Frank Scully was born and raised in a small town in North Dakota and received a Bachelor’s degree in History with Phi Beta Kappa Honors and a Juris Doctor degree in Law from the University of North Dakota. He then served more than five years as a Judge Advocate General Corps Officer in the U. S. Army in the U. S., Vietnam, and Thailand. After that he attended the prestigious Thunderbird School and received a Masters in Business Administration with honors. In his professional career he has worked as an executive with large aerospace and defense manufacturers and also owned his own small business.
Depending on the vagaries of the universe he has been well off at times and broke, but never broken, at other times. Blessed with an understanding wife who gave him twin sons, he has remained through it all a dreamer whose passion is writing stories that will entertain readers.
Resurrection Garden, a mystery novel, is the first of five books Frank has under contract with MuseitUp Publishing.
You can visit Frank’s website at www.frankjscully.com.
Thank you for this interview, Frank. Can you tell us what your latest book, Resurrection Garden, is all about?
Resurrection Garden is a mystery set against the backdrop of the settling of the North Dakota prairie in 1904. Much like today, the first decade of the 19th century was to the people of the time a period of rapid and unsettling change. Railroads and the telegraph were altering transportation and communication. The land was filling up with settlers from all over the world. The lure of the American West was the chance to build a better tomorrow. Deputy Sheriff Jake Turner, a man with a past he would like to leave behind, discovers the body of a murdered man in a thawing snowdrift. While investigating the roots of the crime, Jake uncovers threads leading toward his best friend, who is the brother of the woman he is falling love with. Jake is almost killed and an orphaned boy who has attached himself to Jake is kidnapped and almost killed. Jake is convinced the people behind the murder will kill again to cover their tracks but solving the crime might destroy his dreams. The characters and story are true to their time and place. Interwoven into the fictional are aspects of real life culled from newspapers and letters from the era.
Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Jake Turner left his home in Ohio early and has witnessed much of the settling of the west. He tried several times to settle in one place, but it never worked out so he’s gone from job to job. From the Army to Arizona Ranger to railroad detective. Along the way he’s gained a reputation – some of it good and some of it he wants to bury. He was just passing through North Dakota on his way to nowhere in particular when the weather forced him to stay. He found something special and never left.
Isaac Jacobson is Jake’s best friend and is suffering from tuberculosis. Alice is Isaac’s sister and after Isaac works hard to introduce Jake and Alice they fall in love. Andrew Perry is an orphaned eight-year-old boy who becomes attached to Jake. When Andy is almost killed, Jake realizes the ones he loves are at risk and he must break their hearts in order to protect them.
“Thor” Thorsgaard is the dead man with a reputation as a thief, a cheat and a con man. His wife Greta is Jake’s prime suspect and proof that the female is the more deadly of the species.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
The primary characters in Resurrection Garden are entirely fictional. Some of the secondary characters are very loosely based on real people of the time.
Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I develop a theme around which I set a general plot scheme as well as flesh out the characters along with their back story before I start writing. From there I work hard getting the first chapter down with the right hook. After that the story and the characters tend to take on a life of their own and often go in directions I never anticipated.
Your book is set in Badger, North Dakota. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?
Badger is a fictional town but the general location of the Turtle Mountains in North Dakota is very familiar to me since it is where I was born and raised. My grandparents were settlers in the area in the 1880’s. My grandmother took out a homestead and lived on it by herself to prove the title. I knew the history of this area and felt that it was a wonderful place to set a story.
Yes, the setting and the people who were the early settlers are primary factors to the story. Immigrants came from northern Europe to claim their place in the American West. They brought with them much that is rich and wonderful. However, some brought dark, dangerous, and deadly intentions.
Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Jake and Andy are on a narrow road through the forest in the Turtle Mountains. Jake is concerned about being ambushed again based on something he saw at the Thorsgaard farm. The following excerpt is from that page.
I scolded myself for staying at the Hopkins place too long. The delay meant we were leaving the Thorsgaard farmstead as dusk fell. In the slough next to the road, a night fog already started to form ghostly shapes.
A loon called from a nearby lake. It startled Andrew. Such a lonely cry. Like a lost soul in the dense brush. The road was narrow in the timber. Little more than a ten foot wide path cut through the forest with graveled ruts. In the dark, it was impossible to see more than twenty feet into the trees.
A chill descended on us when the sun disappeared. On the prairie, the warmth of the day stayed longer than in the hills.
Bats flitted across the road nabbing insects. Andrew clutched his saddle horn and eased closer to me. Luther barked up ahead and then growled deeply. He sank down on his belly and pointed with his bared teeth into the dense bush.
I had my rifle out and a round chambered before I slid off Dix. This would have to be footwork. I stepped across to Andrew and lifted him off his saddle and put him on Dix’s back, placing the reins in his hand.
“Andrew,” I whispered with a hand on his leg, “trust Dix and Luther. If they run, you stick with them. If you hear anything coming and you don’t who it is, you let Dix run.”
I patted Dix’s neck as I left him and went to Luther.
“Stay with Dix, Luther. Guard them,” I whispered.
He kept his teeth bared, but his ears flicked at me and his tail jerked.
I slipped into the bush and within ten steps could not see them any longer. I stopped and listened to the dark. A slight breeze stirred the tops of the trees. Nothing reached the floor of the forest. An owl screeched from somewhere. The sound echoed and bounced around to come at me from everywhere.
Something was going to die in the forest tonight. A hapless mouse or maybe something larger. Like me?
I moved again. Slowly I worked deeper into the brush, going uphill. Ancient trees mingled with new growth, dense buck brush, and poison oak along with other plants on the forest floor. Wood ticks dropped from the trees and brush onto me to seek their fill of blood. I could already feel a couple crawling across my skin under my shirt. Mosquitoes kept up a constant attack on any exposed skin. With each step I stopped for a second to listen and sense the changes around me. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
The following is an important turning point.
We walked down to the meadow below the house. Shadows were spreading as the sun dropped behind the trees to the west. Evening sounds from the surrounding forest were like a symphony of life. And love.
She reached out to take my hand as we strolled along quietly, content to be together. And alone. She led. We walked toward a small clearing under a large oak tree out of sight of the house.
Suddenly, she stopped and turned to me. She reached up with her free hand, put her hand behind my neck, and pulled me into a kiss unlike any I’ve ever had before. I was lost in the universe, feeling an emotion so intense I could not contain it. When our lips parted, I held her in my arms tightly.
“Jake,” she whispered. “Come with me.” She took my hand again and led me on.
I took a step and blood sprayed out of my leg just before it buckled, and I was knocked to the ground. Another shot whizzed by my head. Alice still stood and stared at me in wonder and surprise. I jumped up as best as I could, knocked her down, and lay between her and the shooter. But it was quiet. I had no weapon with me.
“Quick,” I ordered her. “Crawl to the bush and get back to the house. Have Bart bring me my rifle.”
She nodded and left immediately. I straightened out my leg. I felt the bone. It wasn’t broken. A clean through shot in the meat of the thigh below the crotch. Bleeding but not pumping. I took my belt and tied it around my leg over the holes and rolled into the dense shadows of the brush.
Bart hissed at me a few moments later and handed me my rifle. He had his along too.
“How many?” he asked.
“Just one. Same persistent bastard who’s trying to kill me I imagine. Long gone by now.”
“Wait here,” he said. “I’ll check around.”
A few minutes later, he was back and helped me hobble to the house where Ruth and Alice waited anxiously. Ruth told Alice to get hot water and me to drop my pants.
We both did as we were told. Ruth inspected the wound and began cleaning it out with very hot water and alcohol. It stung like blazes, but the bleeding was almost stopped by the time she had it bound and bandaged.
“Was any further up, and you wouldn’t be any good to this young lady,” Ruth teased. “Bart, bring us all a glass of the whiskey you hide in the barn. We all need some.”
My head buzzed from the large glass of whiskey by the time Ruth and Bart left us alone on the porch. I still insisted I would sleep in the barn for the night.
Alice sat beside me on the bench and laid her head on my shoulder. I was about to say something, but she put her finger to my lips.
“Shhh,” she said softly, her eyes swimming in tears as more streaked down her cheeks. “Don’t explain. Don’t apologize. I’m just happy you’re alive. Just be here with me for a few minutes, and let my heart feel yours.”
We sat that way for a long time. I forgot about my leg. It was my heart that concerned me.
I should be happy and making plans and commitments. Instead I felt a great fear. There was much pain coming.
Thank you so much for this interview, Frank. We wish you much success!
Thank you for the interview. I enjoyed the questions.