There is a murderous crime family wreaking havoc in the streets of Saline, but fortunately for all of us it is only in the pages of local author Steve Hagood’s soon-to-be-released detective novel, “Chasing the Woodstock Baby.”
The book is Hagood’s first published work and tells the tale of a retired Detroit police officer aptly named Chase. The ex-cop agrees to track down a woman’s long-lost daughter who she gave birth to at the Woodstock music festival in New York in 1969 and then never saw again. After establishing several leads, Chase finds himself about an hour west of Detroit in the idyllic small town of Saline, where he quickly learns things aren’t as tranquil as they seem.
A lot of time and hard work went into crafting the story, according to Hagood. He said he has been perfecting his writing style for the past 15 years, and that his initial interest in the detective novel genre was purely a matter of chance.
“I wasn’t much of a reader when I was a kid,” he said. “When I was, probably, in my early 20s I picked up a Dean Koontz book, I remember it was ‘The Bad Place.’ I was on a break at work and someone left it on the table. I picked it up and read the first page, read the second page, read the third page and I was hooked.”
After hungrily plowing through the work of various crime novelists, Hagood said he eventually became enamored with the work of Robert B. Parker, who he still claims as his literary role model. When Hagood could figure Parker’s next move before he read it, he figured it was time to begin creating crime fiction of his own.
From there it was just a matter of putting words to paper.
“So I was like, ‘I can do this, I can create this,’” he said. “I had stories in my head.”
Hagood said he remembers the start of his writing career well, noting that it did not quite take off the way he thought it would.
“I was 30 years old, and I told my wife, ‘I figure by the time I’m 31 I’ll be published and everything,’” he said, “and 15 years later I finally got my first book published.”
In the years in between, Hagood said he simply stayed persistent in following his dream, even when the odds seemed stacked against him.
“[There was] a lot of rejection, hundreds of rejections,” he said. “I just kept working at it.”
Hagood had to learn to become his own best advocate.
“I went through the whole thing of trying to get an agent, trying to get the big deal you know, and I never got that,” he said. “So, when I finished this one decided to focus on small publishers and see if I can get my foot in the door.”
Hagood did not have to go very far to track down the information he needed.
“I actually went to the Saline library and just started looking at the smaller books,” he said. “Then I went home and looked them up on the internet and found out how to query them and just started sending out queries.”
Second Wind Publishing, based in North Carolina, is the company which agreed to publish “Chasing the Woodstock Baby.”
As far as his protagonist, Chase, Hagood said the character has been stewing in his head for many years, and that the basic plotline to his current novel has been in there quite a while as well.
“The Woodstock Baby was going to be, in my own mind, my big book,” he said. “I was going to get my foot in the door and hit them with this Woodstock book because I knew Woodstock would have a hook to it. And then I finally realized no one’s buying your first one, so make the hook your first one.”
Hagood said the legend of one or more children having been born at the music festival has persisted for some time, as well as lore surrounding people who claim to be the adults that those children grew into.
Utilizing this idea then taking the narrative back to Southeast Michigan seemed like a natural fit, he said. Hagood writes clearly and realistically about Detroit, Ann Arbor and Saline in the text, and anyone who has spent any time in those areas will not have a hard time visualizing where the various scenes take place.
As for his familiarity with Detroit, Hagood said it was just a matter of spending time in the city and reading about it, as well.
“It was just from going down there and through books, actually. Elmore Leonard writes out of Detroit a lot,” he said, also mentioning the writings of Loren Estleman as inspiration.
Hagood’s geographic portrayal of Saline is photo-realistic and is something he is very proud of. Yet because of the gritty and sometimes bloody elements of the plotline, Hagood said he had to make it very clear that all the people represented are purely works of imagination.
“I tried to make it clear in the notes in the book and on my website that this is fictional,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t want a guy to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, that’s me you’re talking about, or that was my dad you were talking about.’”
Hagood’s writing is polished and professional, so readers might be somewhat surprised that his day job has nothing to do with literature. Hagood does logistics for Masco Cabinetry in Ann Arbor. Though he enjoys what he does, Hagood does not mince words when asked if he would eventually like to become a career novelist.
“I would just love to write my stories full time, absolutely,” he said.
Helping him all along the way is his family, who Hagood credits for the enormous amount of support and love they provide.
“My wife is my biggest supporter,” he said, citing a conversation earlier in the day when she calmed his fears related to the forthcoming book release. “She’s just right there cheering me on.”
To promote his novel, Hagood is having a book release party at Carrigan Café on Feb. 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Although a bit apprehensive, Hagood said he is excited about the event.
“I have no idea [what to expect], I’ve never done one before,” he said, chuckling. “Hopefully there will be people here and maybe I can talk a little bit, answers some questions and sign books.”
“Chasing the Woodstock Baby” will be available in print and e-book form beginning Feb. 1 on Amazon.com and directly from the publisher’s website, www.secondwindpublishing.com. Hagood said he also hopes to make the book available for purchase at several downtown retailers.