Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hitting home

Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees. Well, now that Hurricane Wilma has sheared most the trees away, I can see the forest pretty damn clearly. And I can't believe what I'm seeing.

I am up in New Jersey, a refugee from the hurricane that blasted my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I was up here on business when it hit and now I can't get home. Yeah, yeah, I're probably tired of hearing about hurricanes. So was I. Until this one hit home. But now, stranded up here, I am starved for news about what is going on. And there isn't any. News, that is. Every morning I got up and turned on the news channels -- CNN, MSNBC, etc. Sure, they showed the cool, colorful spiral as it hovered over the Yucatan. And then they had some footage of flooding in Naples and other west coast Florida towns. What they DIDN'T show was the devastation on the EAST coast, where Wilma did the most damage. Millions without power, no gas, no food, homes blown apart. And now, five days after the storm, we are still under curfew, FP&L is saying we might not have power back until Thanksgiving and old people stranded in their retirement gulags can't get food.

CNN stopped covering this story days ago. And the exalted New York Times never really bothered. I guess not all the news IS fit to print. Baby Bush did his drop-by photo-op, hugged a black woman, and split. Okay, I get that Bush has bigger problems these days what with the CIA leak investigation, supreme court non-nominee and 2,000 and counting American military deaths in Iraq. Forget about FEMA being a no-show. What rots my socks that the media is MIA on this one. Maybe it's hurricane fatigue. Maybe it's the fact that only 10 people died in Florida and our images aren't as horrific as New Orleans. After all, how many cars in uprooted trees can you look at?

But I was a journalist for 25 years and I just don't get it. And neither do you -- the news, that is. If you live outside of Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Miami, you don't have any idea of what is going on down there. I guess what I am trying to say here is that there is an object lesson here, something I have always known but never saw in such a personal light. Beware of what you read or hear from the media. Or rather, beware of what you DON'T read or hear. And I am not talking about just hurricanes.

Okay. Enough of a rant. Tomorrow, I will go back to blogging about writing, I promise. In the meantime, if youwant to see what is left of my hometown, go to

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Up North

You can't go home again -- Thomas Wolfe

Somehow I don't think Thomas Wolfe was talking about his first kiss when he wrote that. But his famous line has been bouncing around in my head ever since I got back from my trip to Michigan. Kelly and I were there for some book business. Or so we said. But mostly, we were there to go home again. See, we were born and raised Michiganders, but have lived in other states most our lives. And the lure to revisit old haunts was strong. Not just the places where we lived -- we had done that already and yes, the houses were all smaller than we remembered. No, we needed to go Up North.

See, if you live in Michigan, you go Up North. In the summer, the population of Detroit and its burbs did its mass migration to places like Houghton Lake and Charlevoix and the UP. It was a culture of sand-floored cottages, fresh lake trout, pontoon boats and dairy queens.

Our divorced dad Al would take his three little girls to Houghton Lake every summer. By the time I was thirteen, I had found a summer love -- a gorgeous lad named Larry Dusseau who lived up in Mio, a blinking light town on the Au Sable river. Larry had a Honda motorcycle and would drive down to meet me at the Music Box, a teen hangout at the lake. I was in love with that boy. Achingly so.

During the winters, we wrote letters, mine doused in Heaven Sent, his in Jade East. I was certain I would never survive without him. Until...I went up north a couple years later and found out he had gotten married at 18. To the daughter of the man who owned the drugstore. I went there. She was behind the counter. She was beautiful. I let it go.

But not really. I googled his name year after year. Nothing. Then, this year, when Kelly and I were traveling up north again, we stopped in Houghton Lake. It had changed, of course. But so much was still the same, thank God. The old Sand Bar where our dad used to sneak off to after tucking us in was still there. And the dairy queen was still standing. But the Music Box had been torn down not eight months before. They are putting up a mini-mall they say.

I asked Kelly if we could go up to Mio. It was bigger, new streetlights going in and a full traffic light where the blinker had been. The drugstore was gone. At breakfast, I asked the waitress for a local phone book. She didn't have one so I walked to a park ranger station where the old fellow behind the counter found one for me. But I had forgotten my glasses and couldn't read the small print.

"Who you looking for?" he asked.
"Larry Dusseau," I answered.
He looked. "Nope. No one living here by that name."
But then he paused. "Wait. Seems I remember Mary Jo was married to some guy named Dusseau. He passed on five years ago."
The name echoed in my head. Mary Jo.
"Yeah...Dusseau. I remember him now. He was with the sheriff's department. He died of a heart attack, I heard. Did you know him?"
"Yeah, a long time ago," I said.
"She's working over at the realty place now. You want me to call her?"
"No, no," I said.

You can't go home again. But sometimes you just need to try.