Does Anyone Know What Time It Is by Greg Messel

 Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?

By Greg Messel

From my days as a newspaperman, it was drilled into me that there were five  elements of the news story--who, what, where, when and how.
Now as a novelist, all of those same questions must be answered in telling a fictional story.  “When” is one of the more intriguing elements of a story.
My new mystery series is set in 1957 San Francisco. Why 1957 and why San Francisco?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and as a child I remember the world of the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was a different place than the modern-day San Francisco. I’ve always loved the city, it’s romance, it’s foggy cool weather, the bridges and the water.
It is a place I know well but San Francisco adds elements to the story which make it more interesting.
Time periods can also add an intriguing element to a story.
The 1950s is a world worth exploring in my mystery novels.
Ike was in the White House, Elvis on the radio, there were fantastic cars with big fins, the men wore suits and hats, while the women wore hats and dresses. Everyone smoked and alcohol flowed freely. Television was just beginning and when they ran out of programs on the three channels there was a test pattern on the screen.
There was much that we didn’t know in the 1950s.  It was still a time when a man could have a steak while he smoked a cigarette and not feel the slightest twinges of guilt.  There was also an underlying racist towards minorities and sexism towards women permeating the society.
There was no instant communication. If you were away from your house and had to make a phone call, you went to a phone booth.  If you called someone and they weren’t home, the phone would just ring and ring. The person you were trying to contact would never know that you had tried to call them.
I had always wanted to write a mystery set in the 1950s. On a recent return to San Francisco, I remembered the city’s love affair with their old baseball team--the San Francisco Seals. The Seals were a minor league team which was adored by most San Franciscans. They would be displaced at the end of the 1957 season when the major league San Francisco Giants were moving west from New York.
I decided that my main protagonist would be an old Seals player who was coming to the end of his baseball career. His new job would be in the private detective agency of his longtime friend.
The year 1957 was an interesting time in San Francisco and the perfect setting for my story.
I’ve always tried to find interesting time periods for all of my books.
In my novel “Expiation” the reunion of long lost lovers was set in 1999 Seattle. The year 1999 added a lot of interest to “Expiation.” It was a time of great uncertainty due to the infamous Y2K threat hanging over the world. We find the Y2K scare almost laughable now but it was not funny in December of 1999.  The characters in “Expiation” were angst-ridden by the uncertainty in their lives which was exacerbated by living in 1999.
Time period was also a key element in my third novel “The Illusion of Certainty.”  It is set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial meltdown.  The characters assumed they were in control of their lives and that prosperity would continue unchecked into the future.  However, world events, in addition to the consequences of personal decisions they made, put the main characters in real peril. 
The time period of 2008 became a great backdrop for a story of people struggling with unexpected events overtaking their lives.
The protagonists in “Last of the Seals” face challenges in their lives and some of that uncertainty comes because of the time in which they live.

About the Author:

Greg Messel has written four novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by “Expiation” in 2010 and “The Illusion of Certainty” in 2011. “Last of the Seals” is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series “Deadly Plunge’ will be published around Christmas of 2012. Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:08 PM

    Nice article - makes me look forward to reading LAST OF THE SEALS. I enjoyed the way you used the concept of "When" to connect the dots between your current novel and your previous work.


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