Among the dusty bookshelves of the public library and through the streets and historic buildings of Wichita, one can find Michael D. Graves digging through old microfilm and researching the 1930s.
Born, but not raised in Wichita; it is a place to which he frequently returns. The city is the inspiration for and setting of his first solo-written, published book, “To Leave a Shadow.” The book was selected by the State Library of Kansas as a 2016 Kansas Notable Book.
Graves described himself in his younger years as a man with “itchy soles on the bottom of his feet.” The moving he did, and various people he met inspired characters that eventually made their way into this book.
The main character, Pete Stone, is a milk man turned private eye during the turmoil known as the Dirty 30s. His wife has left him for a chinchilla farmer, and he’s barely making enough money to get by when a call comes in for a missing person case.
“I have always loved the 30s and been impressed with the people of that time and what they went through, and I hope others are also.” Graves explained.
“To Leave a Shadow”’s mystery involves a woman’s missing husband whose body is eventually found in the Arkansas River. The police suspect suicide and drop the case. The widow pressures Pete, her last resort, to keep investigating. When more bodies begin to pile up, Stone is sure he’s on to something, and his stubborn character is fueled through some dangerous situations and more than one fistfight to find out the truth.
Graves says his favorite part of writing the story was character development, and because the Pete Stone character is inspired by his grandfather, Pete Graves, it is not hard to see why. Although he admits to not knowing his grandfather well, the character is admirable and insightful in ways that leave the reader thinking about the story long after it ends.
Graves hopes this story will entertain readers and give them an escape from their own problems. He has always felt a kinship toward the mystery genre, but he wanted to tell a story that was more than just a mystery story. That’s where the colorful characters and time period really steal the spotlight. Graves also incorporates historical facts that make the book feel as much a time capsule as story.
“To Leave a Shadow” is written as a classic, private eye mystery that also incorporates the beauty of Kansas and historic facts of Wichita during the Dirty 30s in a way that will make readers proud of the Heartland. The book was published in November 2015 by Meadowlark Books, an Emporia publisher. The paperback sells for $12 and can be ordered directly from the publisher, www.meadowlark-books.com, or via any bookstore. The book is also available on Kindle for $3.99.
—Emporia author Michael D. Graves will be reading from his 2016 Kansas Notable Book, “To Leave a Shadow,” at Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe, 627 Commercial St. on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The reading will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a local presentation of the Kansas Notable Book Award. The author will be available to visit and sign books until 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend.