Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Track Conditions . . .

by Kit Ehrman

When I began writing the Steve Cline Mystery Series, I knew so little about the publishing industry, I didn’t realize that there was such a huge demand for series books, especially in the mystery genre. But, luckily for me, I wasn’t done with Steve when I wrapped up AT RISK. I still needed to explore the reasons behind his strained relationship with his father, and discovering that answer took me (and Steve) to the racetrack in DEAD MAN'S TOUCH.

Once I decide on a story idea, I begin researching right away because my findings often influence the developing plot.

I had worked briefly at Laurel Park years before, and all the delicious, sensory-filled memories of that experience were firmly embedded in my mind. But I was greedy. I wanted more.

Laurel Park grandstand and paddock area

Laurel Park grandstand

In my search to learn of others’ experiences and impressions of what it’s like to work on the backside of a racetrack, I discovered TRACK CONDITIONS, a beautifully-written, heart-wrenching memoir by Michael Klein.

TRACK CONDITIONS is a poetic, episodic narrative of the author’s five-year stint working as a racetrack groom as he journeys from track to track in an effort to reclaim his lover while battling alcoholism and dealing with the damaging effects of a sexually-abusive stepfather and a mother who suffered from depression.

Granted, this is not your typical equine book, but it is unbelievably moving and lyrical. To give you a sense of Klein’s writing style, I’ve pasted a brief excerpt below:

"One morning, Jewel was gazing into the middle distance after the last set of horses had gone out to the track, a distance lined with momentary hazards: a groom having trouble getting the tack off a horse; a filly not standing still for the blacksmith; sparrows in distress swimming in a necklace of high notes up to the haylofts."

During his time on the track, Klein had the good fortune of being Swale’s groom and the bad luck of being fired weeks before the Kentucky Derby-winning colt ran in the Preakness. The cover photo above, taken by Puff Anderson, shows Klein and Swale.

Ultimately, it is horse who saves man.

Over the years, I’ve read TRACK CONDITIONS twice and will read it again. I can’t say that reading it changed anything in DEAD MAN’S TOUCH, but I suspect that some of the story’s mood filtered into my own writing.

Happy reading and riding . . .


Jami Davenport said...


I'm going to have to pick up his book. I love to read about the track. It's been a long-time fascination of mine.

Kit Ehrman said...

I've always been fascinated with the track too, despite having worked there. It's a truly unique subculture and fascinating.

Unknown said...

Hiya, Kit. Thanks for the tip on the book and for posting the Laurel Park pics. The grandstand looks to be in better shape than I had expected it to.

Great to see you in the blogosphere, where I spend waaay too much time as it is. And now that there's a horse fiction blog?? Mercy! =:-D

Kit Ehrman said...

Hi there, Rhonda. Fancy meeting you here. :-) I think you'll find this blog very enjoyable. Thanks for stopping by!