Short post. I read today that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in the lead role for the Martin Scorsese-directed “The Devil in the White City,” the movie being made off of Erik Larson’s tremendous tale of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
When I wrote “The Race Underground,” Larson’s book was one that I re-read, because I enjoyed his structure so much, alternating chapters between two characters. My book unfolded in a similar, but not identical manner, with alternating sections between Boston and New York.
But the other similarity, as many readers have since pointed out to me, was the cover. When I first saw the design of my cover, I immediately pulled out a copy of Devil, a cover that I loved. Even if my book didn’t achieve a fraction of the success that Larson’s did, at least I can pretend it had some comparable qualities. Right? And hey, in case Leonardo is listening . . .
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I recently received a check in the mail (a very small check, it should be noted), followed by a note on Twitter that have stirred me to post something about an earlier chapter in my life.
Fifteen years before I wrote about trains and subways and tunnels and Boston and New York in The Race Underground, I wrote another book about a very different subject, but one that is still sadly just as relevant today as it was back in 2000. That book was called “Always In Our Hearts.” And it was a horrifically sad story about two teenagers from comfortable surroundings in Northern New Jersey, who came from good homes, and who did an incredibly stupid and criminal thing because they didn’t think they could talk to their parents about their problem. Then I saw this story in today’s Globe, about adolescents today having low self-esteem and how parents should handle it, and the story really came flooding back to me.
Amazingly, as I just learned, that book still sells a few copies, which explains the royalty check I got from St. Martin’s Press, enough for me to take Mimi out for dinner and perhaps one glass of wine! And then a day later, I had this conversation on Twitter:
@GlobeDougMost I just read your book, “Always in Our Hearts.”I remembered when it happened in NJ. I could not put it down. Tears in my eyes. @ClaudiaDeHaan1
@ClaudiaDeHaan1 Thanks Claudia, I still love hearing from readers on that story all these years later, an important subject.
“Always In Our Hearts” was the story of Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson, a couple of teenagers who dated in high school like we all did. Then they went off to separate colleges, like we all did. But they had a secret. Amy was pregnant. And she was terrified about how her parents would react, because in her mind, as I wrote and reported, her parents saw her as the perfect child who could do no wrong, and who certainly was not having sex. The details are not important now, but what happened next is: Amy and Brian kept their secret, from friends, from family, from everyone, and the ending was tragic.
A baby’s life lost. Two bright kids arrested and charged with premeditated murder. And two families devastated.
This was a time before I was married, before I had kids. But there were a lot of lessons I learned in writing that book that remain strong with me today, now that I have two kids, and as I read that Globe article today.
The most important one was this: Make sure that your kids know it’s OK to fail. They are going to fail. They are going to screw up. We did. They will. But the most important thing for them to know is that when they do screw up, they have to tell you. Because you won’t push them away. You’ll embrace them even stronger. Amy Grossberg’s first reaction was to not tell her parents. And she has to live with that decision for the rest of her life.
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A few months ago I was invited to come speak to the annual conference of APTA, or American Public Transportation Association. On Tuesday that day came and it was a terrific event, at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
A quick word about the hotel. Uh, wow. The Grand America was built specifically as part of the city’s hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and it’s a 5-star hotel. Every corner glistens, a harpist plays in the lobby while guests sip their cocktails or tea while munching on scones, and the courtyard beckons, with spectacular views at every turn of the surrounding mountains.
I got out a few times to take in some of Salt Lake. A few highlights included dinner at Squatters, where the burger smothered in bourbon-soaked grilled onions was awesome, breakfast at Eva’s Bakery, which had great muffins, and lastly, I snuck in a few runs. One was a 4-miler over to Liberty Park, which had a nice soft wood chip path that was easy on my tired legs after a long flight, and the other was a brutal climb up into Memory Grove canyon.
I really wanted to get up high to look back over the city and mountains and this was the way to do it, even it meant a little bit of a run-walk. The view was spectacular, looking back on the skyline and the towering Church of Latter Day Saints building. The conference itself was beautifully run and smooth sailing for me.
My talk came at the big luncheon Tuesday and I was on stage with a Bostonian and New Yorker to add a fun element to the whole affair. The Bostonian was Robert Prince, a former MBTA general manager now with AECOM, and the New Yorker was Chris Boylan, a deputy executive director at the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. They came out with boxing gloves on and we had a ball on stage in front of about 1200 transit executives and officials from around the country.
A final shout to a wonderful local bookstore, Weller Book Works and Catherine Weller, who showed up and sold a few hundred books and helped me get them all signed. Lastly, KellyAnne Gallagher from the organization, APTA, put together a great show. It was a whirlwind 24 hours, in and out, but worth every minute.
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