On my laptop, the 27th of June, 2013, shows as the last edited date on the original draft of the first chapter of the Shire’s Union trilogy. Putting pen to paper (or more likely pencil to notebook) will have preceded typing the words into Word, so the effort will have started long before then. I couldn’t tell you the conception date of book one, Whirligig, though I do know that the trilogy was first imagined in the Carter House basement in Franklin, as far back as 15th May, 2011.
Suffice to say, that with the publication of the third and final book of the trilogy, Tigers in Blue, on the 8th December, 2023, Shire’s story has taken well over a decade to imagine, craft and refine. It’s a long time to live with my characters, real or imagined. And they haven’t wandered far since I dotted the last full stop. There are faces, vistas and looping scenes that live alongside my memories of family days out, of our three daughters (my non-fiction trilogy) of holidays and weddings. Chapters from the books are spliced with real memories of my visits to the places that mattered to the story, recollections of my trans-Atlantic jaunts themselves a little jumbled as I’ve criss-crossed Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee so many times. I visited Franklin, Tennessee, in the course of writing each book, central as it is to the trilogy which weaves in and out of the true adventures of the 125th Ohio. And Chickamauga, Georgia, draws me back every time I’m stateside, as do the never-ending ridges of the Appalachians, their fading horizons the inspiration for the book covers as much as they were for the stories.
There is a parting of sorts, though. I’ll never again sit down with the squad around their camp fire waiting for someone to tip the whiskey bottle, or drift with Tod down the Ohio River; no more journeys for Clara along the Copper Road; no more rides for Opdycke and Barney. But once in a while, recollected banter between Shire and Tuck will doubtless still draw from me a smile or an inner chuckle, as if they were old friends of mine. I guess they are.