Damaged Goods, one of my absolute favorite McMorrow novels, is back in a handsome new addition from Islandport Press. Not only does it have the arresting cover (don’t you feel the eyes are following you?) and the kind words from bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, but it also has a bit of a reveal
This addition has an intro that explains the real-life seed for this story, which has Roxanne beset by an angry backwoods Satanist (is there any other kind?), and Jack coming to the rescue of a mysterious small-town escort, Mandi, who has been assaulted by a client in nearby Galway. With their lives upended from within and without, Jack and Roxanne call in backup, and Clair is ready and willing to protect them at all costs.
So the backstory? It goes something like this:
This is a story I carried in my head for a long, long time. When it was time, I put it on paper in one take. No mulling the plot. No need to ponder to to get to know the characters. No alternate beginnings or endings. Even the title. It was Damaged Goods right from conception.
Background: The seed was planted at a time when people didn’t turn to the Internet for “companionship.” Sometimes they went to the newspaper, the one that was printed on paper. The notices appeared in the personals section, along with items saying stuff had been lost or found, that somebody was no longer responsible for their ex’s debts, there would be an AA meeting at the local church.
“Companionship” was actually a section, and the purveyors of this service hawked their wares like growers at a farmer’s market. The names were likely pseudonyms. Tawny, Ginger, and Destinee described their respective styles: patient and loving, ferocious wildcat, classy and elegant. They did in-calls or out-calls or both. Rates were by the hour.
I was fascinated by these items, not in a prurient sense, but because the items were in small newspapers that served small communities. Did Tawny’s 2 o’clock turn out to be Raymond from ninth-grade science class? What did they say when they met? “Oh, hey, Sandra. I didn’t know it was you. Wow. Small world. … Hi, Ray. I heard you got married. … So what else you been up to? …. Oh, a little of this, a little of that.”
How could these businesses survive in communities where most people new each other? How did they keep their secret just that? Were they worried about blackmail? Wasn’t it just awkward all around?
I was a newspaper columnist this whole time but I didn’t write about this section of the personals. I don’t think I knew it at the time, not consciously, but I think I was saving it for a novel. That novel, Damaged Goods, emerged when I covered a real-life murder that propelled me—and the community and region—into horror of another magnitude. The two subjects melded in a seamless way and the story that was created seemed so natural it could have been torn from the headlines, as they say.
I can’t say more about that aspect of the genesis of the book without spoiling it for readers, so I won’t. I will say that Mandi is a character I still think about often. As does McMorrow, I find her mysterious, sympathetic, and an intriguing blend of vulnerable and independent. Unfortunately for McMorrow, his wife Roxanne meets Mandi and concludes the young woman is nothing but trouble. Does Roxanne know best? Read on.
I’ll let you decide which camp to choose. But I hope that Mandi and the characters who cross her path in picturesque Galway, Maine—some good, some bad—will engage you as well. Remember, it’s only a story but they are out there now, in real life. In a way Mandi is, too.
a murder my coverage of crime and courts inserted me into another world of ,
what have you been up to?