Friday, April 2, 2010
Tennessee Body Farm Founder Enters World of Crime Writing in 'Carved in Bone'
Several years ago I sat in an audience as slides of dead bodies in various stages of decay flashed on a large screen in the front of the room. We watched as a corpse went from whole and flesh-covered to maggot-ridden to bone in less than a dozen photos. While horrified, I was also intrigued. The speaker was Dr. Bill Bass, famed forensic anthropologist from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and he was discussing his book about his research, Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales. After that nonfiction book was released in the fall of 2004, Bass and his writing partner Jon Jefferson teamed up on another project -- a fiction mystery series based on Bass's years working at the Body Farm.
The two combined their names into the pen name Jefferson Bass, and began a series detailing the personal and professional life of main character Dr. Bill Brockton. Brockton is a widower, currently married to his work only. 2 am phone calls asking him to appear at the scene of crimes are nothing out of the ordinary.
In the first book in the series, Carved in Bone, Brockton is called upon by rural Cooke County Sheriff Tom Kitchings to help solve the mystery of a body found mummified after 30 years in a cave deep in the Tennessee hills. Brockton willingly provides his services, but rethinks his involvement when things begin to get dangerous. Cooke County is a fictional county, perhaps loosely based on modern-day Union County, which was called Cooke County from 1797 until 1846. Cooke County is a backwoods area largely overrun by illegal activity. When Brockton begins to suspect that those in power are involved in crime, as well, he attempts to back out of the case. He is drawn back in by force (and even kidnapping, in a couple of cases), and works to solve the murder against his better judgement.
Jefferson Bass follows in the footsteps of Patricia Cornwell in this excellent addition to the world of crime writing. Cornwell actually propelled the real-life anthropologist Bass to fame when she included him and his Body Farm in her Kay Scarpetta novel named for the facility. The co-authors Jefferson Bass do a wonderful job of describing the east Tennessee setting, both in Knoxville and in the more rural areas. They also have created a lovable, intelligent, and caring protagonist who I look forward to reading more about.
The writing team of Jefferson Bass is currently on a book tour for their latest book The Bone Thief. I am already halfway through the second novel in the series, Flesh and Bone. More on this series to come soon (as I'm reading them as fast as I can get my hands on them)! Excerpts from their books are available at their website, including the prologue and first chapter of the first book.
You're very own look at the Body Farm in a tour by Dr. Bass himself (WARNING! VIDEO CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC MATERIAL THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL VIEWERS. WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK.):