Friday, May 06, 2011

Mystery in Arkansas

I learned to read at an early age, and soon began enjoying books. We had a tiny, one-room town library in Vivian and Mrs. Files—I kid you not—was the librarian. The library had little or no budget but Mrs. Files always found an inexpensive way to keep our interest in reading high.

During the summer, she would mimeograph diagrams of the United States, or some such imaginative illustration. Whenever we read a book, she would give us a gold star for one of the states. The person with the most gold stars at the end of the summer got a five-dollar bill, which, I now feel sure, Mrs. Files contributed herself.

I liked mysteries from the time I was very young, books with heroes like Freddy the Pig and Miss Pickerel. As I grew older, I found I also liked a little adventure tossed in. I read everything I could find by Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, so it was natural that when I began writing, I wrote stories that combined the two genres. If you have the need to label everything, I guess you could call them mys-ventures.

Growing up, I also loved history and have always wondered what happened to the ill-fated colony of Roanoke. It would seem with all our technology that we should be able to find the answer. Alas, this is not the case.

I have visited many wild and wooly places in my life but few as wild and remote as the deepest forests hidden in the ancient Ouachita Mountains of central Arkansas. I realized as much while working on my geological master’s thesis in Sevier County.

I remain entranced by the geologic mystery of the area and feel that central Arkansas is one of the top ten geologic wonders of the world. To me, it bears the same mystery and intrigue as Haggard’s vision of darkest Africa, or Burrough’s Pellucidar. Arkansas is also the only place in the United States with diamonds found at their source.

Not only are the Ouachita Mountains lush with mystery, intrigue and danger, their deep valleys and sharp peaks conceal limitless wealth in diamonds and many other valuable minerals. It seemed a perfect place for a mystery/adventure tale, and became the location for my novel A Gathering of Diamonds.

When I wrote A Gathering of Diamonds, I stole many ideas from masters such as Haggard, Burroughs, and yes-even Cussler. I also managed to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, at least in my own fictional mind.

Many moons have passed since those days in Vivian’s little library. Mrs. Files is no longer around to read any of my books. If she were, I am sure that she would smile, pat me on the shoulder, and give me a gold star. That thought makes me very happy.


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