Monday, February 20, 2012

Penns River

My second novel, Worst Enemies, is set in the fictional town of Penns River, Pennsylvania. About twenty miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Penns River has about 30,000 inhabitants, mostly blue collar, if they’re working at all. The bottom fell out of the economy when the steel and aluminum mills closed in the 70s, and the economic renaissance that turned Pittsburgh from a mill town to a medical and education center manages to miss The River every time, no matter how many presidential candidates use the abandoned strip mall as a backdrop for a campaign appearance, promising this is just the kind of town that will rise from the ashes under his administration.

Here’s a brief description from the book, about why Stan “Stush” Napierkowski’s job as chief of police has become so much harder in recent years, Stush listening to a harangue from Willie Grabek, a retired Pittsburgh detective he has brought in to provide some experience:

Stush already getting sick of listening to Grabek tell him how to be a cop. Not that he had any illusions about being Dick Tracy. Stush got his job the old-fashioned way: some seniority, a willingness to do dirty jobs, and his sister’s husband was mayor. Smaller town then, different demographic. Not much to do but break up the occasional millhunk fight born of too many boilermakers and not enough work. No serious poverty then, no one dramatically more affluent than anyone else, except for the handful of doctors and lawyers on Pill Hill, by the country club.

That all changed when the steel and aluminum mills started closing. After a while even the diehards gave up on an industrial renaissance. Small subsistence businesses popped up, locals selling things to their neighbors and buying in return. Money moved back and forth, no one getting rich so much as they were helping each other go under slower.

Pittsburgh rode medicine, finance, and education into the Twenty-First Century and parts of Penns River became a bedroom community for young professionals with more income than patience. The old Meadow Gold dairy farm was broken up into multi-acre lots for McMansions. The yuppies treated Stush’s cops like their personal security detail and spent their disposable income at Pittsburgh Mills, the Strip District, and Walnut Street, not in Penns River.

Only a matter of time before someone figured out it was easier to drop drug shipments off in a little town with forty cops and a lot of abandoned real estate by the river than run the risk of dealing with serious police downtown. Stush Napierkowski found himself the chief of a town with its demographics stretched both ways, and law enforcement problems he never signed on for. Knowing he was in over his head didn’t make it any easier to listen to endless rations of Willie Grabek telling him how to be a cop. Right now he needed Grabek more than Willie needed this job.

Worst Enemies is scheduled to be available for Kindle and Nook on March 1.


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