The story behind ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’

LINCOLN IN THE BARDOSeveral decades ago, George Saunders and his wife were visiting Washington D.C. when their cousin mentioned that anecdotal evidence indicated President Abraham Lincoln had surreptitiously visited the tomb of his 11-year-old son, Willie.

For years, the story of Lincoln, so overcome by grief, that he stole into the monument where his son was interred, nagged at the edges of Saunders’s mind. But Saunders, who teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University, had never written a novel and besides his writing was mostly satirical in nature.

“But this material has been calling me all these years,” says Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House 2017; $28). “It’s like their story was a stalker, it kept showing up at my window and it needed to get out.”

Justifying his foray into a new literary form by telling himself he’d had a nice run regarding his career—Saunders is an acclaimed short story writer who is included in Time’s list of the 100 most influential people the world, he decided why not try “this Lincoln thing.”

Saunders still had doubts about his ability to tell the story in the way the way it needed to be told. But having grown up in Chicago as part of a devout Catholic family and now having adapted some of the tenets of Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition, he has written a book that though just recently released is already garnering great reviews.

Bardo is a Tibetan concept–a kind of transitional zone says Saunders.

“We’re all in the bardo right now that goes from birth to death,” he says, noting that Buddhists would call these transition stages reincarnation and noting that the book takes place just after that, in the bardo that goes from death to whatever comes next. “Now is the time to live–knowing that death is coming—if we can accept ourselves as a mess.”

With all his research, Saunders has come to see how Lincoln persevered despite the immense weight of the Civil War, the deaths of so many Americans and that of his son as well.

“We had a president back then who bent,” he says, “when others would have broken.”

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How the French Saved America

Give credit to France for the forming of our nation because without their help we might still be, as stereotypes go, eating crumpets, drinking tea and speaking with British accents.

That’s the focus of a new book by noted author Tom Shachtman in his latest book How the French Saved America: Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis Xvi, and The Success of a Revolution (St. Martin’s Press 2017; $27.99).

While many of us know about the Marquis de Lafayette whose help during the Revolutionary War was so vital that we’ve named cities after him–Lafayette, Indiana and Louisiana come quickly to mind. But the Marquis wasn’t the only Frenchman who risked his life to help America achieve its independence. Indeed, according to Shachtman in his extensively researched and wonderfully written book, almost ten percent of those who perished fighting for our cause were from France.

Those surviving include not only Lafayette but also Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse, commander of the French fleet during the Battle of the Chesapeake.  He and his men created a naval blockade of Yorktown thus allowing General George Washington and yet another Frenchman, Comte de Rochambeau, to defeat British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis in what was a decisive battle. Another, Louis Duportail founded the Army Corps of Engineers.

Even Shachtman, who has written or co-authored more than thirty books as well as documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and BBC, taught at New York University and lectured at Harvard, Stanford and the Library of Congress, at first didn’t realize how much the French impacted America’s victory. He first became aware of France’s significance when writing another book Gentlemen Scientists and Revolutionaries: The Founding Fathers in the Age of Enlightenment and decided to pursue the subject. The assistance the French provided included, among a long list, money to pay our troops, weapons, safe harbor for privateers, troops, battlefield leadership and engineering expertise.

So why is France’s contribution not better known?

“We are too invested in our own myths to acknowledge how much we owe our freedom to France,” says Shachtman, noting our belief in our rugged individualism and self-sufficiency could also play a big part. “The war might not have been won at all, or not been won by 1783 if not for the French.”

Ifyougo:

What: Tom Shachtman has three talks and book signings in the Chicago area.

When: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 6 pm

Where: The Newberry, 60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL

FYI: 312-255-3610; publicprograms@newberry.org

What: Learn & Lunch with Tom Shachtman

When: Wednesday, October 18 at noon

Where: University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL

FYI: 847-446-8880 to make a reservation

What: Tom Shachtman Reading & Signing

When: Thu. October 19 at 7pm

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL

FYI: (773) 293-2665

 

If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears: Stories from the Chicago Bears Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box

How hard was it to transition from football super-stardom to everyday life? I ask Otis Wilson, #55 of the Super Bowl XX
winning Chicago Bears and front row performer in the famed Super Bowl Shuffle which even now trends high on You Tube with 21,238 views in the last three months alone.

“You have to have a goal, a plan,” says Wilson who seems to have accomplished many goals since the Bears won in 1985 including a film career and his founding of the Otis Wilson Charitable Foundation which focuses on health, education, fitness and after school programs for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods, similar to the one where he was raised. Now Wilson can add author to his list of post-football career achievements with the recent release of If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears: Stories from the Chicago Bears Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books 2017; $16.95).

Co-authored with Chet Coppock, an Emmy Award winning sportscaster who was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame, Wilson, a natural born storyteller, is both philosophical and humorous in telling stories about his former teammates including those they called the Marquee Players such as Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

Wilson, an outside linebacker was known as one of the most feared pass-rusher on the grid-iron but his demeanor off the field is genial and full of the homilies that helped shape him.

“My grandmother and mother told me to treat people as you’d want to be treated,” says Wilson. “If you give people respect, they’ll respect you.”

Another driving force for Wilson is to set a good example for his own children. But none of this means that Wilson can’t tell a good story including insight into the stars of the 1980s team, his upbringing and his insight into the changes of professional football since he played. He also likes to share his interactions with Mike Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Mike Singletary and William “Refrigerator” Perry.

The book, written as a conversation between Coppock and Wilson, has an authentic voice. Crediting his mother who worked and raised six kids and a grandmother who was an entrepreneur and owned her own record store, with helping him achieve his success by teaching common sense and an appreciation for hard work and discipline.

Though initially Wilson says he blew a lot of money on expensive cars, big homes and $800 pairs of shoes, he now has learned simplicity (though there’s still that addiction to $3000 suits). He doesn’t need a two-million-dollar house, he’s happy living on the South Side of Chicago where he’s near his foundation where he spends five days a week or more.

“We’ve reached over 10,000 kids,” he says. “That’s success.”

Ifyougo:

What: Meet former Bears player Otis Wilson. Otis will sign autographs and pose for pictures.

When: October 12, 6-8PM

Where: Binny’s Beverage Depot, 3437 W. 95th, Evergreen Park, Il

Cost: Free

FYI: 708-237-7660; evergreenpark@binnys.com

Al Capone’s Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition

Prohibition in Chicago was the ultimate business opportunity for the violent men who made up the many gangs who fought to control alcohol as well as narcotics, gambling, labor and business racketeering and prostitution in the city. And while there were turf wars during Prohibition in many American cities, Chicago was the bloodiest of all.

“The apex of the violence in Chicago was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre where seven men were killed,” says John J. Binder, author of  (Prometheus Books 2017; $25). “That was a record. In any other city, there were never more than two or three gang murders at one time.”

Chicago at that time was almost completely lawless and these mobsters thought they were untouchable says Binder, adding that gangsters like Al Capone even gave interviews which added to Chicago’s reputation as did the way they did business including machine guns, drive-by shootings.

Binder, who has been writing about organized crime for more than 25 years, is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Finance in the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His background in business and finance is perfect for writing what is the first complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition because after all it is a business.

“The sole goal of organized crime is to enrich their members,” says Binder. “Sure, they’re violent and sure they kill each other, it’s useful in running the business. But the goal was to make money.”

While legendary figures like Al Capone have taken on almost mythical status, Binder says that many books don’t even cover some of the other 12 gangs who were major bootleggers in Chicago at the start of Prohibition.

“A lot of books about Prohibition in Chicago just cover the same thing,” he says, noting that five years of research went into his book.

The Chicago mobs’ reach also extended into Northwest Indiana says Binder who will be conducting a tour of Prohibition sites.

“The Canadian Whiskey Superhighway ran from Detroit through Gary to Chicago,” he says.

Ifyougo:

What: Talk and book signing

When: Tuesday, Oct. 10; 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program

Where: Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois

Cost: $25, $20 members; cash bar available

FYI: 312-642-4600

What: Author and historian John J. Binder leads an in-depth tour of Chicago’s Prohibition and related crime history.

When: Saturday, October 14 at 1 p.m.

Where: Tour begins at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois

Cost: $55, $45 members; tour runs 3.5 to 4 hours

FYI: 312-642-4600

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home

More than just a lovely French Renaissance chateau set in amazing landscape of forests, formal gardens and mountains, Biltmore, the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt as told by Denise Kiernan in her latest book, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, is also a main character in this account of one of this country’s most amazing homes.

Comprised of four acres of floor space, Biltmore dwarfs even the most opulent McMansion of today. The numbers tell all. The home, the largest privately owned house in the U.S., has 250 rooms including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, three kitchens, 65 fireplaces and a library.

But beyond the immense magnificence of the house, Kiernan, whose previous book, The Girls of Atomic City, was a New York Times best seller, brings the house alive with stories of its owners. Meticulously detailed, Kiernan is someone who loves to immerse herself in research. But the Vanderbilt mansion in Ashville, North Carolina is also very personal. A resident of this mountain town for the last 11 years, Kiernan’s connection to the mansion goes back even further when she first visited when in high school.

“This place is unique in that it is still standing and all the original things are still in it,” says Kiernan who describes her book as asking people to go for a walk back in time.  “Many of the great mansions are gone. That’s one more reason why Biltmore is one of the main characters. Those that lived there were just passing through.”

Besides its sumptuousness as well as being a perfect example of how the very rich lived in the Gilded Age (before all those nasty income taxes made the rich just a little less rich), George Vanderbilt also was ahead of his time in that he bought up large tracks of the failing farms surrounding the estate. Then, he hired landscaping genius Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York and the University of Chicago campus, to create America’s first managed forest.

When asked what she would like readers to take away from The Last Castle, Kiernan says she’d like to instill a curiosity of our own history and that people read the book and take away a new appreciation for historic preservation.

“Everyone brings a little bit of themselves to stories they read and I hope the story of The Last Castle is relatable enough that readers will be able to engage with it in their own unique way,” says Kiernan who marvels how interconnected many of the events from the sinking of the Titanic to the invention of the Teddy Bear touch upon the home.  “I also find that no matter how much money you have, there is no protection from harrowing tragedy and personal loss. What is impressive to me is how people handle those kinds of situations.”

Ifyougo:

What: Denise Kiernan Chicago book events.

Where & When:

Anderson’s Bookshop,

123 W Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

Wednesday, September 27 at 7pm

(630) 355-2665

The University Club of Chicago

76 E. Monroe St. Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 28 at noon

Tickets available at 847-446-8880

Woman’s Athletic Club

626 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 28 at 6-8 pm

312-944-6123

 

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker extraordinaire, social misfit and martial arts expert, is back in The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.  The fifth in the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, Salander sentenced to prison for several months after she protects an autistic child in her typical law-breaking but righteous way. But even prison bars can’t stop Salander from assisting muckraking journalist Mikael Blomkvist as he investigates The Registry, a secret group of doctors conducting illegal experiments on twins.  It’s all personal for Salander, who has an evil twin named Camilla.

The investigation is also a chance for Salander to learn more about her abusive past. But there are, as always, barriers in the way. A prison gang leader has put a hit order on her, the Russian mafia and religious fundamentalists are after her and Camilla  is back and more treacherous.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first novel in the Millennium series started by Stieg Larsson and, after his death continued by David Lagercrantz, will be happy that Salander and Blomkvist have teamed up again in this thriller set in Sweden.

For Lagercrantz, a well-established journalist and novelist, the chance to take over the Millennium series was an exciting opportunity. It was also rather daunting as Larsson’s Millennium trilogy sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.

“If I have a gift it is probably to have the ability to write in many ways,” says Lagercrantz. “My sister who is an actor sometimes calls me an actor-writer, I go in to roles. My journalism past helped me a lot. I always say if you want to write good journalism use literary techniques, and if you want to write good fiction use journalistic research. Of course, it helped me to understand the life of Michael Blomkvist. In my heart, I am always a reporter.”

To successfully channel the characters Larsson created, Lagercrantz read the original three books over and over and thought about the characters’ universe day and night.

“My key to writing the book was passion,” he says. “It was the thrill of my life.”

That passion showed. The Girl in the Spider Web, his first book for the series, was a best seller.

Beyond giving his readers an enjoyable story, Lagercrantz wants to help people become more tolerant and understanding than we currently are.

“It is so sad to see the society getting more and more divided,” he says. “Hate is obviously growing, thanks to terrible leaders, and if I can bring just some of us a little tiny bit closer I would be so happy.”

 

Author shares Rosh Hashanah recipes: Cookbook offers sweet, savory recipes to celebrate the new year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, celebrates heritage and a chance for rejuvenation.

Emily Paster, author of the newly released “The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More — for Holidays and Every Day” said the most common Rosh Hashanah tradition is to eat sweet foods to symbolize the hope for a new year.

“Ashkenazi Jews, for example, often begin the Rosh Hashanah meal by dipping slices of apple in honey,” said Paster, who lives in the Chicago area and writes the popular blog westoftheloop.com. “Quince is the traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit for Sephardic Jews. Other foods are traditional because eating them is considered to be a good omen for the new year, bringing luck and prosperity. These traditions are often based on a food’s color or appearance; or, more obscurely, they are a play on the Hebrew or Yiddish name for the food.”

 As an example of this play on words, Paster gives the example of eftes de prasa, or leek fritters.

“With fall being peak season for leeks, these sweet, tender fritters are the perfect appetizer for your Rosh Hashanah meal. And, naturally, leeks are also a symbolic food for the start of the new year. The word for leek in Hebrew is related to the word kareyt, which means ‘to cut.’ Prior to eating leeks on Rosh Hashanah, Sephardic Jews recite a special prayer that those who wish to hurt them will instead be cut down.”

Some of the Rosh Hashanah recipes included in Paster’s book are Fruitful Fig Jam, Golden Pumpkin Butter, Quince Paste and Apple Honey and Rose Water Jam.

“Every recipe in my book was inspired by an idea, and I developed every recipe myself because I wanted it to be a cookbook that everyone can use,” Paster says.

Some recipes call for canning and the use of a pressure cooker. If you’re short on time, you can make the jams, ketchups, pickles, conserves, chutneys and pastes and then refrigerate them. It means a shorter shelf life but less time in the kitchen.

As for Paster, this Rosh Hashanah holiday she’ll definitely be making a round challah.

“Usually challah is a braided oval, but we make a round one on RH to symbolize the never-ending cycle of years and seasons, says Paster, a graduate of Princeton University and University of Michigan’s Law School and a former attorney whose interest in food segued into researching and writing about the subject.

“I begin the meal with chicken soup and a meat-filled dumpling called kreplach. These dumplings are not as famous as matzo balls, but they are very special and traditional for the High Holidays. Some people serve them the night before Yom Kippur — which is the day we fast. I also usually make brisket for the main course. These leek patties are a nice side dish. Dessert is often an apple or honey cake. I like to change it every year.”

Eftes de Prasa (Leek Fritters)

6 leeks, white and green parts only, halved and sliced thinly

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 eggs beaten

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, such as Panko

1/4 cup chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup neutral oil with high smoke point from frying, such as canola or grapeseed

Lemon wedges for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.

Sauté the sliced leeks until softened, about ten minutes, but do not allow them to brown. Adjust heat as necessary. Season well with salt and pepper.

Place softened leeks in a large bowl. Add beaten egg, bread crumbs, and chives and combine well.

Heat oil for frying in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 250. When oil is shimmering, but not smoking, form golf ball-sized balls of batter with damp hands and drop them, three or four at a time, in the skillet and flatten slightly with a spatula.

Cook fritters until browned on first side, 1-2 minutes and turn carefully turn them over and cook on other side, another 1-2 minutes until browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary. Keep cooked fritters warm in the oven until all the batter is cooked.

Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Fritters can be made in advance and chilled until needed. Reheat in a 400 degree oven prior to serving.

Challah

Makes 1 loaf

4 cups all-purpose flour

2¼ teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup water,

approximately 110 degrees

3 eggs, at room temperature

¼ cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

Poppy or sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, and warm water. Stir to combine. Add 2 eggs, the vegetable oil, sugar, honey, and salt.

Mix the dough with the dough hook until a smooth dough emerges, about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead by hand for an additional 5 minutes, adding more flour frequently to prevent sticking.

The dough should be smooth and elastic. It may be slightly tacky to the touch.

Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled on all sides. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down risen dough and divide into 3 equal parts. I like to use my kitchen scale to ensure my pieces are of equal size.

Roll each piece into a thin strand about 2 feet long. Pinch the 3 strands together at the top and then braid until you reach the end of each strand. Take the ends and pinch them closed and tuck the under the loaf.

Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover the loaf with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Before placing the loaf in the oven, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water in

a small bowl. Brush the egg wash on the challah, making sure to get in the crevices of the braids. If desired, sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds over the top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Apple, Honey and Rose Water Jam

Makes four 8-ounce jars

3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-in dice (6 to 7 cups prepped)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1½ cups sugar

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon rose water

Prepare a boiling water bath and heat four 8-ounce jars.

Place the apples, ½ cup of water, and lemon juice in a wide, deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir, and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium, and cook until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking or burning.

Mash the apples coarsely with a fork or potato masher. Add the sugar and honey to the pot, stirring to dissolve. Return to a boil over medium-high heat.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and mounds up on a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. It will splatter, so use caution.

Remove the jam from the heat and stir in the rose water. Ladle jam into clean, warm jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace at the top. Bubble the jars and wipe the rims with a damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings just until you feel resistance. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the water for 5 minutes before removing. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber’s thriller Are You Sleeping? (Gallery Books 2017; $26) tells the story of  Josie Buhrman who thought she had put the trauma of her early life behind her, when a hit investigative podcast about her father’s murder brings the past back, compelling her return to the small Illinois town of Elm Park where she grew up.

“The main storyline of Are You Sleeping was inspired by true crime podcasts like ‘Serial,’ says Barber, a graduate from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law who previously practiced bankruptcy law at large firms in Chicago and New York

.  “I was utterly captivated with the first season of ‘Serial’ when I listened to it in the fall of 2014– so much so that I spent a lot of time reading about the podcast online and visiting forums where the underlying case was discussed. At one point, I caught myself doing an online image search for some of the people involved in the case, and I realized that I had perhaps crossed a line from interested to inappropriately obsessed. It was then that I started thinking about how the popularity of the podcast must feel to the people on the other side of the case–the people who I was image-searching for, the people who were interviewed for the podcast, and, most of all, the family of the victim. That was what I was thinking about when I started writing Are You Sleeping–what it’s like to be on the other side of a case that’s moved into the realm of pop culture.”

Barber, who was born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois, says that she wants to tell stories about women from the Midwest and used her hometown as the setting for her book.

“When I was writing Are You Sleeping, I could envision the characters walking down certain real-life streets in Galesburg and drinking in existing bars,” says Barber. “Since so much of the rest of the book is created from whole cloth, setting the book in a familiar location really helped me ground the story in reality.”

If you go:

What: Talk and book signing

When: Thursday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 235-2523; citylitbooks.com

Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest

Before the Civil War, a network of secret routes and safe houses crisscrossed the Midwest to help African Americans travel north to escape slavery. Although many slaves were able to escape to the safety of Canada, others met untimely deaths on the treacherous journey—and some of these unfortunates still linger, unable to rest in peace.

The author in front of an Underground Railroad stop said to be haunted.

In Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest, Jane Simon Ammeson investigates unforgettable and chilling tales of these restless ghosts that still walk the night. This unique collection includes true and gruesome stories, like the story of a lost toddler who wanders the woods near the Story Inn, eternally searching for the mother torn from him by slave hunters, or the tale of the Hannah House, where an overturned oil lamp sparked a fire that trapped slaves hiding in the basement and burned them alive. Brave visitors who visit the house, which is now a bed and breakfast, claim they can still hear voices moaning and crying from the basement.

Ammeson also includes incredible true stories of daring escapes and close calls on the Underground Railroad. A fascinating and spine-tingling glimpse into our past, Hauntings of the Underground Railroad will keep you up all night.

Journalist Fiona Barton keeps suspense going with ‘The Child’

As a journalist, Fiona Barton investigated crimes, attended trials and then wrote and filed her stories. But as the author of the just-released “The Child” and her best-selling novel, “The Widow,” both psychological thrillers, Barton had to switch gears.

“It sounds ridiculous, but I had to stop being a reporter in order to write a novel,” Barton says. “I knew how to write — I’d been doing it for a living for more than 30 years, but what I was writing came from other people. Journalism is listening, probing, testing other people’s words and telling a story concisely and often under 500 words,” she says.

“Writing ‘The Widow’ meant unlearning a lot of things. It was incredibly hard at first and I got to 10,000 words and thought I had nothing left to say, but there was a moment where I gave myself permission to fully invent. It was a real crunching of gears but wonderfully liberating to be free to create my own world in both books.”

Barton’s done it again with “The Child,” which brings back Kate Waters, the newspaper journalist who first appeared in “The Widow.” Wanting to impress her boss, Kate follows up on the discovery of a small skeleton in a recently demolished building. Barton says that the inspiration for the story came from exactly the same place that Kate finds it in the book.“As a journalist, I’m always looking for stories,” she says. “I tore interesting items out of newspapers and magazines — my hairdresser hated me — and shoved them in my handbag for later. They were often just a few lines in a story but it was the unanswered questions that drew me in. One of the scraps of paper lurking in the bottom of my bag many years ago was about the discovery of a baby’s remains. Like Kate, I wanted to know who the infant was? Who had secretly buried it? And who else knew?”