Monday, April 19, 2021

On Location

   When I started my first book, Random Road,  I picked Fairfield County, Connecticut as the setting for my Geneva Chase mystery series.  The primary reason was that I know the area from working at a newspaper there for eighteen years. I’m familiar with the roads, the towns, the time it takes to drive from place to place, the restaurants, the stores, and companies doing business there.

            Full disclosure, I don’t live there anymore.  As many of you know, I live on the coast of North Carolina.  Someday I’ll set a story here, but for the time being, I’ll just enjoy the beaches, the fabulous food, and the lack of traffic (except for tourist season).

            I picked Fairfield County for other reasons as well.  It’s a bedroom community near New York City and much of the area is extremely affluent with deep pockets of wealth such as Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan, Easton, and Ridgefield.      

            Fairfield County is home to CEOs, movie stars, Broadway actors, best-selling authors, rock-stars, and famous athletes.  The attraction is its proximity to Manhattan.  It is also far enough away that paparazzi aren’t usually an annoying factor.

            But when you have affluence, you often have crushing poverty as well.  One of the most economically challenged cities in Connecticut is Bridgeport in the southeastern corner of the county.  That kind of extreme diversity in an area makes it attractive to me as a writer.

            And you have some pretty gruesome crimes that take place—in real life.

            Two years ago, the body of a twenty-four year old woman was found stuffed in a suitcase in Greenwich.  The cause of death for the bookstore clerk from New Rochelle (neighboring Westchester County…also affluent) was deemed “homicidal asphyxia”.  The ex-boyfriend of the young lady was arrested after using her ATM card.  He claimed that the young woman fell and hit her head during sex at her apartment.  He admits that he bound her hands and feet, placed tape over her mouth, shoved her into a suitcase and left her in a “forest”.

            This kind of thing ain’t supposed to happen in Greenwich.

            In December of 2011, a friend of mine was murdered in his jewelry shop in Westport. Yekutiel Zeevi (known to his friends as Kootie) was the owner of Y.Z. Jewelers.  It was a fascinating place that wasn’t always open to the public.  You had to get past his security system and be buzzed in.

            When I first met him, he had a small, glittering pile of diamonds on a table in front of him and a jeweler’s loupe in his eye.  The first thing he did when I walked through the door was ask if I smoked.  I did at the time.  Then he bummed a cigarette.  We became friends after that, even inviting me to go to Africa with him on a diamond buying trip.

            I never took him up on the trip.

            In December, 2011, Kootie and an associate met with a buyer who we later discovered was a half million dollars in debt.  He shot and killed my friend, wounded the associate, and left with $300,000 in diamonds.

            That kind of thing ain’t supposed to happen in Westport.

            The killer was captured in Spain, where while awaiting extradition to the United States, he took his own life.

            On May 24, two years ago, Jennifer Dulos of New Canaan, 50, mother of five, went missing.   

            Her estranged husband, Fortis Dulos and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, were arrested for tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.  According to prosecutors, Jennifer’s blood mixed with her husband’s DNA was found on the faucet in the kitchen of her home.

            Police continue to look for Jennifer Dulos…or her remains.

            The estranged husband committed suicide last year.  The investigation is ongoing.

            The point is that bad things can and do happen even in the best of neighborhoods.  That kind of juxtaposition makes for jarring news stories but can make interesting fiction.

—Thomas Kies

1 comment:

Anna said...

Thomas, "the best of neighborhoods" has an elastic definition, doesn't it? My ex grew up in Greenwich, and his parents lived out their lives there with every material comfort. They seemed to me to be chronically sad. Visiting over the years, I knew only that lots of people in Greenwich had lots of money, but I was mostly oblivious to the nuances and implications except for thinking occasionally "poor little rich people." On reflection, I can see that the place enabled many residents to live out their well-developed fantasies and narratives about themselves, not infrequently having those fantasies crash and burn. (Not to say that we don't all have such narratives, but the specifics vary....) Lots of material here for mystery stories! If I were to write them, I would have to use the POV of the outsider I was then---but with more insight, of course.