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 . . .