Dressed for Summer Fun

7-23 PicnicThere’s noth­ing bet­ter than a sum­mer pic­nic, along with a few sum­mer games. It’s time to look in my “many years ago” file. I found a pic­ture from a Sun­day School pic­nic with chil­dren dressed to enjoy a lot of fun.

Umm, real­ly? The year was 1908. The chil­dren gath­ered at the church, then marched to the pic­nic grounds, accom­pa­nied by a band. A dec­o­rat­ed wag­on car­ried those too young to walk. The activ­i­ties includ­ed a pro­gram with drills, music, and address­es by promi­nent speak­ers. Final­ly, a free sup­per wrapped up the event. But not before the accom­pa­ny­ing pho­to was tak­en.

Where were the children’s games, the splash­ing in water, Where7-23 sack race
were the races? I remem­ber those— three-legged race, wheel­bar­row race, all num­ber of ways to give the lit­tle ones a fun time. And, don’t for­get the gun­ny sack race. (Got­ta be dressed just right for that one.)

7-23-Goat race 2Speak­ing of being dressed just right, and races as well—how about a goat race? Twen­ty-five years ago, that was on the sum­mer pic­nic agen­da. And of course, the goat had to be dressed for the occa­sion. (Don’t know if this was the win­ner, the los­er, or just the most pho­to­genic.)

Do you remem­ber school pic­nics in your past? Maybe there are some in your present and future. (Or, do they still have them?)

Five Stars for A Hostage To Heritage

7-20 Adair coverI can’t believe I haven’t already pro­filed this book on my Mon­day book blog. It’s one of my very favorites—not only mys­tery, but his­to­ry as well! My com­ments from Ama­zon and Goodreads fol­low.

Suzanne Adair has pre­sent­ed the read­ing pub­lic with anoth­er excel­lent his­toric mys­tery adven­ture. This book is Michael Stoddard’s sto­ry. He’s a British offi­cer in Amer­i­ca at the time of our Rev­o­lu­tion. The ear­li­er books in this series tell the sto­ries of Amer­i­cans dur­ing that time, and a few of the char­ac­ters appear in all of the books. They, and this one as well, show the con­flict­ing loy­al­ties of peo­ple in our past, includ­ing the Eng­lish Michael. Besides that, there’s the main sto­ry of a miss­ing young boy and how Michael and his sec­ond in com­mand worked toward find­ing the boy while also fol­low­ing their com­mand­ing officer’s orders. I won’t say more, don’t want to ruin the sto­ry for any­one.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed to lovers of his­to­ry, and mys­tery. This book sat­is­fies on every lev­el! It’s a mys­tery with great char­ac­ters, sol­id his­to­ry, sus­pense, and emo­tion. It’s his­tor­i­cal fic­tion with reveal­ing atti­tudes and war-time dan­ger. It’s a char­ac­ter study with “real” fic­tion­al peo­ple who had a past and will have a future. It’s roman­tic sus­pense with antic­i­pa­tion. And final­ly, it’s emo­tion trans­ferred from words on paper (or, in my case, on Kin­dle) to the read­er.

I’ll send you to Suzanne’s Ama­zon page where all her books are list­ed (mys­ter­ies of our Rev­o­lu­tion in the South­ern states) and Suzanne’s web­site and blog. Her blog hosts guest authors with a wide vari­ety of books, often includ­ing give­aways. (Always inter­est­ing.) 

A Scottish Connection

US Womens Golf Leaders

US Wom­ens Golf Lead­ers

Our local news is all about the US Women’s Open golf tour­na­ment at the Lan­cast­er Coun­try Club—just a hop, skip, and jump away from my home. I real­ly should hon­or that by pro­fil­ing a golf­ing mys­tery that I’ve read. Except—I haven’t read any golf­ing mys­ter­ies. So, what’s my next best idea? Hmmm.

Golf, an ancient game, orig­i­nat­ed in Scot­land, right? And—I do have a book in my favorites file called, ta, da…What Hap­pens In Scot­land. No golf any­where. Not even a mys­tery. An his­toric romance, almost a bodice rip­per. So not what I usu­al­ly like. But, I read this book with great plea­sure.

7-13 What Happens coverHere is my five star review of What Hap­pens In Scot­land: “I absolute­ly had to get this book after I read a page or two. What’s not to pull a read­er in? Lady Geor­gette find­ing her­self, a respectable young wid­ow, in bed with a stranger. Although this is his­toric romance, there is def­i­nite­ly an air of mys­tery. Who is the bound­er? How did the lady find her­self in the sit­u­a­tion, where were her clothes, and why was there bro­ken glass all over the floor?

You’ve got to admit, with a begin­ning like that, where can the sto­ry go? I tell you, it improves! Not only is the action rol­lick­ing and filled with per­il, the unex­pect­ed twists and turns keeps a read­er up until the wee hours. I fin­ished this in record time, and wished it had been longer.

Okay, my review doesn’t tell you much. I’ll include the offi­cial blurb.

Jen­nifer McQuiston’s debut his­tor­i­cal romance, What Hap­pens in Scot­land, is a live­ly, roman­tic adven­ture about a wed­ding that nei­ther the bride or the groom remem­bers.

Lady Geor­gette Thorold has always been wary of mar­riage, so when she wakes up next to an attrac­tive Scots­man with a wed­ding ring on her fin­ger, it’s easy to under­stand why she pan­ics and flees. Con­vinced that Geor­gette is a thief, her maybe hus­band, James McKen­zie, search­es for her. As both try to recall what hap­pened that fate­ful night, they begin to real­ize that their attrac­tion and desire for each oth­er is unde­ni­able. But is it enough?
There are hid­den caves and mid­night horse rides, if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, but nary a golf club in sight.

Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admi­ral Cock­burn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesa­peake Bay until 1813. Rear Admi­ral Sir George Cock­burn was giv­en the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy sup­plies of grain and live­stock, and ter­ror­ize the pop­u­la­tion in gen­er­al. In late April he reached Kent Coun­ty, Mary­land. His force con­sist­ed of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a num­ber of ten­ders and barges. The British raid­ed How­ell Point and bom­bard­ed the land throw­ing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smoke­house, hen­house and sheep pen, and killed cat­tle. The mili­tia arrived in time to pre­vent the ene­my from car­ry­ing off the cat­tle and to fire at the retreat­ing boats.

The British con­tin­ued up the bay, lsy­ing waste by plun­der­ing French­town, and raid­ing and burn­ing Havre de Grace.

Cock­burn next turned to George­town, but he was frus­trat­ed by the intri­ca­cy of the Sas­safrass Riv­er. He kid­napped a local res­i­dent to act as his pilot and sent word that if the res­i­dents didn’t resist, George­town would be spared and pro­vi­sions they took paid for. How­ev­er the mili­tia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the mili­tia aban­doned the fight and melt­ed away. The British torched thir­teen dwellings and out­build­ings, cobbler’s shop, tav­ern, a gra­nary and store­house. How­ev­er, some homes were saved. (Local leg­end has it that the British spared sev­er­al homes due to the actions of  Miss Kit­ty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elder­ly neigh­bors. The Kit­ty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kit­ty Knight House today

As Cock­burn and his forces returned to the Chesa­peake the news of burn­ing and loot­ing had its effects. Resis­tance had died. The Brits paid for sup­plies and returned the pilot to his home. How­ev­er, they came back in August with a dif­fer­ent intent.

This is anoth­er blog of my “His­to­ry of The War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay” series. Since my next mys­tery will take place dur­ing a reen­act­ment of that war, I’ve dis­cov­ered many inter­est­ing facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exact­ly true.

 

 

Missing Link-A Prairie Connection

6-11 Chestnut GroveA farm, owned by a waste man­age­ment author­i­ty can not be good, right?

Well, the obvi­ous is not always what hap­pens. The 170-acre Riv­er Hills farm, owned by the Lan­cast­er Coun­ty (PA) Sol­id Waste Man­age­ment Author­i­ty has become a prairie of sorts. After a three-year, $1.2 mil­lion makeover, native grass­es, wild flow­ers, shrubs, and trees have been plant­ed. Wet lands and walk­ing trails have been estab­lished. The area is now a pas­sive recre­ation area that con­nects exist­ing ones in case one wants to hike a con­tin­u­ous six and a half miles.

Our local LNP News­pa­per had the sto­ry ear­li­er this week. To read the full sto­ry and see a video with an overview of the area and a small lake check out their arti­cle. See what time and mon­ey can do to con­vert land that first pro­duced corn, then dirt (to cov­er land­fill), and final­ly became a nature pre­serve.

 

Craney Island — Another War of 1812 Episode

Battle of Craney Island

Bat­tle of Craney Island

In June, 1813, the British were cocky. They had only encoun­tered inef­fec­tive local mili­tia. They had block­ad­ed Chesa­peake Bay and chased the frigate U.S.F. Con­stel­la­tion into Nor­folk, VA. At Craney Island, pro­tect­ing both Hamp­ton Roads and ship­yards at Portsmouth and Nor­folk, VA, was a small mil­i­tary con­tin­gent. In every land bat­tle so far, the Amer­i­cans had run rather than fight over­whelm­ing odds. The British did not expect much oppo­si­tion.

Instead, they planned to cap­ture the island, con­tin­ue on to the larg­er Vir­ginia cities, and cap­ture the strand­ed frigate. Accord­ing to a lieu­tenant from the Con­stel­la­tion who vis­it­ed the blockad­ing fleet under a flag of truce, the British offi­cers said they would strike at the ship soon, vow­ing that “they must & will have it!”

USS Constellation-1812

The British became the vic­tims of their own over­ween­ing arro­gance,” says Mary­land his­to­ri­an Christo­pher T. George, author of “Ter­ror on the Chesa­peake: The War of 1812 on the Bay” and edi­tor of the Jour­nal of the War of 1812.

They thought they were fac­ing ill-trained rus­tics. So they rowed in as if they were just wait­ing to be shot at. They were sit­ting ducks.”

General Robert Taylor

Gen­er­al Robert Tay­lor

As Gen­er­al Tay­lor wrote in his let­ter of July 4, 1813, to the Sec­re­tary of War: “The whole force on the island at the time of the attack, con­sist­ed of 50 rifle­men, 446 infantry of the line, 91 state artillery, and 150 sea­men and marines fur­nished by Capt. Tar­bell. Of these, 43 were on, the sick list.”

He added, “I can­not with­hold my grate­ful acknowl­edg­ments to Com. Cassin, Capt. Tar­bell, and the offi­cers and crew of the Con­stel­la­tion and gun­boats, who have in every instance aid­ed our oper­a­tions with a cor­dial­i­ty, zeal and abil­i­ty, not to be sur­passed.”

The ship’s crew helped, but as British Napi­er lament­ed in his jour­nal, “A sharp can­non­ade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, with­out return­ing a shot.”

The British did not cap­ture the Con­stel­la­tion, and they left the area with­out attack­ing Nor­folk.

The report­ed num­ber of British casu­al­ties var­ied by source. There were approx­i­mate­ly 80 killed, wound­ed and miss­ing. One barge was cap­tured and at least two more were severe­ly dam­aged. The defend­ers did not suf­fer any casu­al­ties in the first major War of 1812 vic­to­ry on Chesa­peake Bay.

The British had all the advan­tages. They had the num­bers. They had the fire­pow­er — and they should have won,” said for­mer Vir­ginia War Muse­um direc­tor John V. Quarstein.

You can’t go vis­it Craney Island today. It’s not immor­tal­ized by a song like the ‘Star-Span­gled Ban­ner,’” he adds.

But the bat­tle there was the first big Amer­i­can vic­to­ry in a long string of defeats on the Chesa­peake Bay — and it deserves to be bet­ter remem­bered.”

War of 1812 — Kent Island

In August, 1813, Cap­tain Charles Gor­don, U.S.N. said, “MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the ene­my have tak­en pos­ses­sion of Kent Island, and that the inhab­i­tants of every descrip­tion have removed to the main land…From the cir­cum­stance of land­ing can­non on Kent Island, it appears to be the inten­tion of the ene­my to keep pos­ses­sion of it for some time; and cer­tain­ly a more eli­gi­ble sit­u­a­tion could not have been select­ed for their own safe­ty and con­ve­nience or from which to annoy us.”

Burning in Kent County

Burn­ing in Kent Coun­ty

Indeed, on August 5, the British, with two thou­sand men and sev­en­teen ships, took over the island. British Admi­ral John Bor­lase described Kent Island as a “valu­able & beau­ty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a cen­tral Point between Annapo­lis, Bal­ti­more, Wash­ing­ton and the East­ern Ports of the State of Mary­land.” After they pre­pared the island, they launched raids on St. Michaels and Queen­stown. How­ev­er, they left on August 27 to sail to their win­ter quar­ters.

One rea­son they left so soon was because of the heavy storms they had encoun­tered in the pre­vi­ous Sep­tem­ber.

This bit of his­to­ry and oth­ers that I’ve shared added to the reen­act­ment of the for­got­ten War of 1812 in my upcom­ing mys­tery—For­got­ten Body. In fact, some I’ve read today means I have to change a few things in that upcom­ing man­u­script. Saved me from a major his­tor­i­cal boo-boo. Of course, since all the char­ac­ters live in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, any mis­state­ments they make could be blamed on igno­rance. But Jo (my amateur/reluctant sleuth) is smarter than that.

I just said that, didn’t I? My char­ac­ter is a person—not an exten­sion or imag­i­na­tion of my brain. As a writer, does that hap­pen to you too? As a read­er, do you think of the char­ac­ters as paper dolls or real peo­ple? As a read­er, when I enjoy a book, I’m firm­ly in the “real peo­ple” mind set.

 

A War of 1812 Prank

One of my favorite sou­venirs from our years sail­ing Chesa­peake Bay waters was a small book from St. Michaels, Mary­land, The Town That Fooled The British. Besides detail­ing day-to-day activ­i­ties and prepa­ra­tions for war and telling the sto­ry of sav­ing the ship-build­ing com­mu­ni­ty from British attack, it told about Jacob Gibson’s Prank.

In April 1813, Mr. Gib­son farmed Sharp’s Island (now most­ly sunken). The British sized the island, impris­oned Mr. Gib­son, and con­fis­cat­ed his cat­tle and sheep. How­ev­er, they short­ly released him and even paid him for the ani­mals.

A few days lat­er, Jacob Gib­son, who was well known for his prac­ti­cal jokes, must have been feel­ing his oats. He and some of his slaves rowed and sailed a barge up Broad Creek toward St. Michaels, about fif­teen miles away. He tied a red ban­dana to the mast, and when they neared St. Michaels, he ordered one of the sailors to beat on an emp­ty rain bar­rel. (It might have been on a bright, moon­lit night.) The videttes (mount­ed sen­tries) rode to alert the town. The res­i­dents grabbed their stores of food and ani­mals and vacat­ed the town while the St. Michaels Patri­ot­ic Blues (the local mili­tia) stood ready to fight the ene­my. For­tu­nate­ly, they rec­og­nized his boat, and since Jacob was a quick talk­er as well as a big jok­er, he escaped with­out bod­i­ly injury. How­ev­er, he did give the town two six-pounder can­nons as a peace offer­ing.

And, those can­nons may (or may not—let’s not for­get these sto­ries were passed down by word of mouth before they were writ­ten down) have been help­ful in the lat­er defense of St. Michaels.

 

A Five Star Read-Under Any Title

Original Cover

Orig­i­nal Cov­er

The book is the first of the Perse­phone Cole Vin­tage Mys­tery Series tak­ing place in the ear­ly 1940s. The author is Heather Haven. I read this mys­tery a cou­ple of years ago. Was it called Perse­phone Cole and the Hal­loween Curse (the orig­i­nal title) or The Dag­ger Before Me? I don’t remem­ber. Was the cov­er the orig­i­nal one (pic­tured left) or the new one? Think it was the orig­i­nal, but, I read the book on my Kin­dle, so I’m not sure.

As I remem­ber the sto­ry, I like the first cov­er the best. Perse­phone (Per­cy for short) is big and beautiful—extra large size. She’s a sin­gle moth­er, liv­ing with the extend­ed fam­i­ly (space was a prob­lem) and help­ing her father in his detec­tive busi­ness. She’s deter­mined to suc­ceed at her first solo case. It’s in the the­ater, which is an added complication—since she doesn’t know that much about the­ater. But, she’s a good fak­er (she hopes). And so does the reader—pulling for Per­cy with every page.

There are so many great reviews of this title, I’d like to quote from a cou­ple of them:

Second Cover

Sec­ond Cov­er

Per­cy is cer­tain­ly not the stereo­typ­i­cal moth­er of the 1940s. She’s a tough woman with an atti­tude big enough to match her 5’11” frame. She pos­sess­es a sharp mind and an even sharp­er tongue. I love the way she han­dles peo­ple, men in par­tic­u­lar, who doubt her abil­i­ties as a detec­tive. Though she can be brash at times, Per­cy also knows how to turn on the charm when she needs to. I can just as eas­i­ly pic­ture her but­ter­ing up a poten­tial wit­ness with free food or rough­ing up a hos­tile one.

Here’s what anoth­er review­er had to say:

I found Per­cy engag­ing. I liked her mox­ie. Not exact­ly fem­i­nine, peo­ple “often remarked that between her wild hair, thin body, and daffy per­son­al­i­ty, she remind­ed them of a Dan­de­lion caught in a wind­storm.” (I like that word-pic­ture.) Per­cy does things like: “she popped a nut into her mouth and sep­a­rat­ed the meat from the shell with her teeth.” Haven offers delight­ful and “pun­ny” prose: “What col­or the inte­ri­or was sup­posed to be was dif­fi­cult to say. I’m going with drab.” Or how about this one—when Per­cy looks up at a man, we read: “It was nov­el, look­ing up to some­one not stand­ing on a steplad­der.”

And here’s my review:  Perse­phone Cole (Per­cy for short) is a female detec­tive in ear­ly 1940s New York dur­ing World War II. There’s great his­toric atmos­phere (sweaty because it’s a non-air-con­di­tioned heat spell) deal­ing with strange acci­dents in the the­ater dis­trict. She detects under­cov­er as a man­ag­er who doesn’t real­ly know that much about man­ag­ing, but she’s right up there with detect­ing, includ­ing gun-han­dling. The nice­ly con­vo­lut­ed plot kept me guess­ing, and the end­ing was whol­ly sat­is­fy­ing. Def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers of his­toric mys­tery (with sassy women).

I’m won­der­ing, why the title and cov­er change? I under­stand an author wish­ing to present the best face to her read­ers. And, since I do love this series, I hope it was a good choice. But I have to ask, which cov­er and which title do you like?

 

Book Party for THE CLIENT’S WIFE

cover-The Clients Wife2Yes, I went to a book par­ty last week, and I tell you—Thomas Wig­gin knows how to par­ty. Big room with chairs set up—check. A show­ing of a full movie—check. Cook­ies and popcorn—check. Adult beverages—yeah! Cof­fee and tea, sure—but choice of wine as well as mar­ti­nis, both gin and vodka—check! And, icing on the cake—the read­ing of a scene by the author who made it come alive. (After all, he had a long stint as a star­ring actor of both day­time and night­time TV—not to men­tion writ­ing episodes of the day­time dra­ma, then per­form­ing a one-man show he wrote.)

Of course, that’s beside the point. The impor­tant part of a book par­ty author signing 2is the book. And, get­ting a new slant on the where, why, and how of the author’s inspi­ra­tion and car­ry-through of that book.

Thomas Wig­gin was inspired by his par­ents, the Gersh­win music they loved, and the Nick and Nora Charles movies of the 1930s. So how did those things all come togeth­er?

Mr. Wig­gin had an answer for that. In those old movies, Nick and Nora had a son, Nick, Jr. What we didn’t know is that Nick, Jr. was not into the detec­tive scene, but his daugh­ter Emma was. Yes, Emma Charles spent time with her grand­par­ents. She learned to love Gersh­win, inves­ti­ga­tions, and mar­ti­nis. As the book, The Client’s Wife begins, Emma has left her job with the police depart­ment and has begun her own detec­tive agency. All she needs is to find a man who appre­ci­ates the fin­er things of life. Gersh­win, good Eng­lish, and the kind of rela­tion­ship her grand­par­ents had. (All this, of course, while solv­ing crime cas­es.)

I’ve only start­ed read­ing my new, signed copy of The Client’s Wife. It’s head­ing toward my five-star cat­e­go­ry.