I grew up in a Greek-American household in the Detroit suburbs. We didn’t go to church; we ate. Our Greek food defined us as a family. My father took us to Greektown to buy food he would prepare. It became an adventure we looked forward to every week until the riots of 1967, when he no longer felt it was safe to take his family into the city. After that, we’d go to a small, Greek grocery store on Joy Road. In 1975 I went one last time. I was due to deliver my daughter any moment, and the men in the store were intrigued with me surrounded me and speaking in Greek as they pointed to my body. I remember my father looking at me like it was the first time he’d seen me pregnant. I must have been giving off fertility vibes that the older men were drawn to.
The idea for the book came about as life events jogged my memory. I began thinking of our trips into Greektown, and how it represented being Greek to me. I wanted to write about it, but as I put the words down, a fictional character began developing, pushing out my own boring life. Jill was someone I envied; she lived in Greektown and spoke Greek. Her family hovered around her as she grew up; she became a police officer. (I am definitely obsessed with police activity, and get the chills when I hear a siren.) Her parents put her special-needs sibling in an institution, while mine grew up along side me. As I wrote about Jill, her family slowly came into view. They are a conglomeration of Greek people and non-Greeks I knew as I grew up; the stern aunts and reckless uncles, the loving grandparent and kooky friends of the family. The milieu of the grocery store was compelling. It represented history of the Greeks who lived in Detroit and security for the children who lived above it.
The crime Jill solves is harder to explain. It is perverse; I was an operating room nurse for many years and saw some things that were hard to take, but that only explains a small portion of the crime and its intensity. The stark contrast between the parent of the murder victim and Jill’s own father came into view as I wrote. Greek mythology and the plays of Euripides influenced me.
As the book was coming to an end I knew that I would have to write a sequel. The characters are intriguing, and I want to give each one full attention. I can’t wait to get started!
Suzanne Jenkins is the author of the Pam of Babylon Series. The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a new series about a Greek homicide detective who grew up above the family grocery store in Greektown, Detroit. Jenkins has fond memories of growing up in a Greek American household in the suburbs of Detroit. She currently lives in the west Michigan lakeshore area with her husband, two dogs and two sheep.
Visit her website at www.suzannejenkins.net.
Visit her blog at www.2sheepinthecity.com.