Kim Kash writes about her home of Maryland from her Middle Eastern base.
I live in the Middle East, where the summer temperatures hover between 115 and 120 degrees, and rainfall amounts to a few inches per year. Everyone who can, gets the heck out of here in July and August — and June, too, if at all possible.
But now it is December, and this Maryland girl is happy as a lark! All the windows and doors in my desert house are open to the mild breeze; the tomatoes, carrots, and basil are planted in the garden; and that sound? Oh, that’s the hot tub motor kicking on in the backyard.
In Maryland, life is lived pretty much indoors from November through March, and then again in the mosquito-infested summer months. They’re two extremes of awful. I actually spend more time outside in the Middle East than I ever did back home. True, I miss the glorious colors of an east coast autumn, and the delicate spring bulbs and cherry blossoms. But practically speaking, this part of the world is more conducive to outdoor grilling and lounging on the patio than the American east coast. Who knew?
I write a mystery series set in the blue-collar Maryland seaside resort of Ocean City, Maryland. I admit, I kind of gloss over the mosquito thing. The heroine of my series, Jamie August, comes from a working-class part of Baltimore. When she stops by her parents’ house for a visit, they pop open some beers and kick back on the front porch of their rowhouse with nary a thought of bug spray. Gotta love fiction….
Ocean City Cover-up shows the city at the peak of summer vacation season. The OC beaches are packed, but Jamie’s adventures include an unscheduled visit to nearby Assateague, just north of Virginia’s Chincoteague. (Remember Misty?) Assateague is notorious for its black flies and mosquitoes. Here I had to mention them, or the whole scene wouldn’t have rung true. From Ocean City Cover-up: “Assateague felt so much more wild and exposed to the elements than Ocean City, even though you can see the shores of Assateague from the Ocean City inlet. Even apart from the wild ponies wandering around all over the place, the city girl in me always got a little panicky there. I never did well with the island’s voracious mosquitoes and other swarming, buzzing creatures. There were no buildings to block the wind, no nightly beach grooming, and no annual sand replenishment to keep the shoreline smooth and flat. Made me nervous.”
The action in the first book of the series, Ocean City Lowdown, happens in the dead of winter. If you’ve never been to an east coast beach town in January, I urge you to go once, just to see it. It’s haunting. From Ocean City Lowdown: “Mid-Atlantic beaches have a forlorn look about them in the off-season, with their jaunty summer colors and thatched-hut decor shaking in the winter winds. Here, the sky blue, butter yellow, and peach buildings with their fancy old-town trim looked fragile and out of place, like tropical birds caught in a snowstorm.”
Now, as Ocean City shutters its windows and prepares for winter’s nor’easter storms (as well as a fair number of Christmas season revelers), I relax in a patio chair wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Just a few days ago we went to a festive holiday dinner party out on the patio of a neighbor’s house. You sure wouldn’t do that this time of year in Maryland. It’s weird to write about that place from this place, no matter the season. But this book series keeps me anchored to home -for it is home, ice storms, mosquitoes and all.
Euro-trash collides with American gangsta in Maryland’s gleefully cheesy beach resort. Reporter Jamie August befriends a spoiled heiress who is being pursued by Russian mobsters — and a chart-topping rap star. Meanwhile, a raging crime spree is keeping Jamie busy — and so is a hot new boyfriend and a strict jogging and frozen custard fitness plan. Action careens from OC to Dubai, from the wild shores of Assateague to a wild-west campground. Will Jamie survive to debut her fringed leopard-print bikini?”
Kim Kash is the author of two novels in the Jamie August series: Ocean City Cover-up (2015) and Ocean City Lowdown (2013). She also wrote the bestselling Ocean City: A Guide to Maryland’s Seaside Resort (2009), and is currently working on the next installment in the Jamie August series. Kim divides her time between Maryland and the Middle East.