As a journalist, Charlie Reese knew how to ferret out the facts and crank out stories on tight deadlines.
As a novelist, Reese — that is, C. Roloson Reese — has delighted in letting his imagination run wild to create just about every detail in his first published book, “Lake Roland.”
The Lutz author didn’t imagine every single detail because the novel is based on a two-paragraph news wire story that Reese read about eight years ago.
The news wire account was about a 45-year-old mystery involving missing persons — solved essentially by accident.
“It just stuck with me — longer than any other newspaper story I’ve ever come across as a reporter or as a reader,” Reese said.
He decided to give that tiny nugget of a story a life of its own.
“I felt moved to tell the story, the back end of the mystery, as best as I could imagine it,” Reese said.
“Once I started reflecting on it, it wouldn’t let go of my imagination. So, I sat down and I wrote the first chapter.
“The real-life characters, they disappeared around high-school age — at least a couple of them,” Reese said.
The novel is told from the vantage point of Tom O’Malley, who spent a lifetime dealing with the mysterious disappearance of his pal, Mark. They’d been inseparable.
In creating the story, Reese thought about how it would feel if his best friend from high school had gone missing.
“I just imagined what that would be like — what kind of a hole that would have left in my life,” Reese said. He explored how having that type of loss would affect the families and friends of the pair that went missing.
“That’s what started me on this particular book. I just felt called to flesh out the characters behind the story,” Reese said.
The novel begins before the actual disappearance.
“I wanted to build some background because, any story you cover as a reporter, there’s always a backstory. And, it’s quite an interesting backstory in many cases. And, we don’t really do it justice. We can’t. We’re limited by deadlines. We’re limited by space. And, we really can’t tell the story with as much passion or thoughtfulness, as we can — or we should, or is possible,” Reese said.
Novels don’t have those limitations.
The actual missing persons case in the news wire story occurred in Oklahoma.
Reese decided to set his story in Baltimore, where he grew up and went to high school, and where there actually is a Lake Roland.
“As I got to writing — which is really a creative exercise — I just felt so emotional at times. But I was also so alive with being able to create these characters and storylines.
“Although the book is not autobiographical, it is a collection of characters and people I knew over the years.
“Running through my mind were many of the people and characters I’ve met over the years. Their stories.
“We come across so many different people, in our travels, in our work, in our families.
“So, it’s real amalgamation of all of these different characters and people that I’ve met, and usually admired,” he said.
Once Reese started writing the novel, the work went quickly. He asked his wife, Judith, to read chapters and offer feedback during the process.
In essence, the book was finished in 2013 and Reese occasionally has revisited it through the years.
This spring, he decided it was time to give the novel a final edit and to publish it.
Although this is Reese’s first published novel, he’s been a writer — in some form or another — since childhood.
He began reporting stories in the Tampa Bay area when he was a student at the University of South Florida, writing for the Oracle. Then, he reported for The Laker and later became the editor of The Lutz News and the former Temple Terrace Beacon.
He went on to work in media relations and communications with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Business & Home Safety. He’s also been published in the former Tampa Tribune and in the St. Petersburg Times, before it became The Tampa Bay Times.
His love for writing dates back to childhood.
As a boy, he wrote poetry, which he read aloud to his family.
In college, he studied literature.
And, while he’s spent much of his career working with words, he said he’s learned more about the art of writing by reading great authors.
Being tuned in to people and places, is essential, too, he said.
“Observing and listening are probably the best things a writer can do,” Reese said. “That’s what poets do.”
“Lake Roland” by C. Roloson Reese, is available at Barnes & Noble Press (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lake-roland-c-roloson-reese/1139075421?ean=9781666262001).
To see a video about “Lake Roland,” visit https://www.facebook.com/211702412202894/videos/960288408037265.
Published July 14, 2021