I’ve been publishing books and articles about the history of the American West for thirty-five years, and have been reading historical fiction and historical mysteries for longer than that. Around my birthday in 2012 I put down the latest Alafair Tucker novel by Donis Casey and said to myself, “I wish I could write a historical mystery.” In the next second, someone turned on a movie projector in my head and the characters and plot of a story started to march across my inner vision.
Over the next few years, while I was still working full-time, I got more flashes of my story, and since I always keep pen and paper handy, I was able to write them down (if I was driving, I left myself voicemails). When I retired and then started my historical consulting business, I sat down to organize my notes and scanty drafts into a coherent whole. It was the hardest work and the most joy I have ever experienced as a writer. I found Annette Chaudet and Pronghorn Press, which released Dudes Rush In in October.
I love the history of Arizona and the world of the dude ranch, and that’s where my main character, Phoebe McFarland, finds herself in 1952. She’s a restless war widow who decides to give up her life in San Francisco to help her late husband’s family run the H Double Bar dude ranch in Tribulation, Arizona. When she finds an old diary hidden in the desk of the guest house where she is staying, she stumbles onto secrets from the town’s past that collide with a shocking revelation from her own.
Book Two of the H Double Bar dude ranch series is already running through my head.
Lynn Downey is the WILLA award-winning author of Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women. Her work-in-progress is a cultural history of dude ranching, which will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2022. Visit her at www.lynndowney.com, and on Instagram at lynn.downey.historian.