DEBORAH CROMBIE: We are a gory bunch, we mystery writers and mystery readers. We wantJon Jefferson, the writing half of the collaboration that, with forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass, make up Jefferson Bass, author of the Body Farm novels. (I had to contain the "whoo hoo!!" here!) It was Dr. Bass, a professor at the University of Tennessee, who founded the Body Farm, and who--but here, I'll let Jon tell you...
The Body Farm: Its Life and Deaths, in Fact and Fiction
By Jon Jefferson
We modern-day Americans have a schizophrenic relationship with our mortality. On the one hand, we shun it, eschew it, and spend vast sums to fend it off—to fend off even the slight, sagging-skin portents of its approach. We ingest, inject, and insert a multitude of Fountain-of-Youth materials into our living bodies, and we marinade our dearly departed to create the illusion that they’re not dead, merely sleeping.
|The Body Farm gate|
And yet; and yet. We are absolutely, utterly mesmerized by death, perhaps in exact proportion to our scrupulous avoidance of it. We brake to gawk at ghastly highway accidents. We binge-watch old episodes of “Autopsy” and “Dr. G: Medical Examiner” on Netflix and Youtube. And some of us—the hardcore, twisted, lucky ones among us—spend years scrutinizing corpses and skeletons at the “Body Farm,” the macabre research facility at the University of Tennessee where forensic scientists document the buggy, gooey choreography whereby corpses shuffle shuffle shuffle, shuffle off their mortal coil.
Patricia Cornwell first put the Body Farm on the pop-culture map back in 1994, with a brief
|Jon and Dr. Bass examine one of the Body Farm's residents|
I’d expected my relationship with the Body Farm to be shortlived—a one-fright stand, so to speak, from which I’d emerge with a few harrowing war stories—but life, or rather Death, had other plans for me. Bass asked if I’d be interested in helping him write a memoir; turns out I was, so I did, and we called it “Death’s Acre.” Then I asked if he’d be willing to let me transformogrify him into a crime-fiction hero named Dr. Bill Brockton; turns out he was game, too, and thus were born the Jefferson Bass “Body Farm Novels,” written by me, drawing on Bass’s voluminous case files and world-renowned expertise.
|Jon and Dr. Bass at the Body Farm gate. Are they keeping things in--or out?|
Nine novels and two nonfiction books later, Death still isn’t finished with me, nor with Bass’s doppelganger, Dr. Bill Brockton. Over the past nine novels, Brockton has done more than simply solve murders. He’s also butted heads with anti-evolution creationists (in novel #2, “Flesh and Bone”), pondered the relationship between science and faith (in novel #7, “The Inquisitor’s Key”), confronted evil incarnate (a serial killer named Satterfield, in novel #8, “Cut to the Bone”), and endured tribulations worthy of the biblical character Job (in the series’ newest installment, “The Breaking Point”).
And in what I consider to be a particularly wondrous achievement for a fictional character,
|Bill Bass and Jon stab some pork ribs at a favorite Tennessee restaurant|
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction … and sometimes it’s a dead ringer for it.
In any case, today, two decades after Patricia Cornwell immortalized it, the Body Farm is alive and well. In fact, it’s flourishing. And in fiction, too.
Got a question or comment about the Body Farm, in fact, or in fiction? Post away; I'll answer/respond as best I can ... and whoever posts my favorite question/comment will get a free copy of "The Breaking Point"!
DEBS: This is such fun. I'm going to start the ball rolling with two questions:
First, Jon, can you tell us a little about The Breaking Point? (No spoilers, of course!)
And second, is the murder in The Breaking Point based on one of Dr. Bass's actual cases? It's an absolutely fascinating scenario.
Oh, and third, if I can sneak in one last question, isn't the news about the escaping Mexican cartel crime lord a bizarre coincidence?
Chime in everyone, and get your name in the hat for a copy of The Breaking Point. (I already have mine:-))
You can follow Jefferson Bass on Facebook to learn more about fact imitating fiction, and about Dr. Bill Brockton's adventures..