by Sandra Murphy
This week we are excited to have a review & giveaway of Margaret’s Coel’s new mystery The Man Who Fell from the Sky along with an interesting interview with Margaret. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of the book, along with a link to purchase it where a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore. In this issue you can also find a review and giveaway of the book just before this one, Night of the White Buffalo.
The Man Who Fell from the Sky By Margaret Coel
Review by Sandra Murphy
When you find a man’s body floating in the icy water of a lake, it’s natural to assume he drowned—and hard to prove whether or not he had help. Robert Walking Bear was searching for treasure. For over a hundred years, it’s been rumored that Butch Cassidy hid a share of the take from one of his train robberies in the mountains. Robert not only uses the treasure hunt as an excuse to be alone outdoors but really believes he’s getting close to finding the money, thanks to a map he inherited from his grandfather.
A documentary film company is in town, recreating the life of Butch and Sundance, while looking for proof they didn’t die in Bolivia during a gun battle. Since Butch had friends on the reservation, it was a natural place to come after a robbery so they could avoid the posse that was always after them and Pinkerton detectives who never give up.
There are some puzzling aspects to Robert’s death—a cousin who recently moved back to the rez after a long absence says he hunted with Robert many times. Ruth, Robert’s wife, swears Robert always went alone. Then the anonymous calls begin. “He was murdered. I saw it happen.”
The calls go to Vicki Holden, an Arapaho lawyer. The caller won’t identify himself, won’t meet, won’t give details of the murder but expects Vicki to find out what happened. Is it because he’s afraid for his own life, or is he using the phone calls as a way to blackmail the killer?
Father John also receives a call. Even the fed working the case is beginning to believe there’s a lot more than drowning involved, but how to solve the case is as much a mystery as the killer’s identity.
Cutter, the cousin, is helpful to Ruth who seems overly anxious to get on with her life. He’s attentive to Vicki although he seems to be rushing a relationship. Still, he’s good-looking and seems to think of everything, not to mention how persuasive he can be. Vicki lets herself be talked into his plans.
When a second death occurs, the question is the same—was it an accident or murder? Father John and Vicki try to puzzle out the deaths while the killer comes closer.
Walks-On, Father John’s three-legged dog, is expanding his horizons by insisting on riding along when Father makes condolence calls or visits the nursing home. He’s a delightful addition to the cast of characters. The Bishop remains in the background but I’d like to see a bit more of him.
The grandmothers (older Arapaho women) call Vicki “Woman Alone” which describes her perfectly. Since her divorce from Ben Holden, she’s been part of the tribe but at a distance. Father John is in the same situation—he’s a white priest on an Arapaho reservation.
There are occasional chapters about Butch’s visits to the rez and what happened then. Between the past mystery and the current one lies a good tale with characters you’d like to know as friends.
This is Book Nineteen in the series. Be warned: they are addictive!
Interview with Margaret Coel:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Margaret: Actually, all my life. I’m not kidding! I started writing stories as a kid. I was a newspaper reporter and I’ve written for magazines. Writing is the only career I have ever had.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called and a little about it?
Margaret: My first novel was The Eagle Catcher, the first in what would become the Wind River series. The novel introduces Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley as well as the Arapahos on the Wind River Reservation and deals with an old crime that has percolated into the present, leading to new crimes. Pretty much the general theme I have been writing about ever since.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Margaret: I started out as a journalist and non-fiction writer, emphasis on history. I wrote for such publications as American Heritage and The New York Times. Eventually I moved on to writing books, a total of 4 history books. The first was Chief Left Hand, the biography of an Arapaho chief in the mid-1800s. That book took me into the Arapaho world and gave me the background out of which to write my novels.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Margaret: The setting in my series is the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Arapaho Indians. I became interested in the tribe, whose ancestral lands were Colorado, and basically followed them to Wyoming. I wanted to write about characters that are what the Arapahos call, Edge People. That is, people who live on the edge of two cultures, the Arapaho and that of the outside, which led to Father John, a Jesuit missionary priest on the reservation, who came from the outside world (Boston) and Vicky Holden, who came from the reservation. The Man Who Fell from the Sky is the most recent novel – the 19th in the series. Set on the reservation, with Father John and Vicky caught up in solving a murder with ties that lead back to Butch Cassidy and the treasure he buried in the area.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Margaret: I always aim to write the best story I can write, one that my readers can’t put down and don’t want to end. If that happens, then I am satisfied I have done my job. But I hope that my novels have some take-away value, that readers will have a better understanding of the Arapaho people and a deeper appreciation of history.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Margaret: I write everyday, except Sunday. I am in my office by 9 a.m. and usually don’t emerge until about 5 p.m. I like to spend about 4 to 5 hours writing. The rest of the day is devoted to research and to the business aspects of writing, such as dealing with agents, editors, publicists, web mavens …. You get the idea.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Margaret: I do a very vague outline at the beginning that I call a road map. Start here, go there, get over there somehow, and try to end up here. I never do a detailed outline that I feel I must adhere to. That would take all of the fun out of seeing where my characters want to take me.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Margaret: My ideal is the morning, which is when I write. Whatever sharpness I may have begins to dull as the day goes on, which is why I reserve the business part of the writing business for late afternoons.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Margaret: I was lucky. The University of Oklahoma Press published my first book, Chief Left Hand, which put me in very good company. Later, when searching for an agent for my novels, I had no trouble landing one.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Margaret: Keep on writing the best stories I can write.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Margaret: Other writers. Really good writers like Anne Tyler and Robert Harris and Joseph Kanon and lots of others.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Margaret: I read a number of books on the subject I intend t write about. Then I go to the internet and fill in the gaps. I have a host of experts I call on for specific information, such as the workings of the FBI.
KRL: What do you read?
Margaret: I am an eclectic reader. I read a couple of books a week, everything from history to novels, mystery, suspense, mainstream and everything in between. Notice I did not specify “literary” because literary is not a separate genre. Literary novels—well written, beautiful prose, memorably drawn characters, vivid settings—are found everywhere, in every genre.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Margaret: I loved Downtown Abby and TV shows like it. I loved Woman in Gold and Midnight in Paris, movies that tell a gripping story and are entertaining,
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Margaret: Don’t ever give up. Keep writing, keep honing your craft. Accept good editing advice. Don’t get hung up on the idea that what you have written can never be improved (you’re not in 3rd grade anymore.)
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Margaret: I hope readers will enjoy my latest novel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky. It is set on the reservation with Father John and Vicky yet it weaves in the story of Butch Cassidy, who had a long connection to the area and to the Arapahos. He often hid out among them after a robbery. He helped out poor ranchers, paid off their loans and kept the banks and tax collectors at bay. No one would ever have turned him over to the law. Even today, they remember Butch as the “good bad guy.”
KRL: That sounds really interesting! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Margaret: I am a movie addict. I love movies, especially old movies. Godfather, anyone? Movies with Gary Grant and Doris Day? Count me in.
KRL: Where did the idea for including Butch Cassidy and Sundance come from?
Margaret: I’ve known for some time that Butch had a long-standing relationship with the folks on the Wind River reservation. It took a while for a plot idea to gel in my head. When I suggested the idea to my editor, he said, “What are you waiting for?”
KRL: Are there plans to transfer Father John?
Margaret: He lives under the threat all the time. He doesn’t want to go. He’s at home where he is, but….
KRL: Could we see more of Walk-ons and the Bishop?
Margaret: I love Walks-on and the Bishop both. Walks-on gets a fair amount of the spotlight in The Man Who Fell from the Sky. He is Father John’s good, loyal buddy. And the Bishop? I see him as a father-figure to Father John, the older, wiser man who lends his strength in difficult times.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of The Man Who Fell from the Sky, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fell,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 26, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
You can use this link to purchase this book where a portion goes to help support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy: