Author Marja McGraw’s Real Life Experience
My guest today is mystery author, Marja McGraw.
Evelyn asked me to write about how a real life experience turned into a fictional mystery. Following is an overview of Bubba’s Ghost, a little about the real Bubba, an excerpt from the book and my real life experience. It was interesting, to say the least.
On the home front, something in the attic is scaring Bubba. Many miles away, someone is frightening a young widowed mother and her child. Sandi Webster needs to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late – on behalf of both Bubba and the young mother.
The real Bubba was half wolf and half Golden Retriever, and one of the biggest dogs I’ve ever been around. He belonged to my boss at a construction company, and our office was located off the beaten path. Bubba decided to spend all day with me rather than go out in the field with my boss, and he was great company. He was a particularly smart dog who loved nothing more than chasing rabbits. He purposely never caught them, but he enjoyed the chase. If anyone came into the office, he’d plant himself between me and the visitor and wouldn’t let them by unless I said it was okay. And he’d grin his toothy grin at them. You could almost see their knees turn to water because his smile looked like he was baring his teeth. Bubba was very protective of me. I’ve often said if he’d been human, he might have been my Mr. Right.
Excerpt from Bubba’s Ghost when Chrissy tells Sandi what’s been happening:
“It started about six weeks ago. I came home from work one night and found an unopened bottle of soda on the porch. I didn’t think much about it since we live across the street from a grammar school. I figured some kid had left it there. Then, a couple of nights later, I found a bag of potato chips, and after that it was a candy bar. Over a period of about a week, I also found gum and an unopened pack of cigarettes. By the way, I don’t smoke.”
“When did he start showing up at your door?” So far, she hadn’t gotten me fired up, but I knew she was heading that way.
“A friend came over and spent the morning with Tammi and me. My friend left, and I was heading for the kitchen when there was a knock on the door. A man I’d never seen before was standing there. He looked like a bum. He was dirty, his clothes were wrinkled, he needed a haircut–you know the type.
“Anyway, he wanted to know if I’d found the presents he’d been leaving for me. And he told me he’d been watching me. He seemed like he might have been drinking, you know, kind of slurring his words, but just a little bit. He started describing people he’d seen come and go from the house. He even started telling me what he’d seen me doing when I worked in the yard.
“I casually reached forward and locked the screen door while he was talking. He didn’t seem to notice. Tammi was right behind me, and I quietly told her to lock the back door and go to her bedroom and stay there.”
“Were his descriptions of who and what he’d seen accurate? Had he actually been watching you?” His creepy crawliness was shining through as she told the story.
“Yes. He described people in pretty good detail, and he even laughed when he told me he’d seen me pulling weeds and I pulled on one too hard and fell on my butt.”
“He turned around and left. Tammi came out of her room as I was heading for the kitchen, and she called me back to the front door. He had a friend who’d been waiting for him behind the bushes at the next-door neighbor’s house. They walked off together.”
For the sake of this post, I’ll make my story as brief as possible. When I was in my mid-twenties and raising my daughter by myself, I lived in a very old house on a busy street. It was located across the street from a grammar school. The house was on a deep lot with several fruit trees, and a walnut tree right outside my back door. There were plenty of hiding places for anyone who wanted to conceal themselves.
What Chrissy describes in the excerpt above is close to what I experienced. Each time the bum showed up with a “gift” he was a little more aggressive, and each time I called the police. Interestingly, they were never able to catch him. My daughter couldn’t play outside and I was constantly looking over my shoulder. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well at night.
Thanks to my mother, who worked for the school district, I was able to determine who this man was. He slept on the school grounds one night and the night janitor made him identify himself. Believe me, everyone at the district knew what I was going through. Finding out who the bum was eventually solved the mystery for me, but not before things came to a head. The last time the man showed up at my door he had a wine bottle stuck in his waistband and a small wrapped package in his hands. When I asked him to leave he began pounding on the doorframe, screaming at me to let him in. I called the police, and as usual, they couldn’t catch him.There was also an incident when the bum climbed through a ground level window and into the cellar. Fortunately, he wasn’t able to enter the house because a washing machine sat on the door located in the floor.
The bum was eventually arrested for being drunk in public and the judge put him in jail to dry out. During that brief period I moved, which was a shame because I loved that old house even though the wind whistled through the old, shrunken window frames.
I later found out that the bum was the son of a man who had once been in a position of power, and that was why he was never “caught” after leaving my house. I also found out that apparently the bum had been raised in the house I was renting, and he probably would have harassed any young woman who lived there. His family had disowned him, but still, he was the son of a VIP.
I took what happened to me and gave it plenty of twists and turns, turning it into a book. And, yes, Bubba does play a part in the outcome of this story.
I would imagine most of us have lived through circumstances that can be turned into a mystery, and in this case the circumstances became Bubba’s Ghost.
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