For a newspaper reporter turned first-time author, I approached The Ride, a nonfiction account of the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the torturous aftermath for his family, as an extended journalistic exercise. I would report the story thoroughly, organize my notes meticulously, and finally write the narrative in 1,000-word segments that would allow me to march in neat, tidy, daily steps toward a timely, satisfying finish. And, of course, I would keep all the horrific details of the crime and its wide, collateral damage at proper, professional bay. After all, isn't that what I had always done?
I had been embedded with a front-line battalion during the invasion of Iraq, an engaged but unflappable witness to dozens of charred and broken bodies along the war-pocked roads from Kuwait to Baghdad. I had walked in the New Orleans Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina, at a time when the corpses of the homeless poor lay unacknowledged by both their peers and the powerful on a putrid floor inside that neglected place. And I had knocked on the doors of dozens of murder victims during my career at The Boston Globe, offering murmured condolences to the loved ones of the newly slain, and inquiring in appropriately respectful tones whether I could step inside, please, and listen to their loss.
I could do this again; in fact, I would do this again, I told myself. I had been granted a year-long book leave by the Globe, and I had been welcomed to a remote Long Island beach house with a fabulous, soul-freshening view where I could retreat to write after my reporting, and my interviews, and my leads had been exhausted in Massachusetts.