One of the things that I absolutely adore about writers is how endlessly inventive they are. They are proof positive of the boundless power of the imagination. One of the many ways in which this expresses itself is their incredible facility for plucking a well-known personality from the lost or neglected pages of history and plunging him or her into fictional situations which breathe new life and energy into their images.
Just think of the TV and film shows — not to mention the novels — spun from Conan Doyle’s legendary Sherlock Holmes, or the many tales that the irrepressible Jane Austen has inspired over the years.
Little wonder then, that I was bemused but only a tad surprised to see that the reclusive Henry David Thoreau, author of the classic Walden, has been given a new lease on life. He’s left the pond where he once reflected about most mean leading lives of quiet desperation to grapple with the disastrous consequences that occur when the desperate become truly desperate.
Who would have thought that the spiritually and contemplatively inclined Henry David Thoreau would make a spiffy transcendental gumshoe? B.B. Oak (the husband-and-wife team of Ben and Beth Oak) that’s who. Their new novel, Thoreau of Wolf Hill, the second in a series, casts the philosopher as a canny crime-solver. How did this intriguing idea come about?
“It began with the desire to write a mystery series that took place in antebellum New England,” explains Beth Oak in a “Publishers Weekly” interview. “We thought it would be interesting to contrast the outwardly peaceful countryside and villages with turbulent emotions, repressed desires, and bloody murder. And the image of Thoreau finding a body on one of his nature walks was irresistible. If anybody would be determined to discover the murderer, it would be Henry.”
Ben adds, “He seemed the obvious choice. Like all the best detectives in fiction, from Sherlock Holmes to Philip Marlowe to Parker’s Spencer and Lee Child’s Reacher, Thoreau was a self-reliant loner with his own code of honor and his own sense of justice.”
Fascinating, isn’t it? Whatever way-out idea you’ve secretly been noodling around, can it be any more out-of-the-box than this? Write on!