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Thomas Michael’s Big Dream

Local author shoots for the stars

     Thomas Michael of Edgewater knows exactly what he wants for his recently published, locally set baseball murder mystery novel: a Barry Levinson movie. It’s an ambitious goal, but Levinson has done a baseball movie (The Natural), Baltimore movies like Diner and Liberty Heights, and mysteries like Sleepers. Ambitious, but less probable things happen all the time. 
     Still, how could a first-time writer with no experience get from zero to a novel to Levinson? My story became not the book, Birdland Murders, but that mystery.
     So I set myself to think like the countless detectives I had watched on TV or read about in books like Michaels’. These sleuths look for motive, means and opportunity. 
     Motive was easy. Michaels’ mother, a proficient and elegant writer, instilled her standards in her son. He enjoyed writing and added creative flourish to the usual cards and letters. He always knew that someday he would tackle something substantial.
     A sports-oriented story was also in his blood.
     “I was outside all the time, dawn to dusk, playing all sorts of sports,” he told me. Eventually, the idea for a baseball-oriented mystery formed.
     Opportunity presented itself in 2009 through an unfortunate circumstance: his mother’s illness. Michael was living in Virginia, his mother in Hagerstown. He took a leave of absence from work and moved back to Maryland to care for her. To fill his time, he started to write.
     His original ambition had been a screenplay, but his story grew into a novel, his mother and sister providing encouragement. The writing continued as he took a job as a floor manager at Graul’s Market in Annapolis. By 2016, the novel was written.
     Means for an author includes an idea and the subject knowledge to develop it into a credible plot (plus, of course, mastery of the craft).
     The plot of the cleverly titled Birdland Murders is the mystery of who’s murdering baseball players in the Orioles farm system. Michael had access to people with deep knowledge of baseball, the Orioles organization and police culture and procedures.
     His Orioles super-fan mother taught him the game.
     “My childhood was filled with opening days and regular season games, even some playoffs and the World Series,” Michael told Bay Weekly.
     A son writes a blog on the Orioles minor league system, providing that background. Another son in the military helped with details on weapons and tactics. Growing up with a police captain cousin seeped Michael in police culture. What he couldn’t learn from family he researched, as any author would, to assure authenticity. 
     Motive, means and opportunity came together to produce Birdland Murders.
     To see how this story ends you have to read the book. To learn how the Thomas Michael story ends, we have to wait. I like to imagine an ending where Barry Levinson, a former Annapolis homeowner, picks up this copy of Bay Weekly, reads this story and offers Michael a movie deal.
     The last scene has Levinson taking me out to dinner at Lewnes’ Steak House in appreciation for the connection.
Find Birdland Murders at some Annapolis independent bookstores or on Amazon. Watch 8 Days a Week for meet-the-author readings.