Hi, all! 🙂 My next guest on the Crime Cafe will be Emilya Naymark.
The guest post is one you won’t want to miss. But first, let me tell you about the book giveaway.
Now, check out Emilya’s guest post!
Or, How I Almost Died and Then Wrote a Book About It
By Emilya Naymark
Upstate New York has a mutable quality unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. To the Irish who immigrated from the Old World by the millions, the forests, lakes, and mountains looked enough like their homeland that the counties still carry the old names: Ulster, Orange, Sullivan, Green.
To the immigrant Jews, the bucolic hamlets nestled within the woods and soaring over the Hudson River felt enough like the Eastern European farmlands and countryside they’d escaped, that they flocked to the region in the summers by the tens of thousands. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Catskills became famous for sprawling, all-inclusive resorts where well-heeled Jewish families could travel to get away from overcrowded New York City.
When my family discovered the pleasures of the Catskills, several years after our own immigration, the century was waning, and many of the resorts had closed. The survivors were diminished and run down. And therefore, affordable!
The first year we went, we stayed at the kind of boarding house I’ve only ever encountered in Europe. Or maybe in Merchant Ivory films. It was an old, peeling Victorian pensione, with soaring ceilings, French windows that opened onto a wildflower-strewn lawn that sloped toward a lake. The man who ran it was also old, a Russian émigré from the revolutionary days who claimed an aristocratic background. We called him The Count. He served us home-cooked Russian meals in a spacious dining room, where we ate soup with giant spoons out of shallow bowls and drank good tea from china cups.
In the evenings we strolled across the road to an American-run motel and enjoyed American entertainment—cover bands, dancing, and comedy that always flew over our heads.
We continued to vacation at least a week or two of our summers there until the year I was sixteen, which was when I almost drowned.
My friends and I were swimming in a lake. Now, I use the word “swimming” loosely, since at the time I didn’t know how to swim, but only float on my back. I had floated far out, surrounded by dozens of families, children, teens in rubber floats. In other words, the lake was stuffed with people. And when I decided to stop floating and return to shore, I sank. Down I plummeted, with no hope of surfacing. I didn’t know how. I remember looking at the blue sky above the water line, and my arms beneath, my hands sticking out, reaching for it. A little rubber boat carrying three children floated past, all of them studying my underwater face with curiosity before continuing on their way.
Thankfully, some man understood what was happening and carried me out.
But the image of my hands above the water has been so indelible that I painted it several years later. Some years after that, the painting became the basis for a tattoo I drew for my husband. Most recently, it became the basis for my novel, Behind the Lie. I started with the image of a girl in a lake, drowning, then imagined her life spiraling in a very different direction from mine.
The Victorian pensione makes an appearance as well, and so does The Count.
As for Upstate New York, it continues to be mutable. It has both the poorest and richest counties in the state. There is more crime in the Catskills than in New York City (no kidding). Artists and writers have been moving upstate for decades and this makes it an incredibly vibrant and interesting place to live.
For me, it will always be enmeshed with my memories and feelings—the exuberant greenery, the mountains and farms, the way rain smells at twilight when you’re floating in a lake and can see it dimpling the water, the smoke from campfires.
I’m not done writing about it yet.
Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.