An Ode to Hyde Park? Not Quite.
I keep getting asked if "Painting With Fire" takes place in Hyde Park, Chicago. The answer? It’s complicated. You see, in many ways, my novel is inspired by my neighborhood, its architecture, especially. You have to find inspiration somewhere. But in other ways, I have to say no, because I love my neighborhood and Hyde Park doesn’t have the body count or the problems that the fictional neighborhood in my murder mystery does. Overall, it’s a safe and wonderful place.
I admit, there is an old, abandoned church on Blackstone Avenue that definitely set fire to my imagination. Hyde Parkers may even recognize it in the book. I kept wandering by and wondering, what is going on inside that building? What does it look like inside? There is beauty in the ruins. I describe it in my book. I take a lot of liberties though and transform it into something completely different. So is it really about that church or that place? It’s only the beginning. It’s hard to describe the creative process. It’s a type of synthesis. You borrow a trait here or there and build something new. So is it really Hyde Park?
I do love this place. I love the fireflies at Promontory Point in summer dancing at dusk, the falcons and the green parrots sightings. I love long walks along the lake, how people nod or say hello on the lakefront path like they’ve forgotten they live in a big city. I love the mix of people, the way we all come together, the old hippies, and the young ones, the University of Chicago intellectuals, young science museum buffs and the artists. I love the grand architecture and even the occasional street musician. How could I ever cast such a great place in a negative light?
The setting of any murder mystery novel is a dangerous place. And so I guess I have to trust my dear readers not to confuse fiction for reality and answer the question like I always do. Yes, it takes place in Hyde Park and no, it doesn’t.