Murder He Wrote: Sykesville Man, 90, Pens Killer Thriller
Sykesville resident and veteran journalist Roscoe Born turned his retirement into a challenge with new murder mystery novel.
He worked for the Wall Street Journal, covered the John F. Kennedy campaign, wrote for Dow Jones and authored a popular guide used in classrooms for aspiring writers titled The Suspended Sentence.
But when he retired, he didn’t stop there. Roscoe Born, 90, chose to try something he’s never done before – write fiction.
Born, a resident at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville, decided more than 15 years ago that he wanted to write a murder mystery and set his mind to take on the new challenge.
“It’s always something I wanted to do,” said Born.
Having gone through the process once before with his non-fiction book, Born sent off his novel, In the Prime of Death, to the same publisher he worked with for his earlier book.
“In the exuberance of the moment when I was finished I was all hopped up,” said Born.
“I sent it to my agent who sent it back very soon after and said, ‘We don’t care about these people.’ He was absolutely right, I didn’t do enough character portrayal.”
Eventually Born put it away, storing his manuscript in a box until his friend and former co-worker, Patricia Fanning, stumbled across it.
“I felt responsible once I found the manuscript and said, 'You must publish this book.' I was not to be denied,” said Fanning, now working as Born's publicist.
After talking to him, Fanning said she convinced Born to pick up the story again, helping him find a way to construct the characters in an interesting and intriguing way.
“She was a nag. But she convinced me, so I sent out to make the people seem real and to have problems and various convincing ailments,” said Born.
When he finished, Fanning took on the role of his editor, constructing a timeline and making the story flow.
“I haven’t done fiction before so it was a challenge,” said Fanning. “I have done a narrative series, a year in the making about two homeless boys in Baltimore, but this definitely was a challenge.”
So the adventure began again. This time Born sent the book to numerous publishers, hoping his second revision would catch their attention.
“I started keeping a log and sending the thing off and then waiting and waiting and waiting. Sometimes you never get an answer, sometimes you get an immediate answer; they haven’t looked at it,” said Born. “One time they even got the name of the book wrong when they rejected it. They rejected In the Crime of Death. So I finally had enough of that.”
While talking to Fairhaven’s librarian Laura Gillen, he decided on a different route: e-books.
With the decision to have his book with new technology, came the time to recruit help.
“Another resident here is a retired physician--he calls himself a 'tech head'--[and] heard me say that I was going to try to do this, but there’s a 73-page manual you have to follow to upload a book and I said that’s beyond me. He said, ‘Oh I can do that for you.’ So he uploaded the thing for me and another resident took my picture.
“Here we are in this retirement community, all of these people are doing things, the photographer, the doctor, helping me get this thing into an e-book, which I think is a pretty amazing thing."
“It was so exciting,” said Gillen. “Anytime you meet with someone who has a great idea and you help to see that to fruition it makes you feel wonderful.
“People have done self-publishing on their own for years but I think it’s exciting to know that you don’t have to depend on the reactions of a hierarchy of publishers to be able to accomplish something that you personally would get a lot of gratification out of.”
For everyone involved, it was an experience with a lesson.
“We should all reinvent ourselves over and over whether we’re 90 or 64,” said Fanning. “It keeps us sharp.”
Roscoe Born’s novel, In The Prime of Death, can be found on www.smashwords.com and Barnes and Noble for $3.99.