August 21, 2018 9:00 p.m.
Amelia Island resident Tom Hitchcock has completed and published his second novel, a murder mystery set in Amelia Island. Entitled Girl in the Painting, the narrative follows the story of an Amelia Island artist, Colleen Grey, whose paintings become the focus of missing persons cases with sinister overtones.
The mystery begins to unfold during the Shrimp Festival, when a couple strolls into Colleen’s kiosk on Centre Street and discovers that one of her paintings bears a striking, eerie resemblance to their daughter, who had disappeared without a trace several months before.
Hitchcock, a freelance copywriter by vocation and novelist by avocation, had never written a mystery before. “I had this great concept for a plot and I knew I could write about Amelia Island. But unlike former cops or lawyers who write crime and mystery novels, I had no background.”
By chance he was able to connect with Deputy Chief Mark Foxworth of the Fernandina Beach Police Department, whose expertise more than filled in the requisite level of authenticity and detail Hitchcock was seeking. “I wanted as much realism as possible,” Hitchcock said. “Deputy Chief Foxworth was a veritable bank vault of insights and information about investigative methods, techniques and protocols.”
Foxworth also introduced the author to John J. Cascone, a Fernandina Beach-based criminal defense lawyer. “The story segues to courtroom jousting between prosecutors and defense attorneys,” Hitchcock added. “John was invaluable in guiding me through what would and would not happen in real life criminal proceedings.
He noted, too, that patient, persistent research on Google yields a trove of information on even the most obscure topics.
“I’ve always believed fiction is more compelling when the reader can buy-in to the reality of the story, believing that unfolding events could actually take place. In the case of Girl in the Painting, I wanted readers here, or for that matter in any island resort community, to identify with the setting and place themselves inside a story that unfolds on the kinds of streets and neighborhoods where we all live.”
Hitchcock and his wife Susan relocated to Amelia Island seven years ago. Ms. Hitchcock, a graphic designer by vocation and watercolorist by avocation, gave the novel final form by virtue of her proficiency in the art of cover design and the mechanics of formatting the book’s interior pages.
Girl in the Painting is available in e-book and paperback formats on Amazon, as well as in local bookstores. For more information, visit tomhitchcockwrites.com.