Edith/Maddie here, writing from my favorite retreat cottage in West Falmouth, with a couple of things to celebrate.
A few years ago, I blogged here about finding my grandmother Dorothy’s travel diary from 1918, and how I felt stories rising up from it.
Then I found a picture of my maternal grandmother Ruth as a young woman sitting on a rock in the northwest where she lived while reading a letter with a rifle across her lap, a side of my little grandmother I never knew about.
I couldn’t help but imagine if the two had met as young women. What if they hadn’t followed the paths they did, but instead formed an investigative agency to help women in need? Petite Ruth Skinner could do anything domestic, never smoked or drank alcohol, and was sweet and open – and apparently she could also shoot. Tall, slender Dot Henderson drove and smoked and imbibed and was more reserved. All that was true and was still true when I knew them in their later years. I invented that Dot could also repair the car she drove, probably a necessity in the early twentieth century. Don’t they sound like quite the pair? And the stories have flowed!
“An Excellent Team,” which tells how Dot and Ruth (fictionally) met in Walla Walla, Washington in 1919, released last week in the November/December issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
I’m thrilled and honored to have my first short story in that illustrious magazine – and look, my name even made the cover! In the story (not a ghastly tale at all), Dot and Ruth exact justice for an abused and murdered woman. As they hightail it out of town with Dot at the wheel of her automobile, they resolve to head south and become a team. You can read the start of the story on the AHMM web site.
Releasing officially at New England Crime Bake (but already for sale), Bloodroot: Best New England Crime Stories (Crime Spell Books) includes another historical story featuring Dot.
“Dark Corners” brings Dot to Boston in 1926, where she meets a dashing social worker named Amelia Earhart. The two, along with a young gay journalist, catch an arsonist and expose his ruthless boss. I loved learning that Amelia Earhart lived in the Boston suburb of Medford, and of course I made a pilgrimage to her home.
She worked at a settlement house in Boston before she became a famous pilot, and I thought it was a story opportunity not to be missed. (Editor Susan Oleksiw will be in this space next week to present the whole anthology.)
Next year AHMM will publish “Peril in Pasadena.” By 1920, Dot and Ruth have set up the HS (Henderson-Skinner) Agency in Pasadena, California (my birthplace). In next year’s story, they solve the murder of a young female astronomer at the new California Institute of Technology. It’s been a delight to research the history of the area of California where I grew up, something I never did when I lived there.
As I started writing these pieces, I was lucky enough to have phone conversations with my uncle Richard Reinhardt, who knew Dot – his mother-in-law – well, and with my mother’s cousin Jack Crump, Ruth’s nephew. Both gentlemen are in their nineties and still clear of mind. They were happy to share memories of Dot and Ruth, which enriched my portrayal of these women who died before I was twenty-five.
I’ve been working on Dot and Ruth (and Amelia) novels set in both Pasadena and Boston, with no news to report. Fingers crossed!
Readers: What did your grandmothers do, or what can you imagine them having done?