|Ann and Dan Andriacco - as seen on the big screen by Shannon's students|
Did you ever look at a map at the end of a journey and marvel at where you were on the way to where you are? I had that experience recently with a short story.
The students in Shannon Carlisle, BSI’s fourth grade classroom at Moore Elementary School in Franklin, TN, where it is always 1895, last week read and discussed my 780-word short story “The Adventure of the Amateur Players” from my book, BakerStreet Beat. The story features a group of crime-solving kids called the Deerstalker Club, led by the pompous Toby Motherwell.
Meeting in small groups, the students identified the different elements of the short story's plot. Shannon then wrote those elements on one document as a story map. The map follows the Freitag Pyramid of dramatic structure, which I learned about in freshman English at Elder High School, 1966-67. And yet I never think of dear old Freitag while I plot -- it just happens!
Two of Shannon's students wrote to me, “We liked how even a short story could be suspenseful. And once Toby asked two questions and observed the ‘suspects’ in the room, he quickly knew who stole the money. Clever character!”
He certainly is!
My first attempts to write novel-length detective fiction in the early 1980s were a series of Deerstalker Club novels for young people. The narrator, Billy Piccolo, is the son of a newspaper journalist, which happened to be my profession at the time. Ralph “Ski” Wysnewski is a budding actor. But perhaps my favorite character is Sara Moon, who is every bit as smart as Toby and has a knack for pricking his pomposity with a few well-chosen words of her own.
The three Sherlockian-infused Deerstalker Club books – The Riddle of the Silent Dummy, The Secret of the Seven Sherlocks, and The Enigma of the Elusive Unicorn – were never published. But I’ve always loved the characters. And the adult Toby Motherwell makes a cameo appearance in my 2015 McCabe-Cody mystery novel Bookmarked for Murder.
I’m happy that the students at Moore Elementary School like these old friends of mine from long ago.