Get your kicks…with someone you already know
By Kris Neri
There are places where the most amazing connections occur. I describe them as spots of coincidence.
Sedona, Arizona, where my husband and I own a bookstore, The Well Red Coyote, is one of those places. In my time there, I’ve witnessed the most unexpected crossing of paths. Once, two middle-aged women, who had been close friends in high school, came to an author signing. Today they both lived in two other states and hadn’t set eyes on each other since their teen years. Amazingly, they recognized each other immediately, and they were thrilled to discover they each still liked to read, and now, both wanted to write.
I’ve actually witnessed too many of these encounters to describe. It’s always exciting and fun, and maybe also a little bit jarring because it’s so unexpected.
Route 66, the site of my next Tracy Eaton mystery, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, is another one of those of coincidence spots. Every time I cruise Route 66, I connect with someone else from my past.
Last fall, when Joe and I headed home from Albuquerque, New Mexico, after attending the banquet for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards (where my last book, MAGICAL ALIENATION, won!), we spent as much of the trip as possible on Route 66. These days, it’s impossible to follow the whole length actually on Route 66. Long sections of the old road still exist, mostly through the centers of towns. But those stretches are just threads that fray off of the ribbon of the interstate. To do Route 66, you do have to hop off and on the interstate.
But getting off is always fun. This time, I told Joe we had to stop in Gallup, New Mexico to see the El Rancho Hotel there. I’d visited it while traveling alone on Route 66, but he hadn’t. El Rancho was built in1936 for Mr. R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famous movie director D.W. Griffith. It’s a great, rustic old dowager that used to attract old-time movie stars, back in the days when they cruised along Route 66, and it provided a place for Western film casts and crews to be housed for movies shooting on location..
Sure enough, there in the gift shop off the El Rancho lobby, I ran into author Earlene Fowler, an old friend from California I hadn’t seen in years. We had a great time catching up.
The only thing strange about this encounter — was that it wasn’t strange at all. It’s happened to me every time I’ve cruised Route 66. It’s part of its magic and appeal.
I’m using the word “magic” loosely. I don’t think there’s anything mystical involved in these happenings. It’s that in places that draw visitors from all over the world, it’s simply more likely that certain paths will cross.
But not all chance encounters are so fortuitous as mine have been. Not all figures from the past are as easy to recognize as Earlene was for me, and they don’t all come forward.
What if you had a secret that you thought you’d successfully hidden? Wouldn’t you hate it if someone from your past hid in the shadows somewhere along Route 66, yet threatened to share your secret past with everyone?
That’s what happens in REVENGE ON ROUTE 66. Tracy’s uncle-in-law Philly Chase, a recovering con artist, is usually such a cheerful cherub. Initially, Philly seems much the same as always. Tracy and Drew first encounter him on this trip actually dodging traffic along Route 66 in drag, which is daffy even for Philly.
But Philly is someone whose past contains lots of secrets. And given his uncharacteristic gloom, Tracy suspects that this secret must be a doozy.
That made this mystery extra hard for her solve. An amateur sleuth like Tracy counts on knowing the suspects, and counts on relationships leading the way. But there on Route 66, where so many paths converge, she doesn’t know how to find Philly’s mystery extortionist.
At one point, when Tracy’s husband Drew complains about how little progress they’re making finding his secret blackmailer, she shouts in frustration:
“What would you have us do, Drew?” I flailed my arms at the passing cars. “Shout to all the drivers flying by, ‘Which of you bastards is putting the screws to my uncle?’”
Eventually, Tracy almost feels desperate enough to try that.
Philly’s blackmailer continues to defy identification, and that’s only part of what makes this Tracy’s toughest case. There, in that spot of coincidence, where endless paths cross, it could be absolutely anyone.
Even after writing REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, I still love cruising the Mother Road. And I look forward to my own coincidental encounters.
But if you have anything to hide — I don’t recommend it.
Kris Neri writes the Tracy Eaton mysteries, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, DEM BONES’ REVENGE, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE and the just-released REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, which feature the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars. She also writes the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE and MAGICAL ALIENATION, which feature a fake psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her novels have been finalists for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, International Book Award, and have been three-time Lefty Award finalists for Best Humorous Mystery. Her last book, MAGICAL ALIENATION, won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. She teaches writing online for the Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School, and with her husband, owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.
Historic Route 66: with its signs for “New Dead Things,” the Biker Bunny Bin, and the Kontiki Pizza and Chinese Restaurant, which serves only waffles, it’s kitchy, crazy, and fun. How appropriate that it would hold a place of importance to unconventional Tracy Eaton and her dad, aging Hollywood hunk, Alec Grainger.
Their Route 66 adventures always included a stay in Tecos, New Mexico, but their regular stop at Lucy Crier's Lunch Pail Café was now a thing of the past, since Lucy plugged her ex-beau and went to the big house for murder. That’s why it’s perplexing when Lucy, safely ensconced in her cell, is simultaneously seen dodging traffic along Route 66. Naturally, Alec uses that mystery to lure Tracy and her sweetie Drew back to America’s Main Street.
But the road takes a darker turn when Woody Crier, Lucy’s smarmy son, turns up dead, and an even stranger bend when the FBI goes gunning for Tracy, calling her one of America’s Most Wanted.
She has no choice but to go on the lam, but this time, the Mother Road provides no escape. Tracy knows if she can’t cut through the web of secrets and lies shrouding her favorite haunts and the pasts of those dearest to her, her own life could be snuffed out in a Route 66 minute.
The Well Red Coyote: http://www.wellredcoyote.com
Revenge on Route 66: http://www.krisneri.com/rt66-about.html
El Rancho Hotel: http://www.elranchohotel.com/
Magical Alienation: http://www.krisneri.com/MA-about.html