Friday, May 31, 2019

Letter From A Former Slave To His Former Master by Warren Bull

Letter From A Former Slave To His Former Master by Warren Bull

Image by Benjamin Lambert on Upsplash

The letter was first published in the Cincinnati Commercial August 7, 1865, and subsequently reprinted in a NY newspaper and anthology as Letter from a Freedman to his Old Master.

The letter from Jourdon Anderson to his former master, Patrick Henry Anderson, is such a great example of the power of the written word and the resilience of the human spirit that I want to share it with WWK readers. It is printed below.
A bit of background helps to understand the correspondence. After 32 years of service, Jourdon Anderson and his wife, Amanda, were freed by Union soldiers in 1864. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Jourdon received a desperate letter from Patrick Henry Anderson, the man who used to own him. Patrick Henry asked Jourdon to return to work on the plantation and rescue his ailing business.
As an enslaved person, Jourdon had never learned to read and write. State law made teaching slaves to read and write a crime. One Tennessee slaveholder, when informed that a slave was secretly studying writing suggested the that slave’s right hand should be cut off. 

Jourdon dictated the following:

Dayton, Ohio.

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house.

I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here.
I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville.
Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio.
If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine.
I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.
Jourdon Anderson never returned to Big Spring, Tennessee. He passed away in 1907, aged 81, and is buried alongside his wife who died six years later. Together they had a total of eleven children.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

When Does A Writer Stop Writing?

As I approach a very big birthday—a birthday well past the usual age of retirement—I ask myself: when will I stop writing? All of my non-writer friends are now retired. Some of them babysit young grandchildren. Most of them play canasta or Mahjongg. Regardless of their activities, their working days are over. Mine sure aren't. I find that I'm busier than ever writing mysteries, promoting my books, writing blogs, and going to conferences. My writer friends are doing pretty much the same. Which makes me wonder—when does a writer stop writing?

Like me, many of my writer friends pursued other careers in their earlier years. Some were teachers, librarians, journalists, lawyers. The list goes on. Perhaps it's because we started our career as fiction writers later in life that we continue into our sixties, seventies, and eighties. Writing books, fulfilling contracts, doing readings—whatever the job requires.

These past ten years I appreciated having had books to write and writing-related chores to carry out to keep me on track. Writing fills my days as it gives my days structure. I found this especially valuable when my husband was very ill then died; when I was in treatment for Stage Four Lymphoma. I had an obligation to finish a book. Though I'm currently under contract, I'm pretty sure I'd continue to write more books even if I weren't. I would return to series that I had to abandon in order to work on other books. Spending time each day writing at my computer has become a way of life.

Sometimes I wish I had more free time—to lunch more frequently with friends and not have to work into the evening. I suppose the day will come when I'll realize I can no longer fulfill my writing obligations, and I'll stop doing what's been my life these past thirty-some-odd years. Then I'll write my last chapter, bid good-bye to my readers, and spend my days reading and socializing—or whatever retired people do. But until then I'll continue to write for as long as I can.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

An Interview with James M. Jackson by E. B. Davis

An interview with James M. Jackson by E. B. Davis

Seamus McCree returns to his native Boston to bury his Uncle Mike, a retired Boston police captain, who has been murdered. Seamus has been named executor of the estate, which is easy enough for him to settle. But he soon learns Uncle Mike has left a second, secret legacy - and that triggers an earthquake's worth of problems. Added to his troubles is the discovery that Uncle Mike's killer is now gunning for Seamus and his family.
Seamus must find a path through a labyrinth of lies and secrets stemming from his father's death more than forty years earlier and resolve all of Uncle Mike's legacies before the killer can strike again.

In James M. Jackson’s sixth in the Seamus McCree series, False Bottom, he starts with Seamus having a hangover from Uncle Mike’s wake for which he paid. His mother states, “Then it was stupid and a waste of your own money. You should suffer.” As unmotherly as his mother is, Trudy fascinates me. She’s cutthroat honest, and yet, she’s full of secrets, which is where, I suspect, her attributes as a mother are hidden. Which is why I will follow this series. It’s all about family, a Boston-based Irish Catholic family, whose sons have done well monetarily and who have a sense of justice. Remind you of another family, who is equally fascinating?

I think Jim has a winner of a series in unwinding the secrets of this family. Too fast moving to be a saga, it still imparts multigenerational dimensions along with the changing values of each era. Additional characters, who come out of hiding, have been and will continue to please readers, especially me.

Please ask WWK’s Jim Jackson questions about this sixth novel in his series.                                                                                                     E. B. Davis 

Seamus made his career as a bank stock analyst. Why bank stocks?

I had a number of banks as clients when I was a consultant, and I figured I knew enough to cover Seamus’s backstory.

Why are cops so sentimental about their Crown Victorias’? Seems to me, the new Dodge Chargers they’re using now are better.

Uncle Mike comes from a generation of cops where Crown Vics were the ride of choice. They’re big; they’re heavy; they’re comfortable; and they reminded Mike of the “good old days.”

I’m always surprised by Seamus’s mother Trudy. Does she endorse the adage “an eye for an eye?”

Trudy is an Old Testament kind of woman. No “turn the other cheek” for her. She is all about tribe (family), and when she or her kin are threatened, she goes on the offensive.

What was the purpose of Uncle Mike’s secret fund?

[Spoiler alert] Uncle Mike and his friends used the secret fund to take care of children and surviving spouses of fallen police officers. They believed politicians didn’t do enough.

When Seamus doesn’t eat, Paddy worries. But for the Happy Reaper, fasting is a good preparation. Is the assassin much younger than Seamus or is Seamus already too skinny?

Depression affects people in different ways. Some eat to excess; Seamus shuts down and forgets to take care of himself. Paddy knows Seamus not eating is a warning sign.

Tell readers about Seamus’s older sister who was MIA for over thirty years. Why did she change her name from Fiona McCree to Ailish Jardine?

[Spoiler Alert] Fiona McCree was “Daddy’s Little Girl” and idolized the father she lost when she was 14. Seamus, three years younger, turned to gangs and eventually sports for male-bonding. Fiona chose as her crutches religion and a fanatical defense of the McCree family name. When Trudy “disrespected” her father through her actions, Fiona gave up the family name and chose her own. Ailish means “God is my oath.” She thought she picked Jardine because of a crush on Beach Boy Al Jardine. Trudy suggests her real motivation was because it comes from the same roots as Gairden, her father’s name.

Uncle Mike, who helped raise Seamus had three rules he had to follow. When he violated one, he suffered a broken nose. What are his three rules, and were they ones you had to follow?

1.     Respect your mother (his father was dead).
2.     Stand up for whatever you believe in, regardless of the personal consequences.
3.     Never drink alone.

I was brought up to respect all elders (and mostly complied). My parents were just a step away from teatotalers. Mike’s drinking rule has more to do Irish history of alcohol abuse. My parents thought beliefs were important but not all battles are worth fighting. They wanted me to make my own decisions.

Trudy knows about Uncle Mike’s secret money. Everything seems to be a secret in this family.
Why won’t she tell Seamus the truth?

Trudy has one story she believes is too painful for her to ever share. Because of that event, she built walls around her past, even going so far as to remain silent for decades. We learn from our parents. Seamus is more open than Trudy, but he’s guarded. Paddy rebels and breaks the mold, believing there should be no secrets.

Why does Seamus’s sense of morality confuse Trudy?

Trudy understands those for whom ends always justify the means, and she understands those who have lines they will not cross. Seamus’s sense of right and wrong is more fluid, and she isn’t quite sure what Seamus will do with the mess Uncle Mike left him.

Trudy is precise in her language and fine motor skills—so is Seamus. What did he get from his father?

Seamus gets most of his physical attributes from his father. His sense of responsibility to society came largely from his dad.

Paddy seems hyper-vigilant about Seamus’s heath. But he’s only 55. How did Paddy get to be such a mother hen?

Despite his age, Paddy is the most mature McCree, and that’s part of what causes him to worry when his father doesn’t take care of himself. I suspect every son measures himself against his father using a variety of comparisons. Physical ones are the most obvious. In the early novels Paddy tested things like speed and endurance and the father and son joked about it. Now, Paddy is reaching his physical peak and notices his father is slowing a step or two.

Paul Revere had to row before he rode? I didn’t know that. Tell us the story, please.

Revere lived in Boston. In order to alert patriots in the outlying towns of British movements, he needed to slip past British guards. He rowed to a waiting horse; his compatriot William Dawes managed to ride past soldiers on the Boston Neck. The two met in Charlestown and traveled together to Lexington. Here’s a more complete story:

Is it true? Over a certain age, guys don’t confide in their mothers?

I suppose there are exceptions to the rule.

What is a Swan boat?

They are in the Boston Public Garden. Here’s a link to provide the details:

If you were resuming traditional publishing, would you whitewash the language? You used five POVs. Would you reduce that number?

Swearing is not the taboo it once was. I tell gritty stories and many of my characters curse. I won’t change them. My rule on point-of-view is to use only as many as I think I need to tell the story. Used well, it’s a technique that adds suspense because the reader often knows more than the protagonist. The spinoff series I am working on, for which I may solicit agent representation, also uses multiple POVs.

Seamus is trying to recover from his grief of losing Abigail when his “Uncle” Mike O’Malley dies. He also suffers a friend’s death and a broken ankle in this book. The title, False Bottom, sounds like the next one will sink Seamus. Is the title a foretelling?

False Bottom has several meanings in this story, running the gamut from a physical false bottom in a drawer to the mistaken belief that we can know when we’ve hit a low so bad there is no where to go but up.

Seamus may always have to struggle with depression, but without giving anything away, I’m happy to say that he is now on the road to physical and mental recovery.

You left two important elements to answer in the next book. What’s next for Seamus?

I had planned to set the next Seamus McCree novel back at his camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. However, early readers wanted answers to the questions you mention, and that story needs to take place in Boston. As a compromise, I’ve started a Seamus McCree novella that will address those reader needs.

Thanks for reading False Bottom and preparing this interview, Elaine.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tattoos and Other Revelations

When I first met Tai Randolph, the protagonist of my series, I didn't know her name. I knew only that the person I was meeting was quick and smart and had a head full of riotous dirty blond curls. I also knew that she spoke with the cadences of Lowcountry Savannah, that she smoked Winston Lights, that she wore broken-in jeans and low-heeled boots with good tread, boots for working.

But how did these traits coalesce into one person, an individual like no other, a character?

I wish I could tell you. I've pondered it myself. It feels less like technique and more like alchemy. I have decided that it's part of what writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls "big magic," that mysterious process of search and recovery that is like diving into deep water and then feeling around in the sand at the bottom until your hand closes on something. Then it's bringing that artifact up from the blue dark into the mottled light. And then you say, "Aha! A tattoo! She has a tattoo!"

This tattoo.
She had another, but she didn't tell me about it until later. And eventually she got a third in Reckoning and Ruin, the fifth book in the series, but this flaming arrow in a flaming bow was tattooed on her bicep when I first met her.

That's how it is sometimes. My other character, Trey, was an enigma for me at the beginning. I knew he was attractive, with black hair and blue eyes. He was lean and fit and well-dressed. But he was also quiet, reserved, bordering on painfully shy at times. I knew there was something unusual about him, but I couldn't figure out what it was. And he wasn't telling. If I tried to pry him open, he'd just button his Armani jacket and give me a guarded look.

And then I read an article about frontal lobe injuries in Scientific American. I learned that if the brain's language centers are damaged in certain very specific ways, people can become highly sensitive to deception. In short, they become human lie detectors. And like a key, this information opened the door on the room where Trey kept his secrets. He still won't tell me things, not directly. But he trusts me enough now to give me keys to rooms I haven't yet discovered and lets me poke around when I find them.

I've also learned that I'm not the only writer who relates to her characters as people separate from her own imagination—many experts on the neuroscience of creativity explain that regarding our characters this way is a valuable and necessary way to tap the deeper wells of the writing process. My daughter says Tai and Trey are like members of the family now—their presence is palpable, and we gossip about their struggles and complications and discoveries in the same way that we discuss my flesh-and-blood relatives. This three-dimensional realness is what separates characters from caricatures. A bonus: interacting with well-rounded fictional characters is also valuable for readers, strengthening their sense of empathy and understanding (as a recent scientific study has demonstrated).

In my imagination, all characters are real; they simply inhabit a realm slightly apart from ours. Huck Finn and Miss Marple and Hermione Granger exist beyond a permeable veil. It is our job as authors to channel their stories into this world as clearly and cleanly as we can. This act feels more like discovery than creation (I'm not nearly the first writer to figure that out). And it means that the people in our heads can feel almost as alive as the people sharing the bus with us or sitting at the next cubicle.

My own life has been immensely enriched by getting to know Tai and Trey, by imagining the world through their eyes. And I have to admit, whenever I'm in Atlanta and hear the purr of a Ferrari engine or a burst of wicked female laughter, I can't resist looking around for them. They feel as close as my own shadow.
*     *     *

Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver mysteries. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is available now. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and has served as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories:

Monday, May 27, 2019


Profanity – Blasphemous or obscene language
Obscenity - An extremely offensive word or expression
            Among the controversies of the day, one issue rarely discussed any more is the use of obscene or profane language in fiction. Writers must decide what type of language their characters use. After all, a kindergarten teacher probably won’t use the same language as an inner-city cop working undercover on a drug case - if either of them spoke like the other, it wouldn’t be believable. The problem writers have is balancing realistic language with our readers' tolerance level. 
            That being said, I do NOT like books, TV shows or movies where profanity is used just to use it. On the other hand, neither will I refuse to read a book because some of the characters use the kind of four letter words my mother never expected to hear from my mouth. And, if I’m going to be completely honest, never have I hit my hand with a hammer or suffered some other painful injury and yelled, “Verily, verily, I hurt.” The day I slammed my hand in the door, not only my immediate neighbors but the ones three and four streets away received a rudimentary education in four letter words. Unfortunately, I slammed the door with my hand inside, and the rest of me outside, so the sound carried quite well.
            Mysteries come in all shapes and sizes, multiple genres, diverse settings, different language. For example, our own Jim Jackson has recently published his latest Seamus McCree novel, False Bottom. As Jim explains in his upcoming interview with Elaine Douts this Wednesday, “I tell gritty stories and many of my characters curse. I won’t change them.” That makes sense as the following quote from his character, the self-styled Happy Reaper, demonstrates:

He kept the radio tuned to news radio WBZ for anything useful related to Jerome Rozelle’s attack on Elisabeth. If he heard one more fucking political message, he’d shoot the jerks as a public service. Once he completed this job, he was vacationing abroad until the election was over. In his biography, Mark Twain had attributed to Prime Minister Disraeli the statement that there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. When today’s politicians spoke, it was a question only of which lie they chose. He supposed that since he didn’t vote, he shouldn’t complain—still, if political ads weren’t cruel and unusual punishment, what was?

James M. Jackson, False Bottom, Kindle Loc. 3521
            Equally, it makes sense in other settings and stories, the characters don’t curse. For example, my novel, Gambits and Games, (still seeking a home, by the way) is set in the small-town South where some men still apologize if they use curse words in front of a woman. (Really, they do; as recently as two weeks ago, I sat in a meeting where some strong language was used, only to have the sentence followed up immediately with an apology to me.)
            For example, my protagonist, Penny, makes the following observations about a politician as she walks into the courtroom:

A pit opened in my stomach when I saw Jim Krey, the state’s Attorney General, sitting at the prosecution table. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t stoop to handle a local prosecution. I wondered if he wanted to use William to punish me, but then dismissed the thought. Jim Krey had made it obvious for years he considered me beneath his and his family’s notice. A stranger observing him at the counsel table would see only a conscientious public servant. I knew better.
However, the unwritten rules of court etiquette in Alabama require opposing counsel to greet one another cordially, so as William sat, Boyd and I walked over to the prosecution table.

            But the fact that my characters in this book don’t use a lot of swear words doesn’t mean that down the road I won’t write another novel or story where characters do.
            The language our characters use gives the readers a clue both to the world the characters inhabit and to their own personality traits. The language the characters use both to speak with and to think with is an artistic choice the writer makes to help accomplish those twin goals.
            What is your tolerance for profanity? Would you refuse to read a book based upon the language used or not used? Have you read a book that is outside of your comfort zone where the language contains more or less swear words than you would normally encounter, and if so, what did you take away from the experience?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Interview with Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

Paramedic Zoe Chambers hoped a week at the Monongahela County Fair, showing her horse and manning the ambulance, would provide a much-needed diversion from recent events that continue to haunt her. An old friend, a bossy nemesis, and a teenage crush from her 4-H days fail to offer the distraction she had in mind. But ever the caregiver, she soon bonds with a troubled teen and a grieving father.

Back in Vance Township, a missing woman turns up dead, leading Police Chief Pete Adams into a journey through her mysterious final hours. With each new clue, the tragic circumstances of her death grow increasingly muddied.

A cryptic phone call leads Pete to join Zoe for an evening at the fairgrounds where the annual school bus demolition derby concludes with a gruesome discovery and a new case that may or may not be connected to the first. Pete’s quest for the motive behind two homicides—and Zoe’s stubborn determination to reunite a family—thrust them both onto a collision course with a violent and desperate felon.

One aspect of Annette Dashofy’s writing is her humorous mental notes that characters confide in the reader fostering a close relationship. What’s that? Here’s an example:

“Through the open door, he heard Nancy direct the visitor in his direction. A moment later, [Detective] Baronick strode in, a cup of Starbucks in each hand.

Pete was making progress in his attempts to train the detective.”                                       Kindle Loc. 3444

I love that Pete is mastering the too cocky younger detective and by hiring his little sister, Pete ups the competition. But the two know their priorities and cooperate to bring down the perps. But it’s those asides which made me love Annette’s writing.

In Fair Game, Zoe confronts her past and some hard truths, which impact her and Pete’s future. The main action occurs at the county fair, and for those of us who grew up in a rural area, the county fair was a big deal.                E. B. Davis

Is 4-H a big organization for kids in your area of PA? What does 4-H stand for?

I’m not sure if it’s as big now as when I was young, but it’s a wonderful organization and not just for farm kids. However, the number of 4-H livestock exhibits at the county fair seems just as high as ever. 4-H stands for head, heart, hands, and health. The pledge goes: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world. And no, I didn’t have to look it up! 

Are all Quarter-horses geldings? Is a Quarter horse one who specializes in racing the track one time, as in a quarter of a mile?

A gelding is a castrated male animal, so no, not all Quarter horses are geldings. A stallion is a male breeding animal. A mare is a female. Zoe’s Windstar is a gelding because he’s based on a real horse I raised, and he was also one. The “real” Windstar wasn’t nearly as well behaved as the one in the books.

What is an “open-halter” class?

An “open” class is one that anybody can enter, as opposed to a 4-H class in which participants must be members. A “halter” class is one in which the horse isn’t ridden but is shown in halter. Often in these, only the horse’s conformation is being judged but sometimes the handler is judged on their ability to show the horse as well.

Zoe feels that she’s shown poor judgment in choosing men until Pete. She doesn’t like Patsy’s current flame, but she also knows she can’t say anything to Patsy about the guy. Why?

Partly because, as you point out, Zoe hasn’t had a great track record with men either. And partly because of the age-old conundrum that if you trash-talk a friend’s chosen mate (even when he’s a jerk) you’re likely to drive that friend closer to the jerk just so she can prove you wrong. Zoe’s wise enough to know Patsy would likely come to Shane’s defense rather than heed Zoe’s warnings.

Zoe seems half-hearted about competing in a horse show. Why did she do it? Are her horse-show days over?

She thought they were over years ago! Showing is a lot of work, and she’d much rather simply trail ride. However, Patsy wants to show her horse, and the other two boarders at Zoe’s barn are 4-Hers going to the fair, which would leave Windstar home alone. Horses are herd animals and don’t fare well by themselves. Plus, Zoe thinks the change in scenery and routine might distract her from a lot of the “stuff” going on in her mind these days.
Being around people from her youth, who are still associated with the 4-H club, Zoe finds some of her past perceptions of those people are true, but others have changed or never were who she thought they were. Does time change our perception of the past or is our past frozen because of who we were then?

I believe our perceptions are always colored by our own situations and beliefs. I’d hate to think our pasts are frozen. Most people grow and change with what life throws at them. Of course, old hurts still sting and take more work to overcome!

When Zoe goes to autopsies, she wears butcher-shop chic. What makes up such an outfit?

Different coroner’s offices dictate different attire. In my fictional Monongahela County Coroner’s Office, Zoe wears surgical scrubs, a surgical gown, a waterproof apron, layers of Latex and Kevlar gloves, and rubber boots.

The first victim’s death was due to a subdural hemorrhage, bleeding in the brain. It can be caused by falling or by being beaten. Alcohol is often involved when a fall happens. But the effects of a subdural hemorrhage often make the victim appear drunk. Do they then test for alcohol in the bloodstream, which in and of itself may not reveal what happened?

Yes, they test for it, but lab results take time. And you’re right. The presence of alcohol doesn’t tell the whole story.

Zoe encounters her best-friend, Rose Bassi with her children at the fair. Rose has returned home to marry Detective Miguel Morales, who lives in New Mexico, as does Rose. She wants Zoe to be her maid of honor. Does this put pressure on Zoe and Pete or is it just Sylvia again?

I think Zoe definitely feels some pressure. She’s never been married and now her best friend is engaged for a second time. Pete’s already under his own internal pressure, but Sylvia sure isn’t helping!

Earl is also working part-time with Zoe at the fair. His daughter wants to join 4-H and his older boys want to experience the fair without constant parental supervision so they can troll for girls. They meet up with Luke, a boy their age, who is the son of a floozie and substance abuser Zoe knew from 4-H. Why is Zoe sympathetic to Luke?

Zoe sees a lot of herself in Luke. The kid loves horses, is something of a troublemaker, and doesn’t have a father in his life. Zoe understands (or thinks she does) where he’s coming from.

Cody DeRosa, a one-time heartthrob of Zoe’s youth, seems to be an outstanding man. He’s a judge for some of the horse contests. But he throws Zoe into a panic when he offers her a generous price to buy her horse, Windstar. What is there for Zoe to consider?

Zoe’s been conflicted for a while, struggling to make ends meet with her rundown farm and the expenses in keeping a horse. Pete wants her to sell the money pit and stay in town with him. Selling Windstar would be the financially smart thing to do. However, she’s had this horse since he was born and can’t imagine who she would be without him. Being a horsewoman is a huge part of her persona.

I’ve never heard of a PA school district allowing even junked buses to be used in a demolition derby. Is that done at the Monongahela County Fair?

It’s an annual event at the real Washington County Fair on which the Monongahela County Fair is based. And there are other school bus demo derbies around. You can do a YouTube search and find examples. Years ago, I did a story on our local one for Pennsylvania Magazine.

Throughout Fair Game, Zoe questions her judgment. Why? How can she investigate if she can’t trust herself?

In earlier books in the series, and especially in Cry Wolf, Zoe’s good sense has often taken a backseat to her desire to find family, either real or created. Losing her dad when she was young has impacted virtually every aspect of her life. She follows her heart more than her head. Yes, she needs to change that if she intends to be an effective investigator, but she’s still a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

What’s next for Zoe and Pete?

I’m in revision phase of the ninth book in the series (Under the Radar, coming February 2020), which finds Zoe and Pete investigating what may (or may not) be a case of an adult victim of bullying seeking payback against his tormentors. Oh, and Kimberly, Zoe’s mom, returns and tries to take over their plans for the future.