John Daniel Extends a Welcome to Jefferson County


 Eight and a half years ago, my wife and I moved to the North Coast of California, otherwise known as Redwood Country, but also known for its rocky shores, its backdrop of tall mountains, its salmon and oysters, and, yes, it’s main cash crop, marijuana.

 It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this setting, in spite of the fog and rain. Also, the more I learned about its history of lumber barons, Native Americans, and generational grudges, the more I itched to write about this place. I wanted to celebrate its amazing geography, its scenery, its history, its economy, and mainly its people. The trouble is, I write fiction—mystery fiction—in which people get killed and things sometimes get ugly. As a relative newcomer, I certainly didn’t want to offend my new neighbors or anyone else who mattered.

So how could I celebrate this remarkable place, this land of rocky coastline, rugged mountains, and forests of towering redwood trees; this gentle balance between meadows full of peaceful dairy cows, fishing harbors, town squares, friendly taverns, and Victorian houses; a land rich with the history of lumbering, salmon fishing, and Native American culture?

I especially wanted to be careful about the history. No matter how much research I might do, I’d get it wrong in some people’s eyes. So what I did was no research other than to listen to the local gossip passed around by my creative writing students, many of whom were seniors with long memories.

Instead of doing research, I turned on the imagination and created a whole new county, which I called Jefferson County. I kept the salmon fishing and the logging and the Native presence and the scenery. I kept the mountains, the redwood forests, and the rocky beaches, the harbor, the town square, and the friendly bar. But I have peopled the place with fictional characters who have somehow become realer to me than the people I meet on the streets, roads, and trails when I’m not writing.

Then I walked my characters onto the trails, met them in the forest, chatted with them in a dim-lit bar which I named the Redwood Door, and things started happening. So don’t blame me if a newspaper editor gets stabbed behind the Redwood Door, or if his office on the other side of the square gets trashed and his files get stolen, and more people start dying, and the grudges of generations past return to haunt the living. I’m just an  observer of an imaginary cast of very real-seeming people.

And in fictional Jefferson County, California, up in Redwood Country between the rocky Pacific shore and the Jefferson Alps, you’ll find love and death in high gear. I invite you to come and visit me in Jefferson County, by reading my new mystery novel, Behind the Redwood Door.

Wear a raincoat.

John M. Daniel was born in Minnesota, raised in Texas, and educated in Massachusetts and California.  He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University and a Writer in Residence at Wilbur Hot Springs. He has taught fiction writing at UCLA Extension and Santa Barbara Adult Education and was on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for nearly twenty years.  He now teaches creative writing for Humboldt State University Extended Education.
John’s stories have appeared in dozens of literary magazines. His thirteen published books include four mysteries: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, Vanity Fire, and Behind the Redwood Door, recently published by Oak Tree Press.
John has worked as a bookseller, a free-lance writer, an editor, an entertainer, a model, an innkeeper, and a teacher.  He and his wife, Susan, live in Humboldt County, California, where they are small-press book publishers. Susan enjoys gardening, John enjoys writing, and they both enjoy living with their wondercat, Warren.
Brief Synopsis:
Guy and Carol Mallon own a used bookstore on the north coast of California, a land of rocky shores and redwood forests, with a rich history of gold, lumber, Native Americans, and hardy entrepreneurs. They are content with their small-town life until Pete Thayer, their friend and the publisher of the local alternative newspaper, is stabbed to death behind their favorite tavern. Urged on by Pete’s girlfriend, River Webster, Guy begins to poke around, uncovering a past festering with power politics, a newspaper war, a multigenerational family feud, marijuana traffic—and murder. Guy’s investigation takes him from the town square to the harbor to the forests and into the mountains, where he must confront evil in the form of a bully nearly twice his size.
Behind the Redwood Door is sold by Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It can be ordered by your local independent bookseller, or bought directly from the publisher at For an autographed copy, call John at 1-800-662-8351..


thesis example said…
i found this post to be very interesting! appreciate your efforts and thank you for sharing)
M.M. Gornell said…
John, I love the area you live in! And I love you created Jefferson County. (I did the same) Behind the Redwood Door is of course on my download list. One day will have time to read again...

BTW, Great job in your post describing your area--you took me there again.

Jackie King said…
John, We get to learn more about you with each of your posts. It seems to me that you have an ideal life, including that magnificient cat you're holding.
resume writing said…
Nice. Thanks for sharing.
Anonymous said…
Just ordered my copy from Amazon. Looking forward to reading it.

William Doonan
john M. Daniel said…
Thanks, friends. Madeline, I"m glad my new book is on your download list. Last time I checked it wasn't yet available as a Kindle edition, but my publisher promises that will happen soon. Jackie, Warren sends you a yawn and a purr. Bill, thanks for ordering a copy. Hope you enjoy it.
Ah, the Sea Change whereby writers turn a real place into an imaginary one that we can explore without getting wet or cold (although we may feel wet and cold) and where we have (as the Shadow used to say) "the power to see into men's minds." (Women to a lesser extent, for me.)

What would we do without fiction?
Jean Henry Mead said…
The northern California coast is one of the most beautiful areas of the planet and I love visiting there. I've also downloaded BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR and know that I'm going to enjoy it.
john M. Daniel said…
Thanks, Tim and Jean. There's a fair amount of cold and wet in Jefferson County, but you can read about it in a warm, dry armchair.
Maryann Miller said…
Thanks for the introduction to another terrific author, Marilyn. John, you look so much like an artist friend that I did a double-take when I saw your picture. Thought the cat was quite handsome, too. (smile)
Glad to see that your Jefferson County is doing far better than the one I live near -- Alabama's Jefferson County just declared bankruptcy. From what I can see, your writing definitely is not bankrupt.
Alice Duncan said…
Great post, John! Your life sounds idyllic, and I love the pic of you and your kitty!
john M. Daniel said…
Thank you, good friends. Warren thanks you, too. He helps me write, in exchange for which I read him stories. It's a good relationship.
WS Gager said…
John: I love the photo of you with Warren. I'm afraid the cat steals the show as they most often do.
W.S. Gager on Writing
john M. Daniel said…
Thanks, Wendy. Warren pretty much runs everything here in this house. We take orders from him.
Anne K. Albert said…
Great post, John, and give my love to Warren!

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