FOLLOW ME DOWN - GORDON MACKINNEY
Urban explorer Lucas Tremaine should buckle down and complete his Masters in Architecture, but the past torments him. Six years earlier, Drax Enterprises’ negligence killed his father and left his mother strung out on Valium. Lucas longs to punish the corrupt behemoth of Cincinnati real estate development, but what can one man do?
"Plenty," says old Mr. Blumenfeld, Lucas's boss and a former photojournalist with too many secrets. Evidence to bury Drax exists, he claims, but to find it, Lucas must breach the city's welded-shut subway system. Lucas takes the plunge, aided by his best friend and moral compass, Reuben Klein.
The deeper the duo infiltrates the dangerous underground, the further back they turn the clock. They learn that Drax's corruption intertwined with fascism's rise in Germany. That campfire tales of a subway crypt were true. That no one can be trusted, not even Lucas's boss.
MM: This week I'm excited to tackle the Cincinnati underworld with author Gordon MacKinney and his latest novel, FOLLOW ME DOWN. Gordon, welcome to @MartinMatthewsWrites!
GM: My pleasure!
MM: Before we get started, let me apologize up front. You see, I am jealous that your book has such a cool cover.
GM: Glad you like it. Hats off to my publisher, Black Rose Writing, for betting on a graphic designer with not too much book experience. It really paid off.
MM: So, Lucas Tremaine. Sounds like he's got a pretty large axe to grind regarding the Drax Corporation. Tell us a little about what happened to him six years ago...
GM: Corporate negligence happens, and so do accidents. Lucas' father was killed in a job-site accident. But instead of taking responsibility, Drax destroyed the man's reputation to save its own hide, falsely painting him as an alcoholic. Lucas has reason to be bitter. Not only did he lose his father, the injustice sent his mom spiraling into Valium dependence.
MM: Scary stuff. Where did the idea forFOLLOW ME DOWNcome from? I mean, I hope you haven't personally experienced large real estate developers killing off your loved ones...right?
GM: No, but my career has brought me extremely close to the powerful oppressing the powerless. The theme colors much of my writing, including my first book about a war between a powerful car company and an underdog union local.
MM: Lucas Tremaine, Mr. Blumenfeld, Reuben Klein, N. Jefferson Chapel...Drax Enterprises... This is a little off topic, but it sounds like you've got an ear for names. Where did these character and company names come from? I ask because they feel so real to my ear. I'm also interested because some of them sound somewhat German and Jewish...this plays a role in the story, does it not?
GM: I'm glad the names feel authentic to you. That's important. The fact that Alfred Blumenfeld and Reuben Klein are Jewish becomes essential to the plot. Without revealing any spoilers, we quickly learn of Drax's anti-Semitic ways and history. These are not nice people. But we also learn that many American companies supported Hitler's rise. For example, IBM — both machines and employees — collected the data used to round up the Jews.
MM: Wow, that's incredible. I'm going to delve a little deeper into that in my own research. Fascinating. Switching gears, the idea of urban exploration, uncovering layers of secrets, and delving into the murk of the world beneath our world is a fantastic backdrop for your story. Have you had experience with urban exploration? What made you decide to use that for this novel?
GM: Because it's just so damn cool. I mean, exploration is cool, but with so much of our earth now discovered, how exciting to think of new unexplored territory beneath our feet! Also, you'll read about Lucas lowering himself into a well as a child in pursuit of adventure. I did something similar when I was about 10 years old.
MM: I was surprised to read that the Cincinnati subway is quite real. I had no idea.
GM: Isn't that amazing? Yes, built after World War I, but the Depression killed the funding. A complete subway system that never carried a single passenger, and it's still down there. Many Cincinnati residents aren't aware. I lived near the city for a decade, always wondering what terrors lay beyond those locked gates. If only in my imagination, writing the book took me down there, and it was a great journey. Glad I made it out alive.
MM: Tell us about some of your biggest influences?
GM: I wish I could personally thank the mystery author James Lee Burke, the man behind the Dave Robicheauxseries. My role model. If I could ever achieve the potency and conciseness and beauty of his prose, that would be a dream come true. He's 81 and still writing. What an inspiration.
MM: What are you currently reading?
GM: "The Fat Lady’s Low, Sad Song" by a Colorado writer named Brian Kaufman. The backdrop is minor-league baseball, but the story is pure character. Really well done.
MM: Are you working on a new book? Can you tell us about it?
GM: I am. Now you're going to make me talk like a back-of-cover blurb, which I haven't thought of yet. Let's see. Her father's untimely death forces a twentysomething journalist back to the small Missouri farm town that once shunned her. She reports on the opioid crisis that is decimating rural America, while coming to terms with her own (mis)deeds and a mysterious sheriff who is either benefactor or master manipulator. How'd I do?
MM: Not bad at all! I'm glad to see more authors tackling the opioid epidemic, too. We need much more awareness of the toll its taking on our families and neighbors. Well, it's been great having you here. Thanks for stopping by and chatting about FOLLOW ME DOWN. Hope to have you back here soon, Gordon!
GM: Thank you so much, Martin.
Gordon MacKinney is a decade-long monthly columnist for the Fort Collins Coloradoan and periodic columnist for The Denver Post. A father of five, he holds an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio. He co-owns a successful marketing communications agency, www.lightsourcecreative.com.
You can purchase Mr. MacKinney's novel FOLLOW ME DOWNhere: