Monday, September 10, 2012

Wordcraft -- Writing from the bones

Civic boosters, be warned. If you take forensic anthropologist turned best-selling crime author Kathy Reichs on a tour of your city, she’ll find the darkest side of your most prized landmarks. Like the hidden landfill. Or the buried arsenic barrels. All great places to hide skeletons, civic or not.

She discussed inspirations for her novels at the Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble, sharing tips for unearthing corpses with an overflow audience. Reichs’ latest book -- Bones are Forever -- germinated from a visit to the NorthWords Literary Festival in the town of Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Yellowknife, once a gold mining boom town, is now home to Canada’s latest mineral boom -- diamond mining. It’s also the site of barrels of arsenic waste left from the gold mining, now stored underground. Hmmm.

A previous book, Flash and Bones, focused on the landfill underlying a major NASCAR racetrack. I shudder to think what skeletons she might have unearthed if anybody gave her a tour of Dallas. But if she writes it, we’ll stand in line to buy. Because her skill at finding what lies below the surface, whether of cities or corpses, is the key to her popularity.

I learned so much from her discussion in Bones are Forever about diamonds and how to find them, I’m ready to stake my own claim up north. Only I’d better hurry before winter sets in. Yellowknife is a balmy four degrees of latitude south of the Arctic Circle.

On the human side of the book, regular readers will be glad to learn that Reichs’ protagonist Dr. Temperance Brennan reconnects with sexy homicide detective Andrew Ryan. But how does Ryan end up so far from his own jurisdiction in Montreal? Sorry -- for that, you’ll have to read the book yourself.

The Brennan series isn’t Reichs’ only project. She’s also producer and sometimes writer for the Fox TV series Bones, starring Emily “Bones” Deschanel as a forensic
anthropologist named Temperance Brennan, but one differing greatly from the Brennan of the books. (The TV Brennan also writes, about a character named Kathy Reichs.)

Just don’t ask the flesh and blood Reichs to reveal anything about the show. As her daughter, and also author and fellow book tour member Kerry Reichs said, “(the series creator) would hang her by her toenails.”

Writing has become a family business, between Kerry’s books and Reichs’ son Brendan’s collaboration with his mother on a young adult series -- Viral and Seizure. Kerry also has a young son, who hasn’t published a book -- yet. Kerry Reich’s latest volume is What You Wish For, dealing with the many way in which to form a family. But she’s careful, she insisted, not to make any of the characters resemble her own mother in the slightest. And, she assured us, her books are totally corpse-free.

For more information about Reichs, her work and writing, see


Want to hear the real dirt on Dallas’ past? Drop by the Dallas’ Library’s Skillman Southwestern branch Wednesday, September 12, for Mark Doty’s discussion of his book, Lost Dallas. Doty is the city’s historic preservation officer. He speaks from 6 - 8 p.m. in the library branch at 7507 Skillman St., Dallas, 75206. Free.

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