The Dying Ground

Paperback $13.95

Jan 09, 2001 | 336 Pages

Ebook $9.99

Mar 10, 2001

  • Paperback $13.95

    Jan 09, 2001 | 336 Pages

  • Ebook $9.99

    Mar 10, 2001

Praise

"Beautifully written with an incredible eye for decaying urban streets. Nichelle Tramble has created one of the most accurate portrayals of violence, death, and redemption in mystery fiction. This book is smart, mean, and funny as hell. Don’t be the last to discover a great new writer."        
— Ace Atkins, author of Leavin’ Trunk Blues and Crossroad Blues

"Friend or foe, everybody’s family in this heartfelt hometown mystery, even the guy at the other end of the gun. "
—The New York Times Book Review

"Tramble’s writing is multidimensional, muscular and poetic, capturing the voices of African-Americans of many ages and backgrounds without slipping into pretense or parody."
— Chicago Tribune

"The Dying Ground teems with the tinny bravado of young men too eager to prove themselves. [An] “impressive debut…[with] a pungent, streetwise sensibility that gives her novel its racing pulse.”
— The Boston Globe

"[Tramble’s] characterization of Maceo is often astonishing, the most dazzling facet of a consistently noteworthy debut. The author’s sure sense of structure, keen knowledge of male behavior and exquisite sense of pacing all contribute to this novel’s overall excellence. I read it fast, and I was sorry when the last page appeared….”
— The Washington Post

"A pulse-pounding urban thriller that keeps the mystery intact, refusing to show its hand until the final pages. Tramble proves herself an unpretentious poet whose sense of the inner city, its argot and its inhabitants is almost romantic—and certainly vivid. The story is … infused with immense passion and new, true grit by this remarkable young novelist…"
— Philadelphia Weekly

“Mysteries are the urban fiction; nothing else so catches up the furies and fantasies of our cities. In The Dying Ground, Nichelle Tramble turns out Oakland’s ragged, depleted pockets — and hands us gold. I welcome a strong new writer.”—James Sallis, author of Eye of the Cricket

Author Q&A

Q: The death tally mentioned in the book—did that really happen?

A: I dramatized this a bit for the sake of the story but I didn’t stray too far from the mark. There was a gleeful but gruesome fascination with the murder rate in 19 8 9. The drug wars at the time were ferocious. There were headlines that simply stated the murder rate as it escalated but there was not a daily countdown in The Oakland Tribune.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: I enjoy a lot of contemporary authors, mostly women. I read first novels religiously, and I’ve come across quite a few in the past couple of years that just blew me away. Joy Nicholson wrote Tribes of Palos Verdes, which I thought was wonderful. Maureen Gibbon’s Swimming Sweet Arrow, T. Greenwood’s Breathing Water, Marchlands by Karla Kuban, The Fires by Rene Steinke, and Jumping the Green by Leslie Schwartz were a few I really loved. In general I like Ashley Warlick, Kristin McCloy, Susanna Moore, Alison Moore, John Gregory Brown, Sheila Bosworth, Pat Conroy, Marita Golden, James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, Anne Rivers Siddons, and David Payne. I could go on forever, because there’s no way to avoid Toni Morrison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, Gloria Naylor, Jamaica Kincaid, Milan Kundera, Isabel Allende, Amy Tan …

Q: In some ways this book is a bittersweet love story of Oakland. Did you grow up there? How do you feel about the city?

A: No, I didn’t grow up in Oakland, but my grandparents, for a time, lived in the house on Dover Street that I use in the book. I actually grew up in Alameda, an island that borders Oakland. My first love is definitely my hometown, but I’ve truly been charmed by Oakland the past few years. The city has an incredibly rich history, and you can’t beat the diversity. The research I did – reading about the African-American migration from the South, the growth of the city, the people, the architecture—just made me fall in love. In reading and learning about Oakland, I also learned quite a bit about my own family history, and there’s still so much to be explored in both areas. More than likely all the Macco books will be set in Oakland.

Q: What inspired you to write this novel? Is mystery your favorite genre?

A: Quite honestly, I never read mysteries outside of James Lee Burke and Walter Mosley, and that’s not because of genre snobbery but because I went through a huge, all-encompassing Southern literature phase that ate up years of my reading time. I was initially drawn to Burke because of the Louisiana setting, and I got hooked from there. Now I read mysteries like a fiend, one after the other, sometimes the same book twice. I also have a few favorites I would never miss, like Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Burke, and Mosley.

The inspiration for Maceo’s story came from a coming of age I wanted to tell that felt very thin without the mystery element. My agent suggested that I heighten the mystery and make the coming of age the secondary story, which was a wonderful suggestion. I think my first draft basically fought the natural flow of the story.

Q: Is there another Maceo Redfield mystery in the worksP Will Black Jeff make an appearance?

A: I just completed an outline detailing what has happened to all the characters since the end of The Dying Ground. Some of them haven’t fared so well, I had to be honest to the arena in which they lived, but Black Jeff is alive and well-prospering actually. He was such a minor character, but he really stuck with people, so we’ll definitely see him again. The new book is set in 1991—no title yet—and it involves a dethroned NBA star who returns home to Oakland to lick his wounds after being chucked from the league. Of course, he knows Holly and Maceo, and his attempts to lie low in Oakland fail dramatically, which draws Maceo into another mystery. Macco, since we last saw him, is still trying to mend fences with his family and navigate the murky waters of his manhood. Honestly, I was a little surprised myself to learn where some of the characters ended up. I had to resist the urge to tie things in a neat bow and give everyone shiny new beginnings. It’s a violent world these characters inhabit, and as a result there will definitely be more casualties.

Q: You have such a giftfor creating characters. Where did that come from?

A: I think just listening to people, really enjoying the stories, quirks, and habits of others. No matter where I am, it’s really hard for me to have a truly bad time. If nothing else, if I’m at a horrible party or a bad movie, or on an awful date, I always have my imagination to rescue me from any given situation. My imagination has served me well. It’s sprung me from boring situations, and helped me to create characters that feel as real as my own family.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

 

Q: The death tally mentioned in the book—did that really happen?

A: I dramatized this a bit for the sake of the story but I didn’t stray too far from the mark. There was a gleeful but gruesome fascination with the murder rate in 19 8 9. The drug wars at the time were ferocious. There were headlines that simply stated the murder rate as it escalated but there was not a daily countdown in The Oakland Tribune.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: I enjoy a lot of contemporary authors, mostly women. I read first novels religiously, and I’ve come across quite a few in the past couple of years that just blew me away. Joy Nicholson wrote Tribes of Palos Verdes, which I thought was wonderful. Maureen Gibbon’s Swimming Sweet Arrow, T. Greenwood’s Breathing Water, Marchlands by Karla Kuban, The Fires by Rene Steinke, and Jumping the Green by Leslie Schwartz were a few I really loved. In general I like Ashley Warlick, Kristin McCloy, Susanna Moore, Alison Moore, John Gregory Brown, Sheila Bosworth, Pat Conroy, Marita Golden, James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, Anne Rivers Siddons, and David Payne. I could go on forever, because there’s no way to avoid Toni Morrison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, Gloria Naylor, Jamaica Kincaid, Milan Kundera, Isabel Allende, Amy Tan …

Q: In some ways this book is a bittersweet love story of Oakland. Did you grow up there? How do you feel about the city?

A: No, I didn’t grow up in Oakland, but my grandparents, for a time, lived in the house on Dover Street that I use in the book. I actually grew up in Alameda, an island that borders Oakland. My first love is definitely my hometown, but I’ve truly been charmed by Oakland the past few years. The city has an incredibly rich history, and you can’t beat the diversity. The research I did – reading about the African-American migration from the South, the growth of the city, the people, the architecture—just made me fall in love. In reading and learning about Oakland, I also learned quite a bit about my own family history, and there’s still so much to be explored in both areas. More than likely all the Macco books will be set in Oakland.

Q: What inspired you to write this novel? Is mystery your favorite genre?

A: Quite honestly, I never read mysteries outside of James Lee Burke and Walter Mosley, and that’s not because of genre snobbery but because I went through a huge, all-encompassing Southern literature phase that ate up years of my reading time. I was initially drawn to Burke because of the Louisiana setting, and I got hooked from there. Now I read mysteries like a fiend, one after the other, sometimes the same book twice. I also have a few favorites I would never miss, like Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Burke, and Mosley.

The inspiration for Maceo’s story came from a coming of age I wanted to tell that felt very thin without the mystery element. My agent suggested that I heighten the mystery and make the coming of age the secondary story, which was a wonderful suggestion. I think my first draft basically fought the natural flow of the story.

Q: Is there another Maceo Redfield mystery in the worksP Will Black Jeff make an appearance?

A: I just completed an outline detailing what has happened to all the characters since the end of The Dying Ground. Some of them haven’t fared so well, I had to be honest to the arena in which they lived, but Black Jeff is alive and well-prospering actually. He was such a minor character, but he really stuck with people, so we’ll definitely see him again. The new book is set in 1991—no title yet—and it involves a dethroned NBA star who returns home to Oakland to lick his wounds after being chucked from the league. Of course, he knows Holly and Maceo, and his attempts to lie low in Oakland fail dramatically, which draws Maceo into another mystery. Macco, since we last saw him, is still trying to mend fences with his family and navigate the murky waters of his manhood. Honestly, I was a little surprised myself to learn where some of the characters ended up. I had to resist the urge to tie things in a neat bow and give everyone shiny new beginnings. It’s a violent world these characters inhabit, and as a result there will definitely be more casualties.

Q: You have such a giftfor creating characters. Where did that come from?

A: I think just listening to people, really enjoying the stories, quirks, and habits of others. No matter where I am, it’s really hard for me to have a truly bad time. If nothing else, if I’m at a horrible party or a bad movie, or on an awful date, I always have my imagination to rescue me from any given situation. My imagination has served me well. It’s sprung me from boring situations, and helped me to create characters that feel as real as my own family.

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