I love when an idea for a story comes from an unexpected source. It is even more astonishing when the idea for a setting comes from a conversation with a new friend and based on what I learned, a family member leads me the rest of the way. That is exactly what happened with Well Read, Then Dead.
A few years ago I was at a pre-Edgar Awards party sponsored by PennyPress / Dell, the parent company of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It is always one of the friendliest parties of a very sociable and fun filled week. It happened that I met a woman named Christine Begley and in two minutes we became fast friends talking about, what else? Books. Books we read. Books we wanted to read. Christine was very excited about a book she’d recently finished called Shadow Country written by Peter Matthiessen. It is a fictionalized version of life on the last frontier in the 19th century, the Everglades and the Gulf coast of Florida. As a history buff I couldn’t wait to read it. At nearly nine hundred pages the book should have been daunting, instead I found it to be energizing. There was so much lawlessness and so many tales of survival; I thought it would make a perfect backdrop for a modern day mystery with tiny historical overtones.
I was looking for a beachy vacation type of town with a resilient year round population, a place where my protagonists, Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield, could resettle after leaving Brooklyn and open a breakfast and lunch café with a bookstore component complete with book club meetings and menu items named after writers, books and characters.
You might want a taste of Harper Lee Hush Puppies, Old Man and the Sea Chowder, or Miss Marple Scones. Most importantly, since Matthiessen had given me a deep feel for the history of the southwest coast of Florida, I wanted the geography to be south of Port Charlotte and north of Naples. I am lucky enough to have a daughter who lives right in the middle of that geography. She suggested Fort Myers Beach. Shortly thereafter, I flew down to visit her.
We took a ride and as we drove across the San Carlos Bridge and crossed on to Estero Island, I knew that I had found a home for Sassy and Bridgy. All along the west end of the island is the Gulf of Mexico bordered by gorgeous white sands. The bay side of the island has plenty of sea grapes, mangrove trees, scrub pines and palm trees. If it sounds like paradise, that is exactly how it looks.
So, why not stop by the Read ’Em and Eat for a Swiss Family Robinson Cheeseburger and a glass of sweet tea? I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Bridgy and Sassy, the clubbies, as Sassy calls the book club members and Bridgy’s flamboyant Aunt Ophie. And there are always those gorgeous Gulf sunsets. Not to be missed.
Please don't forget to include an email address where I can contact you if you win.