I suppose the number one piece of advice given to writers just starting out is: Write what you know. That’s what I did with my novel, Wild Justice. The book is heavy on the setting and culture of southwest Louisiana in general and Westlake in particular. Although I changed the town’s name to West Dulac and Lake Charles became Laketon, I left street names mostly the same. The geography is the same—the people are all figments of my overactive imagination. The Calcasieu River, which is important to the story line, remains the Calcasieu—specifically the West Fork of said river.
The book opens at the bridge over the Calcasieu going to Moss Bluff. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One:
The screams stopped, quenched into silence when the roof of the vintage car disappeared under the cold waters of the Calcasieu River. Deputy Brad LaCaze stepped out of the shadows where he’d hidden his patrol car in a copse of trees. The sinking car, a fully restored 1955 Chevrolet BelAir, triggered a momentary twinge of regret. Then he remembered the treachery of Moira Adams Chesson and that son-of-a-bitch, Joe Chesson.
Here’s the last paragraph in the chapter:
One of the divers broke the surface and waved his arms, signaling discovery, and two fingers signifying two bodies. No one noticed the satisfied smile that for an instant flickered across Brad’s face. And no one, including Brad, saw the solitary figure across the water paddle the pirogue around the bend.
The book ends at the same place, but I won’t share that for obvious reasons. That particular spot is important throughout the book. All manner of deeds happen there—some good, some not so much.
I took that advice and wrote my knowledge into the setting. No research needed for that. The characters were another matter. They were all strangers to me at one time. I got to know them well as time went on. Research was needed for things like Viet Nam and PTSD. Can a Dodge Charger outrun a Hummer? Scrimshaw and alligator teeth. Martial arts. My goal was to be as accurate as I could. I hope I succeeded.