News Flash: Liz Milliron is the lucky winner of Charles’s book!
Edith here, delighted to welcome a new favorite historical mystery author to the blog.
I met Charles Fergus at the last in-person New England Crime Bake. Last year he wrote, wondering if I would offer an endorsement of Nighthawk’s Wing, his second Gideon Stoltz mystery. I’d said I’d take a look, and am so glad I did! One lucky commenter here will win a copy.
Here’s my honest assessment:
Fergus intrigues and entertains in this atmospheric page-turner of a historical mystery. He paints the landscape and the hardships of 1830s rural Pennsylvania with a detailed brush. Readers are right at Sheriff Gideon Stolz’s side as he tries to overcome memory loss from a concussion and solve a woman’s murder, or with his wife True on her own journey of recovery from loss and rediscovering herself. I was borne away by Nighthawk’s Wing, and you will be too.
Take it away, Charles.
Thanks, Edith, for inviting me to write a guest post for The Wickeds blog.
Nighthawk’s Wing is my twentieth book, my third novel, and the second in my Gideon Stoltz historical mystery series, published by Arcade CrimeWise.
Sixteen of my books have been nonfiction works about nature, wildlife, and the outdoors. I spend a lot of time hiking, birding, botanizing, and riding horses. (My wife, the writer Nancy Marie Brown, and I have four Icelandic horses.)
Things I’ve learned about nature over the years find their way into my mysteries. Although I live in northern Vermont now, I was born and raised in the rugged uplands of central Pennsylvania – where my main character, a young “accidental” sheriff, solves crimes in the 1830s. Readers tell me that my knowledge of nature brings a vivid sense of place to my descriptions of Gideon’s neck of the woods.
I’ve studied – and written about – oaks and hickories and pines and hemlocks, bears and beavers and foxes and owls (nighthawks, too), salamanders and katydids, rattleweed and skullcap (plants good for healing) and cowbane (a deadly plant employed for nefarious purposes in Nighthawk’s Wing).
The Pennsylvania uplands today are different from what they were like when Gideon Stoltz was patrolling on his mare Maude. There were farms carved out of the woods; fast-growing towns like my fictional Adamant; and a burgeoning charcoal-fired iron industry drawing on abundant wood, iron ore, limestone, and water power resources. I’ve done a lot of research into central Pennsylvania in the early nineteenth century, and I’ve also visited untouched natural places where the old forest still remains, places that probably don’t look much different today than they did during Gideon’s era.
When I write, I hearken back to things I’ve experienced in nature. Like the time I stepped over a fallen log and almost landed on a timber rattlesnake coiled on the other side. (A rattler’s warning buzz sounds like a lump of fat suddenly thrown into a red-hot skillet. Your body instantly knows that it’s dangerous.) Watching nighthawks side-slipping through the dusk on their long narrow wings, seining the air for insect prey. Hanging out with thousands of katydids sounding their nocturnal chorus from the trees: Katy-did, she didn’t, she did.
In Nighthawk’s Wing, Gideon and his wife True listen to a story told by True’s gram (that’s what folks call a grandmother in central Pennsylvania) while sitting around a fire at night listening to that ratcheting chorus: “They say the katydids tell a story,” Gram Burns said. “Two sisters fell in love with the same man, and Katy was the one who didn’t win his heart. Later, the man and the other sister died – they were poisoned. The insects in the trees kept saying ‘Katy-did!’ because Katy was the one who murdered them.”
Sights. Sounds. Smells. I use vivid details and impressions that let the reader feel they’re firmly connected with Gideon Stoltz’s time and place.
Readers: What favorite writer of yours has used nature effectively to create a mood or a sense of place in their fiction? One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Nighthawk’s Wing (U.S. residents only).
As well as authoring his Gideon Stoltz historical mysteries, Charles rode a horse 204 times in 2020. (Yes, he keeps count. No, he didn’t fall off!). He lives on a hill farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom with his wife, the writer Nancy Marie Brown, who rides horses with him and is, he reports, “the best editor I know.” His first Gideon Stoltz mystery, A Stranger Here Below (2019), just came out in paperback. Its sequel, Nighthawk’s Wing (2021), received a starred Publishers Weekly review. Learn more at his web site.