Copyright ©2014 Wayne McDaniel and Steven Womack
Resurrection Bay was a fascinating project in a lot of ways. For one thing, it was my first really successful collaboration. I’d been involved with a couple of other book projects that were collaborations, but they hadn’t gone anywhere. And someday, I’ll write about the time I was part of a writing staff that tried to develop a sitcom called Gravy, which was a half-hour comedy set in a country store that bore an uncanny resemblance to a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
This was not coincidence; Gravy was produced, as far as it went, by the Cracker Barrel corporation. The problem with writing about that experience is that I don’t drink anymore, and writing about Gravy is damn near impossible without a lot of alcohol.
A couple of years before Resurrection Bay was published in 2014, I got an email from my former literary agent Nancy Yost, with whom I’ve actually maintained a very friendly relationship (I’ve often joked Nancy’s the only woman I ever broke up with who continues to talk to me).
Nancy explained in this email that this did not involve one of her clients and that she had no financial or business interest in this project, but she had a friend who had a friend who knew a screenwriter who’d written an original script and was trying to turn it into a novel and was looking for a collaborator.
Sure, I wrote back. Don’t know anything about it, but let’s talk.
So she put Wayne McDaniel and I together. Wayne had written an original screenplay based on the real life exploits of Alaska’s most famous serial killer, Robert Hansen.
Hansen, who was a baker in Anchorage, murdered somewhere between 17 and possibly 30 women over about a twelve-year period, which ended when he was caught in 1983.
Known as the “Butcher Baker,” Hansen’s modus operandi was to pick up women in strip clubs or who were out hitchhiking, work out a sex-for-cash arrangement, and then handcuff and kidnap his victim. He raped, tortured and killed them, often hustling them aboard his Piper Super Cub and flying them to remote areas of Alaska (Hansen had a pilot’s license, but it had been yanked by the FAA, so in addition to rape and murder, he was also flying illegally).
He also turned a number of them loose in the wilderness and hunted them like game (Hansen held several records as a hunter).
He was finally caught when one of his victims, whom he had handcuffed in his Jeep, managed to get the car door open and jumped from the moving car into traffic, then ran away screaming.
It’s a fascinating story and Wayne had done a great job with the script and even optioned it. But like a lot of scripts, it languished in the black hole of development hell and Wayne’s agent suggested he turn the story into a novel, sell the book, and then get the script back into play.
I read the script–loved it–and then read what he had of the novel. We talked and swapped ideas. Wayne and I made a deal with each other to move forward on the project and then we turned it over to our respective literary agents. It actually took them longer to work out their deal than it took for Wayne and me.
Then we finished the book and took it to market. It wound up at Midnight Ink.
And here’s the weird part: during the two years or so that Wayne and I worked on the book, we never met each other. We did all our work by phone and email. Wayne’s a working screenwriter in New York City; I’m a working writer and teacher in Nashville.
We just never got the chance to get together.
The book was published in June, 2014. Later that summer, in August, Wayne came to Nashville for the annual Killer Nashville conference, which is one of the best mystery and crime fiction conferences of the year. We finally got a chance to meet each other, which I’ve written about on my blog…
And here’s where it gets even weirder. The day Wayne got to Nashville, I was teaching at Watkins and he was staying at the Maxwell House Hotel, which is down the street from the College. I took a break between classes and met him at the Maxwell House and we had a fantastic first meeting.
That afternoon, Robert Hansen died in prison…
Again, the wonderful Dennis Ferrier at WSMV-TV in Nashville filed a report, which you can see here.
Just to throw out a bit of a tease, Wayne and I had such a marvelous time working on this book, we’re thinking of doing it again…
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