Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Tale Waiting to be Told

I’m deep in the process of doing the preliminary research for my next book in the Alafair Tucker series. For the last two or three books, I’ve begun by defamiliarizing myself with what was going on in the world during the specific years I’m writing about. I didn’t feel it was quite as important for me to do quite the detailed background historical research for the first two books, because the state of the outside world didn’t matter that much to Alafair in 1912 and 1913. But then the war started in Europe. Again, to a farm wife in the middlest of the middle of the United States, Europe seemed as far away as the moon in 1914. At first, Alafair was only vaguely interested in the events of the time. But now, I’m getting to a time period where the affairs of the mighty are intervening on her world whether she likes it or not.

If all goes as planned, I’d like to set the new book here in Arizona, where I live, rather than in Oklahoma, where Alafair lives. So here are the problems I have to solve before I even begin: 1. Why on earth would Alafair go to Arizona in the first place? 2. Once she gets there, what is going on that she could get herself involved in, how, and why?

Fortunately for me, I’ve discovered that in Oklahoma, the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916 were some of the rainiest months in years, accompanied by severe flooding in the eastern part of the state. Therefore, there was lots of flu and bronchitis going around - enough that it was mentioned in the newspapers of the time. Handily, in the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, Arizona was known as a place for people with chronic lung problems to come and let the dry air cure them.

There was a revolution going on in Mexico at the time, as well as the war in Europe. The Mexican Revolution interested the Germans no end, and there were lots of German “military advisers” in Mexico. The Germans would have been more than happy to see the U.S. invade Mexico, or vice-versa, so that the Americans would be too distracted to help the British or otherwise get involved in WWI.

Even better, in the first three months of 1916, residents of the entire Southwestern U.S. were hysterical over the possibility of a cross-border invasion from Mexico by the Revolutionary Army of Pancho Villa. In fact - and now that almost 100 years have passed, I can be happy about it - in March of 1916, the Villistas did exactly that, increasing the hysteria to a fever pitch.

Since God is good, and just for icing on the cake, during the winter of 1915-1916, a major (silent) motion picture, The Yaqui, starring Hobart Bosworth, was being shot in Tempe, the very town in which I currently reside.

Now, if I can’t make a story out of all that, I should have my epaulets ripped off.


Vicki Delany said...

The more things change, eh?

Donis Casey said...

You said it.

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