On the 18th May 1927 in the small town of Bath, Michigan, Andrew Kehoe blows up the main school building during classes, before carrying out a further attack at the scene, which together culminated in the deaths of thirty-eight children as well as several adults. Kehoe was later discovered to have committed a murder at his home the previous day.
Spanning the late nineteenth century until the middle of the twentieth century, the book centres on both real and fictional characters, some of whom narrate sections of their own stories. With hindsight the seeds of the tragedy are apparent though no one envisages the depths to which Kehoe can sink. The final chapters explore the aftermath of the attacks with various generations attempting to come to terms with their experiences.
Spotlighting the community that gave rise to the events, the story introduces a range of characters including Florence, the frustrated daughter of a Russian immigrant and her aspiring, self-obsessed husband, Spencer; and Thomas, whose marriage to the ailing Rachel leads to self-questioning and adultery. The story introduces Maisie, a descendant of slavery, who has moved from the south with her children to escape a traumatic past. Also Robert, a school inspector, considers his relationship with Emily to be a last chance of happiness.
Family dramas are placed in historical perspective with such diverse themes as race, the ever present fear of disease and illness, the failure of prohibition, educational aspiration as well as rumours of gangland activity. The backdrop of the scars from both the First World War and Civil War are apparent. Rivalries and jostling for power on key local bodies take on huge significance for some. Their children play major roles throughout as youngsters search for innocent adventure, sometimes with major repercussions, whilst others encounter the first strains of adolescence. The arrival of an exotic stranger in the town shakes up the imaginations of children and adults alike.
A small number of individuals, in addition to the bomber and his wife, are based on records from the time, whilst others are composite characters. The lengthy and detailed inquest evidence in particular proved useful for research.
With elements of suspense and drama set amidst a rapidly expanding community, The Stars Move Still highlights the complexity of human behaviour at its best and worst. Ultimately this is not an account of a violent act but rather the story of a community that gave rise to, and was forced to endure, unwanted nationwide attention.
Notes for Editors:
About the author:
Andy Regan lives near Alexandra Palace, London, England with his family. A lawyer and education centre instructor, this is Andy's debut novel.