From murder mysteries to stories of lost and damaged souls, the Frederick Writers Salon’s “In the Shadow of the Spires” is a perfect read in these times of darkness and uncertainty.
The 11-story collection puts a unique spin on the legendary “noir” crime genre, known for shadowy settings and morally ambiguous characters, similar to a hard-boiled detective or a dangerous “femme fatale.” And bonus, all the writers are local.
One of the group members, Frederick author Scott Harris, recently answered some questions about the collection, which is available via Amazon in paperback or digital format at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BY6Q8WS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1.
First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself (who you are, your background as writer, etc.)?
Harris: I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for the past eight years. I’ve been a fiction writer since I figured out how to hold a crayon.
Only in recent years, however, have I really gotten ‘serious’ about it. The Frederick Writers Salon has been huge in helping me on that path.
Can you tell me about the Frederick Writers Salon and “The Shadow of the Spires?”
Harris: ‘In The Shadow of the Spires’ is an anthology featuring 11 short stories from members of our group. The stories all have two things in common: they’re set in Frederick, and they all follow the classic themes of the ‘noir’ crime genre.
It’s not always easy for writers to connect with one another, despite having a strong desire for that connection. You look for people who speak the same “language,’ if you will. I’d say that’s especially important when the common language is, you know, language. Writers are also a bit of an eccentric bunch, so it’s nice to know people who can relate.
The Frederick Writers Salon is a supportive group of people who like to write—simple as that. We range from people who are more serious about it like me all the way down to first-timers. If you write, you’re eligible.
A lot of us submit a piece of writing that gets critiqued by the group during a meeting, but that is in no way required. Sharing your work can be nerve-wracking but we’re a welcoming and constructive bunch.
What was the inspiration for “The Shadow of the Spires” collection and what are some of the stories about?
Harris: I mentioned the noir theme before, and I think that’s a really important piece of it, especially in the pandemic era.
If you’re not familiar with noir, think about those old black-and-white mysteries starring Humphrey Bogart as the weary, hard-boiled detective and Lauren Bacall as the ‘femme fatale.’ There’s mystery, there’s darkness and every character is flawed. Even the good guys are a little bit bad.
So to boil it down, these are all dark tales set in or near Frederick. It actually feels kind of perfect in its own way. These are dark, anxious times, and these are dark, anxious stories. Reading the anthology is sort of akin to listening to sad songs after a breakup.
It looks as though all of the stories are Frederick-based. How did you come up with the themes for them, and how much is based on true legends or stories?
Harris: My story is actually a good example of this because it’s based at the Gambrill Mill field hospital in the wake of the Battle of Monocacy. Maybe it’s a noir mystery and local historical fiction mixed together.
I visited Gambrill Mill and was captivated by the beauty and tranquility I found there. I remembered how much violence and suffering was hidden under those meadows. That gave me the inspiration to write this story, a murder mystery pitting a Union special officer against a shady field surgeon.
How can people read the stories?
Harris: ‘In the Shadow of the Spires’ is available through Amazon in paperback or digital format: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BY6Q8WS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
All the proceeds benefit the Literary Council of Frederick County, a nonprofit organization that helps adults learn how to read. So every purchase goes to a good cause.
Do you have any future projects planned, either as the Frederick Writers Salon or on your own?
Harris: The group is holding meetings during the pandemic via Zoom and all the other ways that are so familiar now. Visitors are welcome at any meeting. You can find us on the Meetup website: https://www.meetup.com/Frederick-Writers-Salon/.
I’m writing new fiction and starting to get published, which is very exciting. I mainly write dystopian science fiction. Sports fans can check out my stuff at Bleacher Report: https://bleacherreport.com/users/226980.