by Sandra Murphy
On July 11, Diane Day, author of the Fremont Jones mysteries, passed away in Eureka, California. She was 75. Although she was born in Mississippi, she attended college at Stanford. She married and lived with her family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 1993, she was able to return to California.
After her children were grown, she began to write about a young woman named Caroline Fremont Jones, a proper Boston lady, who is spunky enough to run away from home while her father is on his honeymoon (second marriage). Her destination is San Francisco and the year is 1905. It’s just not proper for a woman to travel alone, set up house and start her own business—typist for hire, ten cents a page, guaranteed error-free.
Caroline is a Bostonian name. Fremont is for a black sheep cousin, famous in California so Fremont Jones is born. She is able to find rooms in a respectable boarding house. The landlady will allow no less—her husband, now passed, was an honest policeman. Fremont is also able to find an office and clients start to come her way.
Of course, spunky young women are apt to get into trouble and such is the case with Fremont.
Fremont is more than a spunky character though. She has a brain and is frustrated when society expects her to be pretty, not smart. She throws off convention as well as her corset, in favor of comfort and the ability to breathe. Day described Fremont as courageous, compassionate and curious.
In the second book, Fire and Fog, the great earthquake of 1906 strikes San Francisco. The destruction of property was immense and is described as Fremont saw it. In this book, she takes the drastic step of learning to drive a car—and in a rare admission, confesses she never thought automobiles would catch on enough to replace horses but she is quite taken with the Maxwell owned by her neighbor and friend, Michael Archer. Along the way, he becomes her partner in a private investigation firm—he’d like to be her partner on a more personal level as well. However, Fremont has promised herself never to marry and become the property of her husband.
The Bohemian Murders takes place further down the coast in Carmel as Fremont takes a temporary post as lighthouse keeper while San Francisco rebuilds.
Emperor Norton’s Ghost explores séances and mystical—what is real and what is fake? The answers are surprising.
Death Train to Boston involves sabotage on the railroad. Michael and Fremont are separated so she’s left to rely on her own resources more than ever in this story—not to mention overcome injuries sustained.
Beacon Street Mourning is the completion of the trip to visit her sick father. It’s probably the densest plot as Fremont struggles with culture shock back in Boston, her stepmother, her father’s illness and Michael’s ideas of what should come next.
Day wove a strong storyline while balancing mystery with history and characters that readers love. After spending time with Fremont Jones, readers expect to hear the clanging bell of a cable car and see the steep hills of San Francisco right outside the window, no matter where they live.
In an interview, Day said to new writers—“If you want to write, read, read, read.” I’d say start with her books. Whether to learn the turn of a phrase, description, character development or how to write historical fiction or to read for pleasure, Day’s books will satisfy. The only disappointment is there are not enough of them.
The Fremont Jones books are:
The Strange Files of Fremont Jones, Fire and Fog, The Bohemian Murders, Emperor Norton’s Ghost, Death Train to Boston, Beacon Street Mourning.
Cut to the Heart is a standalone book about Clara Barton. She also wrote Obsidian and The Stone House. She also wrote under the pen names of Madelyn Sanders and Diana Bane.
Editor’s note: I am personally a huge fan of the Fremont Jones books and had the pleasure of meeting Dianne on several occasions–she was a sweet, wonderful lady.
Use this link to purchase Dianne’s books & a portion goes to help KRL keep going:
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