Acoustic Shadows Inspired by Patrick Kendrick
People have asked how I come up with ideas for my novels and my pat answer is, “I read the newspapers.” While this is not an original concept, with my newest work, ACOUSTIC SHADOWS, one cannot miss the headline-inspired storyline of the novel. It begins with a shooting at an elementary school.
When I was touring and doing signings for my last book, Extended Family, I would do a lecture on “Mass, Spree, and Serial Killers,” accompanied by slides, historical information, and anecdotes about various killers over the years. The lecture pointed out the differences between these types of killers: Mass murderers: one event, one location, multiple victims, usually targeted, meant to be a statement and garner lots of coverage by the media. Spree killers: several events over a few days, multiple locations, multiple victims, sometimes targeted, often random, sometimes making a statement, or a person just going over the edge due to some dramatic event such as a lost job or crumbling marriage. Serial killers: multiple events, multiple victims, typically over years; they want to be recognized for their heinous acts but do not want to be caught, so they are very careful.
When I began doing these lectures in 2012, there were a number of mass killings but they could be counted easily enough. Columbine is one of the first that came to mind, then Virginia Tech. But since 2006, these killings have increased exponentially and there have been some 200 cases or more since then. Currently, they are happening at a pace of about one attack every two weeks. They are always startling accounts of innocent people being slaughtered by someone, typically, with a long history of mental illness, living an isolated, socially inept life. For reference, I would suggest this site, based on the FBI’s current data.
For me, none were as disturbing, as heart wrenching, as the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, a quiet, small town like thousands of suburban towns that exist all across the world. As a paramedic and fire fighter for many years, I have seen my share of disasters, trauma, and human suffering. I could not get over all of those children, so young and innocent, that were slaughtered by another one of these mad men that I often write about in my novels. I could not sleep at night and while I, like most people, wept as I watched the news coverage every night, I could not stop watching it while wondering why does this keep happening and, can it ever be stopped?
My way of dealing with this horrific event was to put the subject into one of my books, perhaps as a cathartic way for me to deal with my own feelings about the horror, perhaps for people to reflect on the problem that has become epidemic and which, we feel helpless to do anything about. This was how ACOUSTIC SHADOWS came about. As I pondered the story, a thought kept coming back to me: what if one of the teachers had a weapon?
The novel begins with two armed gunmen entering a school in a small town in Florida. They begin shooting; initially, it seems at random. But, this time, one of the teachers has a gun and takes matters into her own hands. Of course, teachers having handguns in school has become a source of much controversy, and some of that makes its way into the story. But I posed the question as well: could such an attack come from a different motive? I write thrillers and mysteries after all and, so far, all of them have a common element of conspiracy, so that is where I went with ACOUSTIC SHADOWS.
I wanted to create some memorable characters, too, and I knew from the beginning that all of the main characters would have some sort of damaged psyche stemming from a violent act that they had to deal with, along with this tragic event that has brought them all together. The term “acoustic shadows” refers to the phenomenon wherein a battle is taking place, but those who are closest to it cannot always hear it, while others farther away from it can hear it clearly. So I thought it would be an interesting premise to have my characters so close to the violence that they could not see the truth of how they were a part of it.
The teacher, Erica Weisz, has a gun in school because of something that has happened to her, but using the gun pushes her into a limelight that she cannot afford to be in.
The lawman, Agent Justin Thiery, carries baggage from being a popular football player who couldn’t make it in the NFL. Because of this, he feels like a failure—a tough way to go through life. Eventually, he finds a career at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, marries, and has children, but when his own wife disappears, and he, as a cop, cannot find her, he feels that haunting failure again. When he is assigned to investigate the shooting at the school, he arrives to find Erica has disappeared and he feels the pressure to try to get one thing right; by finding her, he might have one last chance at redemption.
Patrick Kendrick was a fire fighter and freelance journalist for many years before turning to writing suspense novels full time. His first book, Papa’s Problem won the Florida Book Award and the Hollywood Film Festival Award. His second book, Extended Family, earned a starred review from Booklist. ACOUSTIC SHADOWS is published by Killer Reads, an imprint from HarperCollinsUK. Kendrick lives in South Florida.
To learn more about Patrick, please visit his website.