New York City is fun to write about. Almost anything any thrillfest you can imagine … short of being shot into space or hired as Lady Gaga's tailor … is likely to happen. Whenever I think I'm wrong about that I am proven, well, wrong.
For example, when beginning a yarn set in Central Park I wanted to show how wild the place can be and so cast about for wild animals to place there. I thought, a resident falcon or two, some exotic migratory birds, a large murder of crows, perhaps I would take a chance and install a beaver in one of the ponds. Then Amy Eddings of WNYC, the city’s Public Radio station, broadcast an April Fools Day report about a plan—taken very seriously by some community groups—to introduce wolves into Central Park.
That was just as I was beginning to write "Murder in Central Park." I dreamed up a canopy researcher living in a cabin in the treetops so as better to observe tool-making behavior in crows, a scientist crammed into a far corner of the park studying rats, an aging beat and his online exhibitionist teenage daughter, a homeless wise man who sold poems ("truisms are free") from his perch atop a boulder, a gang of violent roller bladers, a rookie cop with an attitude and a big problem with Donovan, and, maybe, a wolf pack. Two months after I finished, still wondering if I had gone too far in using the wolf thing, a coyote was captured in Central Park. I have this image of him trotting down from Upstate New York, along the Grand Concourse through the Bronx, past Yankee Stadium, over the 155th Street Bridge, and down Fifth Avenue through Harlem, with no one noticing, or if someone did perhaps wondering how in hell the beast knew where he was going. There are some cab drivers, recently arrived from Uzbekistan or wherever and speaking almost no English, who can’t find Central Park. Being unable to find Central Park in New York is like being unable to find a beer at a NASCAR rally. Finally, as I worried over my depiction of a wise man selling poems from atop the high rocks at the north end of the Park, "The New York Times" ran a story about rock climbing there.
So I would like to thank the City of New York for providing constant material and continual astonishment. I also would like to thank the Internet for finally catching up with me. The murder victim is, per the site FictionDb, "a middle-aged cyber-stalker whose obsession with an amateur exhibitionistic Web site drove him into stalking the site's star." That would be the aforementioned Natasha Cohen, the teenage camera-flasher. In 2000 when "Murder in Central Park" was published, teenage girls showing it off online and getting in trouble therefore were few. Today they, their iPhone cameras and bathroom-mirror nude posturing, are everywhere. Another reason to thank the late Steve Jobs.
Enjoy "Murder in Central Park" and the fascinating creatures within. And as Mrs. advises Mr. Donovan, if you run into a wolf pack "shoot the alpha male and the rest will panic."
- Michael Jahn, August 2012
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