. This morning they found his remains; he'd been murdered. I guess that also reaffirms the reality of Life and Death imitating Art imitating Life. Maybe we write mysteries because we have to live in and make sense of this world.

Sheila Deeth said...

Fascinating parallels between life and art. The case Joylene quotes is really tragic. Maybe she's right about why we write.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Gerry, wonderful piece. I'm off delivering my daughter back to college and visiting family, so have been a little out of touch on the blog. Sorry this is late! But I'm thrilled to hear you live in Maine - my summers were spent on Great Pond at my grandparents rustic fishing resort, and were the best times of my life. (www.legardemysteries.com/tremolocryoftheloon/htm)Your McMorrow series looks enticing, I'm off to check it out! Thanks for guest blogging with us today, and please come back soon!

s.w. vaughn said...

How fascinating... and rather creepy!