Sewickley author pens ‘City of Bridges’

Monday, February 10, 2020 | 12:01 AM

David Belczyk walked slowly across the 10th Street Bridge on his way to work as a litigator each day.

The Sewickley resident noticed the architecture, the lighting and shadows, and the conditions of the river and sky.

He started to think about the meaning of bridges and as he crossed back and forth each day, the plot for his latest novel, “City of Bridges,” began to take shape. He’d jot down the ideas for the story, and once he got home for the day, he would put it all into words.

“City of Bridges” was published by Wipf and Stock in December.

“It is a mystery book, but I think that it is also a book about mystery,” said Belczyk, 38 and a dad of four with his wife, Rebecca. “(It’s) about what it means to have a mystery, to keep a mystery and how the unknown figures into our lives, motivates our actions, shapes our identities.”

Belczyk has been writing all of his life.

Back in fifth or sixth grade, he recalls being asked at youth group to write down what he liked about himself. He wrote down “my writings,” even though at the time he hadn’t written anything yet.

“I just had this sense that I would write things and that I thought that it had something to do with what my identity was,” he said.

He likes the way writing allows him to interact with people “in a very personal way,” he said.

He also “believes strongly in the spoken word,” which often influences his writings. When he’s able to assemble “a very lyrical set of words,” he finds it “deeply satisfying.”

Belczyk received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and graduated from The George Washington University Law School.

After having two poetry collections published in 2010, his first novel, “Elynia,” was published by Dark Coast Press in 2011. The book is a collection of stories about four generations of characters who are connected in unusual ways.

He wrote much of that book while in law school and in the evenings after when he lived in Chicago. It took him a few years to complete.

When he returned to Pittsburgh, he lived on the South Side and would walk to work in the city every day, crossing the 10th Street Bridge.

“I took a lot of inspiration from our region,” he said.

The book follows two parallel plotlines: The death of a courier 100 years ago on a bridge and the investigation to find his killer; and a modern timeline surrounding a new search for the item the courier carried.

“The two mysteries are in tension with one another,” he said, “because they’re seeking very different things and I think they ask very different questions about the individual who was the courier.”

People living in the historical town in the book also live in “historical myths that they don’t believe to be true,” but they keep them as part of their heritage, he said.

The bridge plays an important role in the story.

While the book has many “unique and new” elements to it, Belczyk said some of its features are similar to “Life of Pi,” which explores what and why you believe something.

Kyle Fager, a friend in Ohio Township and fellow writer, helped review a pre-galley copy of the novel. “It’s a brilliant piece of work,” he said.

Belczyk’s writing is “always lyrical and literary,” he said. “It’s just artful. It’s just very pretty prose.”

While the writing is lyrical, the mystery still is raw and real, Fager said.

Belczyk said there are similarities between his writing and his day job.

“In my profession and in my art, I’m collecting observations, synthesizing them and organizing them into meaningful patterns and persuasive narratives,” he said.

Fager called Belczyk a “very passionate person and a prolific writer” and a great family man.