A reader named Rick, who lives in Belfast, wrote recently to say he’d just finished DAMAGED GOODS. Rick bid on the book and lunch with me at a fundraiser auction. DAMAGED GOODS, McMorrow No. 9, was appropriate because it’s set in the coastal town of Galway, Maine, which is a lot like Belfast. And I mean a lot.
So Rick and I ate in Darby’s Restaurant, had a very pleasant conversation, and a stroll around downtown Belfast to see some of the locations McMorrow frequents. Rick read DAMAGED GOODS that week and was kind enough to send me a note saying that he’d liked it very much. (Authors pretend not to need this sort of positive reinforcement but most of them are lying.)
But Rick’s first reaction was interesting. He said he could tell I was a birder because there are birds all through the book. And I suppose there are, though I’ve never sent McMorrow out with his binoculars and field guide. But my reporter protagonist is aware of his surroundings, natural and otherwise, and if you live in the country it’s very likely that you’re surrounded by birds. And if you know birds at all, you can’t help but notice what’s out there.
McMorrow and I share some qualities, I guess, and this is one. When I step outside in the early morning I look up at the sky, the woods, and listen. Often there are a dozen or more birds calling at once and I run through the list as I walk to the road to get the newspaper. Orioles, various warblers, sometimes an osprey, crows, chickadees, vireos, robins, bluejays, cardinals, thrushes, woodpeckers, sapsuckers. To some people it’s just a cacaphony, I suppose, a lot of chirping and tweeting. For me and McMorrow it’s much more than that.
So that’s the explanation for the bird thing. To me birds are as much of the landscape as the clouds in the sky.
One morning last week I woke up at 3 a.m. to a wonderful hooting sound. Outside, close to the house, a great horned owl was calling. Another answered. It was a territorial call, from what I’ve read and heard, some maybe there’s a nest nearby.
It was very cool. So don’t be surprised if, in an upcoming McMorrow novel, a great horned owl awakens Jack as well. Funny how that happens. Must be because Jack and I walk the same woods.