MACOMB TOWNSHIP — When Tony Aued was looking for inspiration for his latest book, “Murder in Greektown,” he just took a peek at the world around him.
“I name a lot of my characters after people I know, and I use a lot of locations that are familiar to me,” the 68-year-old Macomb Township resident explained. “It helps a lot as a writer when you’re trying to describe someone or something if you base it on stuff you already know.”
“Murder in Greektown” is Aued’s fifth novel overall, but it’s his first that is set entirely in metro Detroit. It features scenes set at Greektown Casino, Pegasus restaurant, Wayne State University, Indian Village, Marine City and other prominent locations. One of the main characters, Tommy Dansforth, is a teacher who lives in Aued’s Macomb Township subdivision and teaches at a school on the west side of Detroit — that is, until he goes missing one day.
The detective on the case, and the protagonist of the new book series that Aued launched with “Murder in Greektown,” is a man called Don Frederickson. The character was named after one of Aued’s friends from the writers’ group at the Shelby Township Public Library, where both have been regular members for the last several years.
According to the real-life Don Frederickson, who recently published a book of poetry called “Tales of the Vikings,” Aued’s creative decision has only added to their already strong camaraderie.
“It was a really pleasant surprise,” said the 71-year-old Clinton Township resident. “As a writer myself, I’ve used the names of people I know as characters, so I can certainly appreciate what Tony did here. It’s an honor that he would use my name, and we’ve joked about it a lot since then. I should start playing the part more for my friends.”
Aued, a retired middle school teacher, based Dansforth’s school in “Murder in Greektown” on a pair of schools that are very familiar to him. The school’s appearance was inspired by the former St. Philip Neri, one of the schools that Aued attended growing up on the east side of Detroit. But for the school’s location, Aued used the site of the Flagship Charter Academy, a school on the city’s west side where Aued taught for several years before his retirement.
“I really loved working at that school,” he recalled. “I had so much fun teaching there that it was almost a crime that I got paid to do it.”
Aued visited many of the locations featured in “Murder in Greektown” while doing research for the book. Perhaps his favorite spot that he toured was Detroit’s affluent Indian Village neighborhood, which boasts some of the city’s most prized historic homes.
“I was amazed at how beautiful Indian Village still is,” he said. “Those homes are all so gorgeous, and they’ve been kept up really well. To see that everything is still the same as I remembered it when I was a kid was really nice.”
“Murder in Greektown” is a murder mystery story that opens with a teacher (Dansforth) who suddenly goes missing from his school’s parking lot. Police later find some blood streaked along the side of Dansforth’s abandoned vehicle. Further investigation reveals that the teacher is somehow connected to a recent murder that occurred in Greektown. From there, the story undergoes several twists and turns that introduce the reader to a series of possible suspects behind Dansforth’s disappearance, including an unruly student and a hostile parent.
“The big question that arises is, ‘What does a missing teacher have to do with a murder in Greektown?’” Aued said. “People have told me that they read the whole book in two days because they wanted to see what happens next and just couldn’t put it down.”
Aued explained that “Murder in Greektown” will be the first book in a three- or four-part series about the investigations of Detective Don Frederickson. He already has much of the second book written, and he hopes to have it out by next spring.
These stories also serve as the follow-up to Aued’s previous series of crime thrillers, which wrapped up last year. Known as the Blair Adams series, the books were initially borne out of real-life experiences after Aued’s son-in-law — Thomas Jaichner, a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces — was killed by a sniper while serving in Iraq. That personal tragedy provided the inspiration for Aued’s first novel, “The Package.” The book was first published in 2006 and later blossomed into a four-part series centered around protagonist Blair Adams, who Aued named after his daughter.
For the last few years, Carl Virgilio, another member of the Shelby Township writers’ group, has created the covers for all of Aued’s books. For “Murder in Greektown,” the writer and graphic design artist, who recently released a compilation of his artwork called “Virgilio Art,” helped Aued put together an image of the Detroit skyline at sunset.
“Tony had a photo of the city that he took, but it was really pixelated,” said Virgilio, 67, of Shelby Township. “I cleaned up and refined the image and then added the text, and I feel like it turned out really well. Tony and I have a really good working relationship together.”
Aued’s books are sold at a handful of local outlets, including Books Connection in Shelby Township. Owner Toni Brady, who said that her store is “a big supporter” of local authors, pointed out that “Murder in Greektown” has been one of her top-selling local titles since its June publication.
“Tony’s new book is all set in Michigan, and my customers love that,” she said. “People really like to read about their home state. We’ve had quite a few people who have bought ‘Murder in Greektown’ and then have come back looking to read some of Tony’s other books.”
In addition to working on the follow-up to “Murder in Greektown,” Aued has kept busy this summer by doing a series of book signings. He has several more coming up through the rest of the year, including Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at Blake’s Apple Orchard, Sept. 20-21 at the Clinton Township Festival of the Senses, Nov. 8 at Chippewa Valley High School, Nov. 22 at De La Salle Collegiate High School and Nov. 29 at Henry Ford High School.
Aued is grateful for the local success that he’s found, which has allowed him to stay active well into his 60s. And as someone who only began seriously pursuing his passion during his retirement years, he’s just glad that people are interested in what he has to say.
“I’m not Stephen King or anything like that, but it’s been pretty nice,” Aued said. “Between putting out this new book and all the different book signings and events that I’ve done, 2014 has been a really great year for me so far.”
For more information about Tony Aued and his writing, visit http://blairadamsbooks.wordpress.com.
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