In fiction, when does setting become a character? When does location move from background to foreground?
Readers from Pennsylvania to Florida have called out locales they recognize in both the CW McCoy and Brinker series of crime novels. Even with altered geography and names, those places seem to resonate like the voice of a friend.
As they did with me while doing research for Tourist in Paradise, Peak Season and Mr. Mayhem. Here, then, are some of the images that inspired the characters that inhabit those books. As well as the writer.
Sarasota marina, similar to the one where Walter Bishop berths his sailboat in CW McCoy novels
Sansara condos in Sarasota, one of the models for the massive DeSoto Park complex in Tourist in Paradise
Farmers Market in downtown Sarasota, where CW and Tony Delgado meet in Peak Season
The Sarasota skyline inspired creation of CW McCoy’s Spanish Point
Sarasota Police Dept. inspired Spanish Point’s PD where Cheryl, Oz and Delgado work
Drumming the sun down at Siesta Beach, where CW finds a second body in Peak Season
Key Breeze stands in for the galley of the Mary Beth, where CW finds an unconscious Walter Bishop in Tourist in Paradise
Location, location, location. The mantra isn’t just for real estate agents. Writers have long known that a place works better as character than background. NPR does, too, which makes the radio program “Crime in the City” a delight for tourists of murder and mayhem.
The series features well-known authors and their beats—George Pelecanos’ Washington, D.C., Walter Mosley’s L.A.—as well as writers exploring smaller venues—Archer Mayor and Brattleboro, Vt., Julia Keller’s fictional town in West Virginia.
“Crime in the City” also gives armchair detectives a travelogue of international venues—Mary Lou Longworth in Aix-en-Provence, Ann Cleeves in the Shetland Islands, Richard Crompton in Nairobi, Paco Ignacio Taibo II in Mexico City.
Big or small, noisy or quiet, home or abroad, these locales illuminate both the authors and their characters in unexpected ways.
NPR’s correspondents intersperse the ambient sound of streets and cafes with the voices of police, shopkeepers and the writers themselves. As the sun becomes a distant memory in North America, the summer series offers armchair travelers a glimpse of the often superheated habitat of their favorite novelists. (In addition to the live broadcasts, the programs are available on the NPR website as downloadable MP3 files.)
As a reader or writer, what role do you think place can play in crime fiction?