I never cease to be surprised when things line up in such an amazing way that you know it could not have worked out so well if it was purposely planned. As a person striving for deepening faith I credit most coincidences as God-incidences. And that is true as I sought out readers who could peruse my manuscript for historical and technical accuracy.
As part of my research, I came across a little gem, Chicago’s Forgotten Tragedy, by Bill Cosgrove. Though it is primarily an account of the 1910 fire at the Chicago Stockyards that claimed twenty-one firemen, it also includes a wealth of information detailing the history of the Chicago Fire Department. This was information that all the research I had done had not uncovered. Being a retired Chicago firefighter, Mr. Cosgrove has extensive knowledge and access to historical content. Then the thought occurred to me that I should ask him to read my MS and be an expert reader for both the technical side of firefighting and the historical content of the Great Chicago Fire.
You know, as a writer you’re supposed to have a one line summary of your story. Mine is: It a histocial fiction novel where Backdraft meets Pursuit of Happiness. As I was researching Mr. Cosgrove to contact him, I learned that he has three other books as well: The Noble Breed, Accident or Arson, and Robert De Niro and the Fireman. I also learned that he served as technical director to Robert DeNiro on the movie Backdraft which inspired one of his books (you can probably guess which one). Did I say Backdraft? Yep, Backdraft! As in my book is Backdraft meets Pursuit of Happiness! Holy Toledo I was now very intimidated to ask. But I sent an email into the mysterious internet world not confident of the outcome. A few days later I received a voicemail saying that he would love to read through my book. What??
After he read it he talked me through my book, one major scene at a time. He was very fond of my book, impressed with my research, and offered minor things to change. (Thank God I do not have to do a major revision as a result!) As it turns out, Mr. Cosgrove is also a south side Irish, from a firefighting family. He, too, lost his father in the line of business. He was enamored with Mam, my MC’s mother, and how much she reminded him of his own mother. He said that I really knew the Irish. I then told him that I’m actually a McDonald myself, though very Americanized, maybe it’s something deep in the blood. He also honored me by asking his sixth grade grandson (my target reading audience, by the way), to read it. This young man was not intimidated by the 276 pages to get through. He enjoyed it as well.
When so many coincidences line up like that, you must know, they are not coincidences. I will fly high on this praise for a bit and let it give me the confidence to stomp into my next phase: looking for an agent!
Thank you, Mr. Cosgrove. I hope to send you a polished and published copy of my first edition sometime soon!