Former Detroit writer looks back at real-life tragedy in “Purgatory”

By Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Bryan Gruley’s advice for writing a novel? Sit down and do it.

After years working in a newsroom, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bloomberg reporter and former writer for the Detroit News says he can write in any setting, with any noise level. It’s really just about getting it done.

“Don’t second guess yourself,” Gruley says. “Get words down, and fix it later. Get the story out as fast as you can, then go back and change things. It’ll be there, it’s always there for me. Sometimes I see it or editors or readers point it out.”

Gruley, who moved from Metro Detroit to Chicago, is releasing his latest novel, “Purgatory Bay,” on Jan. 17. He will celebrate at My Little Paris Café in Northville with a signing and chat with readers.

He’s had two signings at the shop previously and says it’s a good spot to hang out and find your next read.

“It’s a great store with a really great selection of books,” Gruley says. “There are nice people who run the place and it’s a cool café. It’s in the middle of downtown Northville, and there’s a pub down the street where we’ll retire after for some drinks. It’s a great indie bookstore.”

The second in his Bleak Harbor series, “Purgatory Bay” was inspired by Gruley’s memories of the Robison family murders in 1968 in Good Heart, a town near Petoskey. The entire family was murdered, and it terrified young Gruley.

As a kid spending time Up North at his family’s cabin on Twin Lake, not far from where the slayings happened, he stayed up at night on edge, worried that the suspect at large was coming after him.

In “Purgatory Bay,” Gruley takes the idea of that murder and explores how a person would think and act after such a tragedy, as the survivor who lost their family.

The novel opens in Clarkston, with a teenager named Jubilee, who seems to have everything going for her.

Then shocking tragedy strikes, and we jump 12 years ahead to follow her current-day life after the loss, living in a fortress on the water in a fictional town near Saugatuck.

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