I have always loved classic mystery fiction. I’ve been a huge fan of authors like Agatha Christie, Anna Katharine Green, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Roberts Rinehart. In 2003, I was going through a period of doubt and confusion about writing literary fiction and in November, National Novel Writing Month came up. NaNoWriMo has always been an opportunity for me to experiment and get outside of myself in terms of creativity. So I thought, “why not try my hand at writing a mystery?” My love of classic fiction and history was in full swing then, so writing a historical mystery was an obvious choice for me.
I started with the germ of the idea for The Paper Chase Mysteries that November and since then, it has really blossomed into ideas for an entire series. The series incorporates everything that I love — a dynamic historical context, a strong female protagonist, a mysterious “sidekick”, supportive (and progressive-thinking) male characters, and a host of eccentric, lovable people in a small town setting.
Here are a few more details about this upcoming series:
The series featuring a turn-of-the-century New Woman, who, along with her spiritualist friend and ex-detective-turned-deputy-sheriff brother, help the local police solve crimes in a small Northern California town.
The first book is set in 1903 and the series progresses throughout the first decade of the 20th century. From there, who knows?
The series takes place primarily in the fictional town of Arrojo, located in Northern California inland, not far from Sacramento or San Francisco. Arrojo is one of those small, dusty towns that isn’t completely a stereotypical “Wild West” town, but neither is it totally city-wise. As the seat of Arrojo County, it includes a small population of upper class families in conflict with a middle class majority because they consider themselves superior and entitled to make all civic decisions on the town. The small working class population is its “dirty little secret” and regulated to the other side of the river — a sort of mini-Barbary Coast.
The Who (i.e., the main players)
Adele Gossling, a product of the Progressive Era. Although not aristocratic, she is well-to-do, thanks to an inheritance from her deceased father, a successful San Francisco criminal lawyer. Nevertheless, she believes in good works and industry. In Arrojo, she sets up her own stationary shop on the main street. Although a firm believer in human rights, reforms, and philanthropic endeavors, she also has her faults. Her stubborn personality often times puts her in conflict with Arrojo’s community leaders and gets herself and others into trouble. Her unconventional ways and her interest in crime have garnished disapproval from many of Arrojo’s prominent citizens, especially those ladies who have antiquated notions of a “woman’s place” and believe profoundly in the separate spheres.
Jackson Gossling, Adele’s older brother. He’s a former detective with the vigilante Seton Agency (similar to the Pinkertons) with a rather shady past. He’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life so he can become something more than a wastrel. His devotion to his sister brings him to Arrojo and his keen eye for detail and fearless ability to ask the hard questions make him an invaluable aid to the police.
Anita (Nin) Branch, a citizen of Arrojo who befriends Adele. Considered the town “witch” because of her spiritual abilities and knowledge of healing herbs, she’s a bit of an outcast, tolerated only because her roots are as worthy as those of the town’s prominent citizens. She loathes the term “mesmerizer” and calls herself a “vibrationist”, someone who can interpret vibrations given off by people, places, and things. Her friendship with Adele and her vibe readings lend support to police investigations.
Sheriff Horatio Hatfield, an ex-sea captain and elected sheriff of Arrojo. In contrast to Jackson’s more formal and direct interrogative tactics, he is friendly, relaxed but firm, always congenial and never threatening. These qualities contrast with his large and almost looming physical presence. He is meticulous in his job and broaches the unsavory, uncomfortable, and abhorrent with finesse and understanding. Around women, he is shy and a little flustered and his regard for Adele is apparent to everyone but her.
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