The first draft of Then Came Darkness was written over the course of three years from 2009 to 2012 and then edited in 2013. It then lay dormant for five years before a final draft was completed and published in 2018.
The primary action in the novel takes place in Upstate New York towards the end of the Great Depression while the storms of war brewed in Europe, though there are key flashbacks to other eras (namely Prohibition) and locales (the novel’s chilling opening takes place in a shanty town on the banks of the James River in Richmond, Virginia). The heat wave depicted in the novel during the summer of 1936 is based on the real record-breaking heat wave that ravaged much of the US that year. It was also the summer of Lou Gehrig’s MVP campaign with the Yankees, which the character of Tyrus Kydd follows on the radio.
Episode Two – “Myra Long Takes the Train” (excerpt below) was directly inspired by the photography of Walker Evans, namely his “Billboards in Atlanta” and “Girl on Fulton Street.”
Now playing. Anne Shirley in Chatterbox. Starting Friday March 20th. The Paramount Theater. Carole Lombard in Love Before Breakfast. Lombard’s blackened eye was indicative of a different kind of love. The corners of the posters were pealing. The glue attaching the billboards to the wooden fencing atop the low brick wall running along the sidewalk stunk something fierce. When they first plastered the posters, the fumes wafted up through the open windows into all floors of the houses that sat behind the fence and the wall. Melted horses. It made Myra teary-eyed as she sat on the tattered chaise-lounge on the balcony overlooking the street. She thought of the horses she rode as a child. But those thoughts drifted out over the street along with her cigarette smoke as it was there that she imagined the large circular cutout in her perch to be the iris of a giant camera. All passers-by were looking up at her. She felt perfectly framed. In view. On display. No man would blacken her eye.
Myra wore an out-of-style fur-trimmed coat and hat, a costume, something similar to what that girl had worn on Fulton Street in his photograph from 1929. In the living room she struck a pose in the antique full-length mirror propped up against the wall. She tried to capture that woman’s image, that knowing look, that squint of recognition…the impending doom. She often wondered…had he captured that photograph before or after the crash? Had it been staged? Did he even know the girl?”
The Character of Tyrus Kydd first came to D. H. Schleicher after seeing another Walker Evans photograph, “Sons of American Legion.” He knew he had to write a story about the serious one (first kid facing front on the left) staring the camera down while his friends made faces or looked away.
- There Will Be Blood by Paul Thomas Anderson
- King of the Hill by Steven Soderbergh
- The Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton
- The Little Rascals/Our Gang by Hal Roach (directly referenced in the novel)
- King Kong by Merian C. Cooper (directly referenced in the novel)
- Serena by Ron Rash
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Agatha Christie Mysteries (directly referenced in the novel)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (directly referenced in the novel)
- Boardwalk Empire
- Cooperstown, NY (a model for the town of Fenimore)
- Milford, NY (a model for the town of Milton)
- Hyde Hall (a model for Haydons Hall)
- New Orleans
Music in the Novel:
- Benny Goodman
- Georgia White
- “I’ll Keep Sittin’ On It”
- “Was I Drunk?”
- “The Stuff is Here”
- The Harlem Hamfats
- “Weed Smoker’s Dream”