Note: This week’s post is part of a monthly series in which I take pleasure in introducing fiction writers whom I’ve read and admired. I’m pleased to present J. R. Lindermuth, a prolific author of historical mystery thrillers. I recently read his novel Watch the Hour, set in Pennsylvania’s coal mining country in the 1870s. It’s a tale of class struggle, forbidden love, and vengeful death. Great reading. I recommend it highly, and I know I’m going to read a lot more of John Lindermuth’s work in coming months and years. Lucky for us all, John writes book after book!
I asked J. R. Lindermuth to contribute a piece for this blog, telling us what “The Joy of Story” means to him. He has written about the pleasures of scouting out locations for his historical thrillers.
I turn the mike over to J. R. Lindermuth.
Location, location, location.
That’s the theme in real estate, and I believe it applies equally to fiction. Certainly character is essential to story. But our characters don’t exist in a vacuum. If we want them to be believable, they must have place.
I love the challenge of creating the right place for my characters.
Though they realize a story is fiction, most readers demand a semblance of truth—even if your story is pure fantasy. They want what they’re reading to seem realistic. Should they note something they know to be false, the writer is certain to hear about it. Lester Dent, a prolific and masterful pulp writer, urged the use of a familiar locale, one in which you’ve lived or worked, to avoid the embarrassment of making mistakes obvious to the reader.
You can also resolve the problem through research—either through experience (the best kind) or by other means. Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County doesn’t exist save in our minds, but I’ll wager more than one reader has gone looking for it on maps. In many ways, setting has the same aspects as another character and the two can complement one another.
My Sticks Hetrick mystery series is set in a town of my creation, which meant I was free to lay out the streets, describe the homes and other structures and develop businesses as I saw fit. In a review of one of them, Judy Clemens, author of the Grim Reaper and Crown mystery series, said I did “…a wonderful job of bringing his fictional small Pennsylvania town to life by getting us into the minds of a multitude of characters.” Coming from a writer for whom I have great respect, I believe I did my homework on this one.
I made the job a bit more difficult for myself with the Sylvester Tilghman series, which is set in Arahpot, a fictional Pennsylvania town in a different time period—the late 19th century. Since I love research nearly as much as writing, enhanced by my experience in the newspaper business and as a genealogist, it has been more of a joy than a challenge.
Sooner Than Gold is a sequel to Fallen From Grace and the second in the Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman historical mystery series. Check it out:
It’s the summer of 1898. The nation, just coming out of an economic slump, has been at war with Spain since April. And Sylvester Tilghman, sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, has a murder victim with too many enemies.
There’s Claude Kessler, who is found standing with a knife in his hand over the body of Willis Petry.
There’s Rachel Webber, Petry’s surly teen-aged stepdaughter, who admits an act intended to cause him harm.
Then there’s the band of gypsies who claim Petry is the goryo who stole one of their young women.
If this isn’t enough to complicate Tilghman’s life, add in threats to his job by McClean Ruppenthal, former town burgess; a run-in with a female horse thief; scary predictions by a gypsy fortuneteller, and the theft of Doc Mariner’s new motorcar.
There’s plenty of good eating, church-going and socializing along the way. And, before all is over, Sylvester solves the crime and even comes a little closer to his goal of finally marrying longtime girlfriend Lydia Longlow.
Sooner Than Gold has just been published by Oak Tree Press.
The author of 12 novels, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new every day.