Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is set in modern times in a small mountain community in the Southern Sierra. Though the community of Bear Creek is similar to the town I live in, I moved the location 1000 feet higher into the mountains. The Bear Creek Indian Reservation in the books is similar to the Tule River Indian Reservation, also nearby. Tempe is a quarter Native American and she is often called upon to help out with crimes that occur on the reservation or involve Indians.

When I first began about Tempe, I really didn’t know it was going to be a series. The first book I wrote—though not the first published—Deadly Trail is about the murder of the owner of a local Inn. One of the suspects is Nick Two John who has made a garden behind the Inn with native plants. In this book, Nick introduces Tempe to much of her Indian heritage. The Inn is similar to one in our little town. Much of the information about native plants came from an Indian couple who have a similar garden.

In the second book, Deadly Omen, a princess candidate is murdered at a Pow Wow while Tempe is working there. I got the idea for this book while attending a Pow Wow and helping the invited photographer by getting permissions and names of people she took pictures of. During the Pow Wow, I took many notes. When this book came out, one of the local Indians called to tell me that I’d gotten everything right.

Number three is Unequally Yoked (only available as an e-book) and is about a child’s disappearance. Tempe participates in mourning ceremonial and her eyes are opened to who is responsible. I learned about the ceremony in a book about the Tule River Indians written by Frank Latta.

Intervention is set in a mountain lodge during a blizzard where Tempe and her husband have gone for a romantic weekend. The other guests include several people from the movie industry and one disappears. Tempe is guided by the spirit of a Great Blue Heron—or perhaps, an angel. There is a mountain lodge near where I live and I borrowed a lot of its history for this book. (Again, much of what I used came for an interview I did for the newspaper about this particular lodge.)

In Wingbeat, an owl flies down in front of Tempe, a warning of danger ahead. While investigating the death of a long missing granddaughter she encounters a hidden marijuana farm. The location for the pot farm is a place way up in the mountains where I once interviewed someone for a newspaper article. The home was self-sufficient and so difficult to find, I thought at the time it was the perfect place for something illegal.

Due to the death of my publisher, I had to find another publishing company. The next in the series is Calling the Dead. Tempe calls back the dead to find out the truth about a suicide. I learned about this through a book about Indian ceremonies and it fit right into what I was writing.

Next came Judgment Fire. In this one, while investigating the murder of a battered wife, Tempe learns why she didn’t embrace her Indian heritage. Under the guidance of a shaman, she does a star ceremony which opens her eyes to much of what is going on.

Kindred Spirits came about while I was visiting in Crescent City, California and met a Tolowa woman. We became instant friends and she told me all about the Tolowa people who were nearly wiped out when the white settlers came to the area. I knew I had to write a book with her in it. She had such a dynamic personality, she became two important characters. Tempe goes to Crescent City to learn more about a murder victim found after a wild fire in the mountains above Bear Creek. During her stay she learns about the Tolowa’s encounters with Big Foot.

While doing research about Big Foot on the Internet for the earlier book, I came across a webpage that tells about a creature called the Hairy Man who roams in the mountains near the Tule River Reservation. I was fortunate to go on a field trip with the local college’s anthropology class to a rock shelter with pictographs of the Hairy Man and his family. While there, I knew Tempe would have an encounter with the Hairy Man and Dispel the Mist is the book where it happens.

The latest, Invisible Path, also has its roots in my visit to the rock shelter. A short distance from there, at the end of the paved reservation road, there is rehabilitation center for Indians with drug and alcohol abuse problems. I decided the next book should have something to do with the rehab center and some of the young men on the reservation.

The book that will come out this fall is title Bears With Us and the ideas began when my police office grandson began telling about his encounters with bears while he was on the job. At the same time, we had a few bear visitations in our little town. I asked him lots and lots of questions and got plenty of great answers.

I am quick to let people know that I am writing fiction. Though I borrow a lot from the Tule River Reservation and the Indians who live there, the stories and the characters come from my imagination. Despite that, I often run into Indians who say, “Oh, you’re the woman who writes about us.”

Though I’m not a Native American myself, I have a great-granddaughter who is ¼ Tule River Indian and a daughter-in-law whose father is a full-blooded Yaqui. In fact, she looks a lot like I envision Tempe.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll run out of ideas for this series, but so far that hasn’t been a problem.

Bio: 1Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Native American Tempe is the resident deputy of the town of Bear Creek, which has a great resemblance to Springville. Invisible Path is the 9th in this series and can be purchased in the usual places and is also available on Kindle. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press.

Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com

Breaking Horses to Harness

A fascinating look at what is involved in breaking horses to harness and the sort of things they need to be exposed to. Obviously not all of these training experiences would be applicable before the internal combustion engine was created, but there would still be a lot a horse would have to learn to tolerate without panicking. The dangers or cart horses is clearly illustrated by the death of six-year-old Lena Russo in New York's Lower East Side in 1922 when a cart horse bolted and plowed into the family.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Before eBay there was Sears, Roebuck

Before there was an Internet, even before telephones and electricity were common in American homes, buying household good could be done from the comfort of your living room. Americans have always loved convenience. The first drive-through restaurant, the first automatic car wash, the first assembly line were all American inventions designed to make like easier and more convenient. Before the nineteenth century rolled out you could buy anything from groceries to houses through the mail, have it guaranteed and on credit. A Sears, Roebuck home ordered through the mail would go for a little more than a $1,000.00 and would be shipped by rail to anywhere in the US. Some of the Sears’ houses still stand, surely a testament to their quality. How many homes built today will be standing in 2120?

Browsing through an 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue is a fascinating glimpse into the past. Into a past where there was no FDA or USDA to set rules on the safety of items sold, even the ones meant to be taken internally. You could buy tinctures of arsenic, belladona, digitalis and of course laudanum, a liquid heroin mixture. Turpentine was sold for internal use. Many of these concoctions were sold as cure-alls for ailments we haven’t even heard of today.

For instance, you could purchase Peruvian Wine of Coca, It was “urgently recommended” for such ailments as cures for anemia, impurity, impoverishment of the Blood, Consumption, weakness of the lungs, asthma, Nervous debility, loss of appetite, Malarial Complaints, Biliousness, Stomach Disorder, Dyspepsia, Languor and fatigue, Obesity, Loss of Forces and Weakness caused by excess and similar Diseases of the same nature. It was especially recommended for persons in delicate health and convalescents.

Or try Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers. Sarsaparilla would cure scrofula tuberculoses. ‘Female pills’ containing one or more abortifacients that carried the warning that they must be taken carefully for female troubles. Many of these compounds were concocted by Sears, Roebuck themselves and came with money back guarantees. The ingredients were never listed in either the catalogue or on the products themselves. No way of knowing what dosage you were getting or ever exactly what was in each potion. It was truly buyer beware in those days.

On a lighter side, you could buy an Electric Washer made of the best Virginia white cedar for $3.50. An Acme Hay Tedder could be had for $21.00. For $19.95 you could purchase the 1897 Encyclopedia Britannica. A Columbus A Grade Canopy Top Park Wagon Surrey went for $79.00 or $76.63 if you sent cash.

Sears, Roebuck offered discounts for cash and encouraged club purchases where several people would send in order together for more discounts. Sears, Roebuck also introduced monthly payments for their pricier objects. To give an idea of what the prices mean, a dollar in 1897 had a consumer price index of $26.70 or a GDP Deflator value of $23.60.

These catalogues are a wonderful glimpse into a different world long gone.

Richard Sears illustrated the cover of his 1894 catalog declaring it the "Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone," and the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth," claiming that "Our trade reaches around the World." Sears also knew the importance of keeping customers, boldly stating that "We Can’t Afford to Lose a Customer."

Sears, Roebuck & Co.