By Amy MacKinnon
I saw him standing toward the back. It was Saturday afternoon and I was doing my first reading of the day at Barnes & Noble in Hingham. He shifted his weight from left foot to right, and then back again. One hand was on his hip and his expression was unfathomable. He never faltered when I stared back at him, though I did. He didn't smile, he didn't glower, he didn't appear pleased or displeased. But that fidgeting had me worried.
To be honest I wasn't certain it was him. I'd met him only once, about two years ago when it was clear my novel would be set in Brockton, Massachusetts, featuring Brockton cops. I called the police department to see if I could have a tour, I needed to know the layout of the building, smell it, feel the grit that coated every surface, and have a sense of the people who inhabited the place. I was patched through to Officer Al Gazerro.
He gave me hours of his time, showing me every nook and cranny, introducing me around to everyone from the dispatchers to the detectives to the chief. I took notes, I inhaled the place as best I could, and then went home to try to convey it all on the page.
Details matter. They matter to your readers, to the authenticity of your story, they should matter a great deal to you. I wanted desperately get it right. And there, toward the back, was Officer Gazerro who was about to tell me if I got it wrong.
He was last in line to have his book signed. As he got closer, I knew it was him.
"Do you remember me?" he asked.
"Al Gazerro," I said, waiting.
"I love your book." Finally he smiled.
He said his daughter got him a copy, that they now had three at home. He told me I got it exactly right, even the woman detective's shoes, the detective's unit, the homes he so often goes to while on duty. I got it right.
I hugged him, I had to. I so badly wanted to please him, to honor his vocation, and repay the faith he had in me. So far, it's been the highlight of my booktour.
All along there've been two people I've feared disappointing with this book: Al Gazerro and my uncle, the funeral director. I've waited on tenterhooks for their feedback, knowing I'd hear about it if I got it wrong. It's the sort of thing that gets under people's skin, isn't it? The relief is huge, knowing Officer Gazerro is pleased. Now I just need to hear from my uncle...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
By Amy MacKinnon