Tom Harley Campbell’s journey to publishing his first novel began over ten years ago when the aspiring author first wrote “Satan’s Choir” and received a cold response from the major publishing houses. from New York.
“I wrote the first draft and had a hard time getting it published due to one of the main themes being sexual abuse in the Catholic Church,” said Campbell, 70, who resides at Trumansburg. “The editors didn’t want to deal with it, which was odd, but it was like that.”
So he put that story aside and started working on another book with the same protagonist, the second installment of what he hoped would become the John Burke Mystery series. But he still thought “Satan’s Choir” deserved another chance.
“One of my brothers convinced me to get back on the horse and get it published,” Campbell said.
He said less than a year has passed since he first contacted local publisher Cayuga Lake Books, and this Sunday he will be reading the novel published at the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts from 3 p.m. at 17 o’clock.
This event will be followed by a second reading on August 15 at The Widget Factory in Ithaca from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Finally, releasing “Satan’s Choir” has been an extremely rewarding experience, said Campbell. He recently returned from a trip to his hometown of Dayton, OH, where most of the novel takes place. Sure enough, when he visited local booksellers, he found “Satan’s Choir” on the shelves.
“What a pleasure to walk into Barnes & Noble and see three copies of the book,” he said. “That’s exciting.”
Campbell said that over the past 20 years he started reading detective novels, especially novels by Scandinavian authors Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø. An idea began to catch on for a book, set in the 1960s, with a cast of teenage Stand By Me characters plotting revenge for an abusive priest in their church.
As he began to write, Campbell’s original idea began to morph into “Satan’s Choir”, which loses teenagers – it was too hard to believe they could actually pull off such a clever crime, he said. he says – focusing instead on the homicide detective working the case where the remains of a priest are discovered decades after his mysterious disappearance.
Like the fictional detectives who inspired him, Detective John Burke is complex and deeply flawed. Other characters borrow their careers, personality quirks, and even favorite restaurants from Campbell’s life.
Two chapters in the book in particular feature landscapes and settings that residents of the Ithaca region may find familiar – this is the part of the story when the detective travels from Ohio to Ithaca to interview a potential suspect. .
He’s an older man with whom Detective Burke already shares a past, and he greets the detective warmly and takes him to none other than the Lincoln Street restaurant, where he exchanges light and sporting insults with the owner, Chris. , and is looked after by Erin the sarcastic waitress.
“Chris, the restaurant owner, is a real guy, and the waitress was a waitress there who has always been my favorite – she was sassy and a lot of fun,” Campbell said.
The book can now be purchased at Lincoln Street Diner as well as Odyssey, Passtimes and Barnes & Noble bookstores.
When not writing, Campbell plays bass in popular local group TOiVO. He and his wife have lived in Trumansburg for 40 years.