Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Write Mysteries


My first published novels were historical family sagas based on my own family’s genealogy. I wrote about both sides of my family and once I’d finished, I wondered what I should write next. The answer came easily, what I loved to read most—mysteries.

We lived in a neighborhood filled with policemen and I became interested in them, their jobs and their families. The wives became coffee buddies and we all partied together as couples. My police officer son-in-law took me on my first ride-along and told me stories about his shift and the strange people and crimes he encountered. I began writing the Rocky Bluff P.D. series set in a Southern California beach community, similar to the one I was living in at the time. In those books, my goal has always been to show how the job affects the family and what’s going on in the family affects the job. That series is now on its third publisher and the latest is Angel Lost.

We moved to the foothills of the Southern Sierra in Central California and I went on two more ride-alongs, one with a brand new officer and the third with a young woman, a single mother, and the only female in that department. From the hours of three a.m. until six, she didn’t have a single call. As we rode around the quiet streets, she poured her heart out to me about her problems. I knew then I had to write about a similar character. That idea was reinforced when I interviewed our female resident deputy for our local newspaper and she told me some of her problems because of being the only woman working in a male dominated profession. Since that time I’ve met other females in law enforcement who’ve told me similar stories.

When I met a Native American woman who grew up on a nearby reservation, the idea came to to me to write about a Native American deputy sheriff who was a single mom. I knew I could incorporate many of the ideas I’d been collecting and Deputy Tempe Crabtree came to life, on the pages I wrote and in my imagination.

Writing about an Indian living off the reservation but being sent on site to question people and work with the detectives in solving cases, meant I had to do more research into the reservation itself and the legends that surround it. Though I’ve certainly borrowed a lot from our local Indians and the reservation, I’ve fictionalized both.

For Dispel the Mist I was fortunate to be able to see the pictographs of the Hairy Man located on a rock shelter on the reservation. I knew Tempe would have to have an encounter with this legendary character who is a relative of Big Foot.

Dispel the Mist is the ninth in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. The more I write the more I know that two of the main reasons for writing mysteries is the “bad guy” always gets it in the end—something that doesn’t always happen in real life. The second reason is I though I have little control over my actual life and the world I live in, in my mysteries, I do have a semblance of control. Though I must confess, sometimes my characters rebel and take off in a surprising direction I hadn’t expected.

The latest in this series is (#11) is Bears With Us.

Marilyn Meredith

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