Thursday, September 14, 2017

Learning American History Through Fiction

Edith here, loving the still-fabulous tomatoes, juicy peaches, and sweet corn of a New England September.

I'm often studying history. I live in an antique house in a town full of history, and I use much of what I've learned about both in my Quaker Midwife Mysteries. So I got to thinking about my fellow historical mystery writers. Given the period I write in, I naturally gravitate to authors also writing about the second half of the nineteenth century, maybe squeezing into the first part of the twentieth.

Like who, you ask? Let's start with Nancy Herriman's Old San Francisco Mysteries. I love this series. A British-born nurse tends the poor and neglected in post Civil War San Francisco. Nancy's writing is vivid and chock-full of correct historical detail. No Pity for the Dead has Celia Davies bumping up against a ruthless real estate developer. Some things just never change! But along the way you feel what it was like to live in a rapidly developing San Francisco (one of my favorite cities, by the way). 



My fellow Macavity nominee (for the Ann Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel) Ann Parker writes the Silver Rush Mysteries. I love these books, set in the real boomtown of Leadville in 1880 Colorado. I didn't know anything about the Silver Rush, and Ann brings it all alive. The dust, the issues of a woman and an African-American owning a respectable bar, the complications of a woman wanting a divorce from her disappeared husband, and so much more.


Anna Loan-Wilsey's Hattie Davish series come along next, set in various places around the country in the 1890s. Her protagonist is an independent "typewriter" - which means she's a typist. Sometimes she works for the wealthy man who employs her, and sometimes she's on loan to a friend of his in places as far flung as Missouri, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and Illinois. Anna drops in atmosphere in each place so you feel like you are there. In her latest, A March to Remember, she's researching something for Sir Arthur in our nation's capital but instead gets swept up in the worker's rights as well as the women's rights movement. The movements were real, as were some of the characters.

Alyssa Maxwell (no relation) pops up next in the chronology, with her wonderful Gilded Age mysteries set in Newport, Rhode Island in 1895 and thereabouts. While I used to live in Newport Beach, California, I didn't know much about the eastern version except for the row of big mansions (which I still haven't seen in person yet). Emma Cross is a less-than-well-off relation to the Vanderbilts, and a reporter. I love where she takes me in and around Newport, and what I've learned of the lifestyles of regular people as well as the rich and famous.


Jessica Estevao's (aka Jessie Crockett) Change of Fortune series starts at the very end of
the 1890s and is set in scenic Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where I happen to know that Jessie owns a summer home. Her latest book, out in two weeks, is Whispers of Warning. Her series protagonist Ruby Proulx, was raised by a con artist but escaped the itinerant life to live with her aunt, Honoria, who runs a hotel for spiritualists. Ruby herself is psychic in that she appears to hears voices from beyond. I love how Jessie captures the end-of-the-century feeling of Old Orchard with all the senses alive.

One of my inspirations for writing the Quaker Midwife Mysteries has been Victoria Thompson. Her Gaslight Mysteries begin in 1899 in New York City featuring an upper class midwife. I knew basically nothing about the city at that time, and now I can traverse it in its modern reincarnation and recognize names and landmarks. 

Vicki also has a new historical mystery series debuting this fall with City of Lies. I read her short story featuring the characters and was lucky enough to snag an advance copy of City of Lies. Elizabeth Miles, the protagonist, and her father are scam artists but of the Robin Hood sort. You're going to love it! The series starts in 1917 and is mostly set also in New York.

And my little run through a portion of American history wouldn't be complete without mentioning Rhys Bowen and her Molly Murphy series, which begins in 1901 and also takes place in New York City. I have followed Irish Molly all the way from her beginnings to the latest book, Time of Fog and Fire, which takes place only five years later in book time but fifteen years later in author time. As with Vicki's Gaslight books, Rhys takes you all over the city and through all layers of society, too.



Okay, readers, who did I forget? (Apologies ahead of time!) Favorites among this list? Extra points if you've read at least one book by each author. What have you learned from reading historical fiction? And I'll send a large-print copy of Called to Justice to one commenter here today - but be sure you include your email address. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Publishing, Promoting and Enjoying


by Linda O. Johnston

 

Dogs. 

I wrote about them here last month, and other times, as being part of my research, part of my life, my writing theme.  And Midnight Ink really helped me celebrate National Dog Day last week, on August 26.  They held a contest on their Facebook site where the prize was the first three books in my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  Those who entered all had to comment about their favorite dog.


Did I ever have fun reading the entries!  Of course, I always enjoy reading about dogs, as well as writing about them.  And seeing how others have incorporated dogs into their lives, into their families... always a pleasure!


Plus, it's always enjoyable to see how something so important to what I write can also be used to help publicize my stories.  I was able to share the contest info on social media, including several Facebook groups I belong to that spotlight cozy mysteries.  And since there was a contest, possibly some people who weren't previously aware of my stories focused on them and, hopefully, decided to check them out even if they weren't the winner.


I always get a kick out of letting the world know about my books!  And I always get a kick out of writing them, too.  Plus, I have lots and lots of fun researching and writing about dogs.


So, hey, world.  There've been three Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries so far: BITE THE BISCUIT, TO CATCH A TREAT and BAD TO THE BONE.  Get the theme here?


And the next one, PICK AND CHEWS, will be released in May 2018.  I look forward to letting the world know even more about that one!