In his latest novel, “Buried on Avenue B,” murder-mystery author Peter de Jonge introduces readers to Longboat Key locations, such as Publix and the Longboat Library, as well as Kilwins Chocolates on St. Armands Circle.
De Jonge started with the premise, “What if police dig up a body only to find it’s the wrong one?” followed by, “What if the investigation has ties to a retiree’s death?” which prompted him to think of the barrier island where his family has had a condominium at Banyan Bay Club for 30 years.
“The fun thing about novels is you get to take advantage of places you know, where you’ve done research unintentionally,” said de Jonge, who also writes nonfiction magazine articles.
De Jonge selected Kilwins because his parents took him there as a teenager and the library because it’s a quiet, friendly place to work when he vacations from New York City.
Publix, though, gets a pretty substantial billing in the book. “The way people treat you at Publix was part of the fun I had coming here (growing up),” he said. “It’s so different from how they treat you in New York City.”
The novel illustrates how Publix’s superb customer service makes first-time shoppers lifelong fans. De Jonge’s main character, Darlene O’Hara (a fellow New Yorker) feels so connected to the Longboat Key Publix that, rather than stop at any number of gas stations, she treks from downtown Sarasota to “her favorite grocery store” when she wants a six-pack of beer.
De Jonge got his start in fiction about 15 years ago, when he was working as a copywriter at J. Walter Thompson, a New York City advertising agency, which had novelist James Patterson as its creative director.
At the time, de Jonge had a habit of staying late to work on freelance assignments for publications such as Manhattan, Inc.; The New York Times Magazine; and National Geographic — which he tried to do under the radar.
“One night, Patterson knocks on my door and I worry that I’m going to get fired for working on other projects,” he said. Turns out, his boss wanted to collaborate with him on a forthcoming golf novel, “Miracle on the 17th Green.” The duo worked well together and produced two subsequent books, “Beach House” and “Beach Road,” before de Jonge eventually wrote his first solo book, “Shadows Still Remain,” a prequel for “Buried on Avenue B.”
De Jonge says he has future plans for O’Hara in a third novel, but, for now, he’s taking a hiatus from the series to focus on a new project, a police-themed TV series.