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The idea came primarily from an incident that occurred during a 1993 book tour for my novel Dawson City Seven. The first stop was at CKUA Radio, in Edmonton, Alberta. Entering the studio with my traveling companion and long-time friend Bob Bernstein, I was led inside a glass-encased area that reminded me of the Wizard of Oz setup, where behind the glass were people operating various levers and dials as I sat nervously under a hanging microphone, across from radio personality Chris Allen.
Allen conducted a weekly book interview, and proceeded to ask a rather benign series of questions. Without prior public speaking experience, I was concerned about the performance, but when it ended, I felt I had done okay. As Allen led me out of the glass-box and into the ajoining Oz room where a long, dark-haired woman named Flo chatted with Bob, he asked me another innocuous question. Off the air, under no pressure, I answered him in a more animated fashion, and when he sat on the edge of a table, and Flo and Bob looked on in interest, I continued, telling them stories behind the writing of the novel which interested them, things like including the names of my three children backwards as names of characters.
When I finished, Allen was enthusiastic. "That's what you should be telling people on the air, you know, these kinds of things!"
And so I learned a lesson in speaking publicly about my work, learned what interested people. And it was thinking about that experience that led me to The "Killing Frank McGee" Companion.
It is written as just that, a companion to the text of my novel "Killing Frank McGee." After every two chapters the reader is invited to read about the background behind those chapters. The MANUSCRIPT NOTES tell where the chapters were written and include some margin notes; what follows is a discussion of some aspect of the text, followed by NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND which documents the behind-the-scenes correspondence including the research and editing of the novel.
The desired effect is that of a fuller appreciation of the inner workings in researching, writing, and editing an historical novel, as well as insight into the particular quirks and accidents that lead to individual scenes and characters. I hope you enjoy it.