Scouting Scene Locations

As an author I’m heavily influenced by movies, and like a movie producer or director, I scout the locations to be used in my books. For Parker’s Choice I needed an angry river, a creepy cemetery, and a foreboding stand of woods.

I live in suburban Atlanta which happens to have a river flowing through it. The Chattahoochee River originates in the Appalachian Mountains north of Atlanta, feeds Lake Lanier, then flows out of the Buford Dam at the southern end of the lake, through the city and all the way to Lake Seminole on the Florida-Georgia border. South of the city, the river is a benign, listless, opaque puddle. Through the city, the river is a well-stocked trout stream suitable for wading and rafting. But north of the city, through suburban Gwinnett County and all the way to Lake Lanier, the river is controlled by the opening and closing of the Buford Dam. When open, the river rises fast and flows over hidden boulders and felled trees.

At Jones Bridge Park in Gwinnett County, I found what I was looking for—a dangerous, angry stretch of river when the dam was open with an ancient bridge collapsed into the water above the park and a stand of woods below the park. I walked the footpaths through the woods and found a huge, downed tree partially in the water. The tree’s massive ball of roots made an excellent hiding place for someone waiting to ambush a person coming up the path. I had my murder scene complete with a rushing waterway into which a victim would fall. As a bonus, the house on the other side of the woods became the home in which Parker and Paula would live, where an old enemy would find them, and where their marriage would disintegrate. I took plenty of pictures.

I still needed a creepy cemetery so my wife and I took a trip to the city of creepy cemeteries—New Orleans. Between meals of Crawfish Etouffee, beignets, red beans and rice, and breakfast at Brennan’s, we found what we were looking for, possibly the creepiest cemetery in the U.S. Just beyond the French quarter stands St. Louis Cemetery No.1, famous for its guided ghost tours. But that wasn’t creepy enough. Beside it, crouched under an I-10 overpass, is St. Louis Cemetery No.2, a derelict, mold-covered, unlighted, and unguarded ogre donated by the Catholic Church in 1823. This would be the spot where Parker and Sabrina would connect the dots between a murder, a fraud, and Parker’s secret birth father. I had my location and I took many more pictures as the scene in which Parker is hunted by a killer took shape in my mind.

N.B. I’m told that due to vandalism, the gates to the cemetery are now locked and the location is closed to the public. But on the day we scouted the property, it sent chills up our spines as we walked its gravel paths.

As another bonus, we had dinner at Arnoud’s restaurant and learned from a helpful waiter that a secret room upstairs was the place where George W. Bush had dinner with friends when he was in town. That room became the location of Parker’s showdown with his fraudulent boss.

Back home, I had many wonderful photos to which I could refer as I wrote the scenes, feeling myself fully in the places where Parker, Paula, and Sabrina acted out their stories.

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