Thursday, October 15, 2015

Research for a Mystery Novel

My first historical mystery novel, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, will be published by Five Star, part of Gale/Cengage Learning, next week. Here’s a brief preview: A Sunday excursion in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado, in 1919 leads to murder as intertwined lives play out a mystery on the Switzerland Trail railroad. Policeman Harry McBride must figure out who the murderer is before the train reaches the Boulder station on the return trip.

One of the delights in writing a historical mystery was the research. At the time I wrote the novel, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, and with a group of friends I hiked the publicly available sections of what had once been the railroad bed. This entailed visiting spots such as this part of the trail in Caribou Ranch.



And this scene near Glacier Lake.



I also read the definitive book on the history of railroad, Switzerland Trail of America, by Forest Crossen. Next, I went to the Carnegie Branch of the Boulder Library to read newspapers from 1918 and 1919. Once the librarian trained me to use the microfilm machine, I scanned through old issues of the Boulder Daily Camera to read articles about world events, local activities and advertisements.  I learned that the Northern Gas and Drilling Company offered shares at only fifteen cents each, requiring only five cents down. And local color: “Fat man’s race: first, Clyde Church, second C. C. Poundstone, (the timekeeper fell asleep.)”

All in all, this was an enjoyable exercise and provided a wealth of background information for writing the novel.

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