A while ago I read a book called Riddle by Elizabeth Horton Newton. I really enjoyed it and reviewed it on my blog.
I found out later it was based on the Richard Marx’s song Hazard. This was really cool because my own book Down by River was also based on the ninties song.
Both books are very different from each other. For a start Riddle is a full blown novel, whereas Down by the River is a novella, a smaller read.
Apart from the actual stories, I thought it would be interesting to put my own thoughts down as to why I wrote it, and how the inspiration came to be. I asked the same of Elizabeth Horton Newton.
So, here for your delectation are two books, their descriptions, and an excerpt which should delight you, as much as they delighted me.
Riddle by Elizabeth Horton Newton
From the first time I heard the song “Hazard” by Richard Marx, I knew there was a story to be told. Although I grew up in a big city I was well aware of how small-town gossip can ruin a person’s life. I wanted to tell the story of how a young man was viewed as an outsider by some of the townspeople and how those who believed him innocent of any crime remained silent, afraid of getting involved or being harassed because they defended him.
Around the same time, I was learning about discrimination against Native Americans or Indigenous People in both the US and Canada. Something just clicked and several years later I put together my book Riddle.
It seems in small towns there is always an outsider. It may be someone of a different color or nationality or religion. Sometimes it is because the individual dresses differently, holds different beliefs, or some obscure reason. I created Kort Eriksen as both an indigenous man who may have been railroaded as a teen for murdering a popular teenaged girl.
Returning to the town where the crime was committed he faces both people who believe he got off too easily and others who feel he was a scapegoat. Even the stranger, a young woman with problems of her own, arrives in town and develops a friendship with Kort can’t be sure of his innocence or guilt. This book remains close to my heart as it incorporates romance, injustice, and revenge in a suspenseful thriller.
“Look, there’s a fun house,” Norma pointed out. Knowing it would be dark and probably crowded inside she realized it might be a good opportunity to ditch the rest of the group and once again have Kort to herself.
Grace hesitated. Mandy laughing, called over her shoulder, “Come on! It will be fun!”
As they all headed inside Kort maneuvered until he and Norma were near Grace. They made their way through a rolling barrel, and a maze of mirrors where everyone posed seeing their reflections as fat and skinny, short, and stretched.
Tony stayed close to Grace but Mandy and the other women rushed ahead. Then they entered a room that was totally dark except for dim glow in the dark wall decorations. Occasionally something would brush across Grace’s face and she lost track of where everyone was. She brushed at the spidery web like strings that seemed to grab at her.
Holding her hands out before her she tried to find a wall so she could follow it to the exit. All around her people were laughing or squealing. Once in a while a girl would yelp obviously startled by someone.
A body moved quickly past her and she jumped slightly to one side. Someone else bumped into her and a giggling female voice apologized before continuing on. Feeling disoriented, Grace was tempted to call out for help but didn’t want to appear silly.
Suddenly someone slammed hard into her knocking her off her feet. A boot connected with her cheek and she fell sideways covering her head with her arms and rolled to one side. There was no apology and Grace sensed whoever it was continued to look for her. She had no doubt it was deliberate and she kept quiet hoping he would not find her in the blackness of the room. As noiselessly as she could she began to crawl toward what she hoped would be an exit.
Then out of nowhere she heard a male voice softly call her name.
When I first heard the haunting melody of Hazzard, I was hooked. On Top of the Pops they played a video to accompany the song and I was mesmerised. Apart from Richard Marx being really good looking, I loved the atmospheric story telling. It was so clever being shot in black and white and that added to the mood.
I was intrigued about what happened to Mary and many of my questions were not answered. It always left me wondering. Although the song was released in 1991, it was played regularly for many years afterwards. Each time I heard it, I was blown away, absorbed once again in the story.
Being a writer, I had to do something about it, and felt the need to write about what could have happened that night.
It started as a very short story and included a character named Ricky, based entirely on Richard Marx as he was a key feature in the story.
My main character I called Shelby, because it sounded American. Shelby had visions and could never understand why she could see many things, but not what happened to her best friend, Mary-Jo.
I tried very hard to create an atmosphere similar to the one in the Richard Marx’s video. I wanted intrigue and mystery, with just a hint of something dark.
Shelby always had a hard time dealing with her father’s alcoholism, it was one of the reasons she left town. This time when she returns home, something is different; something has changed and it takes a while for her to put the pieces together.
It was growing dark when she arrived home. Pa was banging around upstairs. Shelby took off her jacket and straightened her pale blue sweater. Mary-Jo had had one just like it. They’d laughed and joked that they were twins. It seemed very apt that she was wearing it today.
The coffee-pot was still warm. She was pouring a cup when something came crashing down the stairs. Rushing through from the kitchen, she found Pa lying at the bottom muttering a string of obscenities. He was drunk, very drunk.
“You!” he accused shaking off her offer of help. “What are you doing here?”
“Pa! What’s the matter?”
“You should never have come back, you little whore! Did you think I didn’t know about you and the sheriff? Get out!” He struggled to his feet and staggered through to the kitchen.
Shelby stared at him in shock and disbelief. “W-what do you mean?”
He laughed as he poured himself another whisky. “The whole town knows you were screwing Rawden. I’m a laughingstock!” He staggered through to the living room and slumped into the chair.
“You don’t need me to make you a laughingstock!” she cried, feeling the humiliation burning inside her. “Anyway, it ain’t true!”
He pointed his finger at her face. “Did you think it was easy for me after Annie-Clare died? I brung you up.”
“You didn’t bring me up!” she shouted back. “I brought myself up! You were always too goddamned drunk!”
“Enough!” he roared, rising from the chair. Shelby stepped back, frightened. He poked two fingers into her shoulder. “You wanna get out of here before the same thing that happened to Mary-Jo happens to you.”
“Pa…” Hot tears ran down her face.
“Get the hell out!” He roared. Shelby turned and fled.
Darkness was descending as she walked back towards town. She kept to the road and away from the embankment, feeling the chill of the night air. A car drew up beside her. Rawden got out.
“Can I give you a lift somewhere?” he asked.
“No, leave me alone.” She wasn’t in the mood to deal with him and his sarcastic undertones.
“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you, Shelb.”
She lost her footing then and slipped down the embankment. Rawden came down as she got to her feet. “Now, that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t of run. I’m just offering you a lift, that’s all.”