The University of Iowa

At the Reading: Douglas Trevor’s Girls I Know

By Hope Callahan

Listen: Douglas Trevor reading | September 6, 2013

Though the title implies a little black book of romantic enterprises, the plot of Douglas Trevor’s latest novel focuses on the less pointed relationship between three Bostonians in the wake of a restaurant shooting. Intellectual misfit and part-time superintendent of a posh building, Walt, his beautiful and ambitious Harvard tenant Ginger, and eleven-year-old Mercedes, daughter of the café owners where the shooting takes place, cross paths in Trevor’s Girls I Know.

The tale of these characters and the violent act that binds them together began as a short story and Trevor felt a strong urge to return to this narrative. “The story kind of haunted me for a while,” he said, pushing his hair out of his face and laughing. Some of the images that Trevor conjured during the reading were haunting. One trip out of his information gathering tours of Boston stood out in Trevor’s mind due to a conversation he had with a police officer. The policeman had responded to calls similar to the one that appears in Trevor’s novel and noted that the strangest thing about restaurant shootings was that people didn’t move; they were frozen.

Writing about what happens in the wake of a shooting would no doubt be a difficult task. Trevor seeks, in his own words, to answer the question of “why and how we can live in a world as beautiful as we live in that is nonetheless infiltrated and animated by evil.” The portion of the novel that he read focused on a beautiful facet of the world: the hapless Walt attempting to woo the lovely and earnestly academic Ginger Newtown.

When asked how he wrote in the voice of an eleven-year-old black girl, Trevor responded that despite the difference in age, gender, and race, Mercedes was the character that bloomed most organically for him. “A male voice is complicated because I’m trying to get my own personality out of it, but with my female characters that’s not a problem,” Trevor noted.   Walt certainly speaks in Trevor’s gentle and nervous voice, completely steeped in the author’s pathos. But while Walt may be the most familiar, Trevor cited Mercedes as the most dear, saying, “I was sad to let her go. She’s the one I miss the most.”