THE BRONX KILL – myth, mystery, map.
The very name caught me. Hooked me and wouldn’t let me go. I saw it on a map of New York. I like maps. I particularly like maps of this part of the world, with its resonant, iconic place names.
The Bronx Kill.
That tiny place shoved to some dark recess of the map, like a dirty secret pushed to the back of a mind.
Of course, for a writer (for a writer like me anyway) dark secrets have a special kind of allure.
I knew what kill meant in this context – a body of water - but even so, its other meaning screamed out at me too. Kill. Thinking about death and maps made me think about time, how maps are fixed points in time, political and historical snapshots. This made me think about history, the weight of history. How pain can be handed down through the generations, along with names and genes.
A story was forming. A dark, convoluted inter-generation tale about the crushing weight of history. Our hero would be a young man who for most of his life has tried to escape from the sometimes brutal history of his family, of his race. But is forced to go back, is forced to uncover more than he wants to.
And the Bronx Kill still only existed for me as a place on a map. A name. An idea.
In the early days of this project I had a number of opportunities to visit the Bronx Kill. I came really close. I think Bronx Kill artist James Romberger was going to go there one day and I almost went along with him. But I didn’t.
I didn’t because I realized that the Bronx Kill had became a mythical place for me. And I was concerned that if I saw the reality it would lose some of its fictive power and become…well, just another place. So I stayed away. And traveled to the Bronx Kill only in my own imagination.
Now that the story is written and published I suppose there’s nothing stopping me visiting the Bronx Kill the next time I’m in New York. But I’m still reluctant. Maybe some places, like some dark secrets, are best left alone, unvisited.