by Amy M. Reade
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Amy’s latest book Cape Menace, and a link to purchase it.
One of the best things about writing mysteries is the research I get to do. Who else has a job that lets them spend the day reading and learning about the gruesome and macabre and call it ‘work’? I’ve researched everything from what a dead body looks like four hours after a drowning… to poisons that can go for weeks undetected in the human body until the victim keels over… to centuries-old medical techniques and tools that we would find horrifying today.
It’s so much fun. [rubs hands together and grins fiendishly]
And then I started writing historical fiction. And I had to ask myself, Why have I not been doing this all along?? The research required for it is boundless and goes way beyond methods of killing. I get to learn about everyday life in another time—about culture, politics, food, language, and much more.
My husband has been on my case encouraging me to write an historical mystery for years. Because we live very close to Cape May, New Jersey, a bastion of Victorian architecture, he thought it would be great to write a story with a strong dose of local history. And I agreed with him. Hence my new book, Cape Menace: A Cape May Historical Mystery was born. This is the first book in a collection of historical mysteries set in and around Cape May. Note my use of the word “collection,” not “series.” This will be a group of standalone novels so a reader can start anywhere and pick up the books in no particular order. The stories will range between the early 1700s and World War II, so I get to research anew for each book.
The more research I’ve done, the more I think about what it must have been like to live in another time. Maybe in another place. Do you ever think about it?
So here’s my question: would you rather live in the time and place where you are now or sometime and someplace in the past? Or maybe the future?
There’s no right or wrong answer; just like high school English, this question is designed to get you to think.
I’ve often thought it might be really cool to live during the time that the events of the New Testament were taking place. But then I think, would I really want to walk around everywhere in sandals? I don’t want to sound petty, but I don’t like to get my feet dirty or dusty. I would have had a real problem with that. But really, in light of the importance of the events that were going on at that time, I might have been able to put up with it.
How about the Renaissance? All the art, the writings, the culture that was exploding in Europe at that time…it would have been absolutely incredible. Of course, the problem is that things weren’t changing very much for the poor and needy. The rich people and the nobles were the ones who really benefitted from the advances made during the Renaissance. And I would undoubtedly have been a peasant, so maybe I wouldn’t have thought too much of that time, after all.
How about the Elizabethan period, when Shakespeare was writing his legendary plays and poems? I’ve had the privilege of visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon, where the great man lived, and it would have been quite incredible to walk the same streets at the same time as he did. The houses in Stratford-Upon-Avon are well-preserved, so I could easily imagine what it would have been like to live there. But no indoor plumbing? I am a lover of creature comforts, after all. I’m not sure I would have loved the filth that would have run in the streets and the scents wafting around town.
Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to live around the time of the founding of the United States? Such momentous decisions being made, such heady subjects being discussed. But again, there’s that indoor plumbing issue…
The Industrial Age? The Victorian Age? The Great Depression? World War II and the Greatest Generation?
I guess the important thing to remember is that if I had lived in any of these other times, I wouldn’t have known about the creature comforts I enjoy today, like sneakers and toilets that flush. The culture and norms of those days would have been my culture and norms, too.
I’ve decided I need to give it some more thought.
In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work learning about what it was like to live in Cape May during the American Revolution, and I look forward to sharing it with you.
What about you? Is there a time period in history that you wish you had experienced firsthand?
The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah. Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping that Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again.
Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are
saying about her mother’s disappearance.
When the time comes for Sarah to face her father’s secrets and figure out why her mother never came home that December day in 1712, what she learns will shock her tiny community on the New Jersey cape and leave her fighting for her life.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Cape Menace, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “menace,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 20, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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