Special good or special bad, some places are simply more interesting than others. A unique character makes them tourist destinations—and popular settings for fiction. My first three books are set in pre-Katrina New Orleans.
The Big Easy, The Crescent City, The Paris of the Americas—New Orleans has nicknames to spare, and more than enough personality to support them all. How can you not be charmed by the food, the music, the glorious mix of people, and the easy-going atmosphere? But wander off the beaten path and you’ll see poverty. Don’t go too far or you’ll risk being mugged. Dig a little deeper and see how easy-going can lead to an acceptance of corruption. Put the good and the bad in a pot, stir it up, and you have a great setting for mysteries.
New Orleans also has numerous old houses in various states of repair, which makes it a perfect location for Claire Marshall whose vocation is the restoration of historic houses. Claire loves her adopted city, but she learns that its old houses hold secrets: hidden cupboards, ghosts, skeletons real and metaphoric. People have their secrets, too, things no one wants to talk about, and if you insist … Well, you get the picture.
After three mysteries set in New Orleans, I wanted a change of scenery. Geary, NC cannot be found on any map, and the imaginary 700 miles that separate it from New Orleans are a chasm. Where New Orleans is a diverse and tolerant port city; Geary is small town Appalachia, homogenous and judgmental. The anonymity that is part of city living doesn’t exist in Geary, but there are things no one wants to talk about.
The new setting gets a new heroine. Older and wiser than Claire, Susan Randolph has been around the block. Her history includes a shotgun marriage to the scion of Geary’s first family, two sons, growing unhappiness, and a hasty departure. That was eleven years ago, and as far as Susan is concerned, Geary exists only in the past. But then she sees Chris on television. The boy she left behind is now a young man, a suspect in a brutal double murder, and the object of an intensive manhunt. Susan, who works for a criminal defense attorney in New York City, thinks she knows where Chris is hiding. She knows she can help him. Desperate for another chance to be a good mother, she returns to the town she hates.
I think the right setting adds color to a story, and some settings cry out for a story. Copper Hill TN and McCaysville GA, really one town divided by the state line, are calling to me. For almost a hundred years, they sat in a biological desert. Deforestation and copper smelting had created fifty square miles of eroded red clay and acid creeks where only man, the species that made the mess, could survive. Much has been written about the environmental devastation and the decades of reforestation efforts that, finally, is bringing back plants and animals. What interests me is the people who lived there. Does such an extreme environment affect behavior? I’m thinking the answer is yes, and one day I’ll set a book there. Meanwhile, the second installment of this blog will be a stranger-than-fiction true story from McCaysville.
Before she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.
When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home