Meet Ann Parker

I’ve been a fan of Ann’s historical mysteries ever since the first, Silver Lies, was published. I’m delighted to welcome her to Sites & Stories today!  Leave a comment, and you might be the lucky winner of one of her books.

Ann in front of a map of Leadville, CO.

Research: It’s a Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Like Kathleen, I have a passion for history, mystery, and historical sites and stories. My particular focus just happens to lie east of Wisconsin, at the 10,000-foot mark in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, in the mining town of Leadville. I’m particularly interested in the time period starting about 1879, which marks the heyday of a silver mining boom in the area. It was a time when people rushed in from all the corners of the earth, making their ways up to this high mountain country of thin air, long winters, and breathtaking views. But the views were of little account back then: most of those who came had their eyes cast to the ground, in hopes that they’d be the ones to stake a claim rich in silver and become instantly rich.

Of course, it wasn’t so easy, and when expectations are high and life is hard, people get desperate. It is the perfect time and place to set a series that explores greed, lust for what one cannot have, and all the rest of the deadly sins. My protagonist, Inez Stannert, who arrived in town expecting to get rich by “mining the miners” at her saloon, is well situated to view the foibles and follies of those who live there and those just passing through.

First book in the series.

Luckily for me, Leadville holds its history dear, and mining the history is far easier than mining its silver ever was. On my first research trip there, in the late 1990s, I discovered the Lake County Public Library and their magical back room that transported me to the past. The microfiche newspaper records had more to offer than just news. The advertisements were a gold (or should I say silver?) mine in themselves . . . Here’s Turner & Stilwell, Wholesale Produce Commission Merchants, trumpeting “canned goods and groceries, green fruits and vegetables (a specialty). Pure Kentucky whiskies and cigars.” And here’s Haswell’s Drug Store, which, on July 21, 1880, advertised not only drugs but assayer supplies, paints, and oils, noting that it was “open all night until further notice.” These newspapers are now online, as are the city directories .

At the library I also discovered bird’s eye view maps — in which artists created panorama cityscapes from high overhead — and fire insurance maps — in which surveyors drafted detailed maps showing construction materials of various buildings as well as their dimensions and the activities enclosed within their walls. (In fact, fire insurance maps and mapmakers play a crucial role in Leaden Skies, the third book in my Silver Rush series.)

Every time I go to Leadville, I unearth more “telling details” to weave into my fictional endeavors. For instance, the placemat that I hold so proudly in the photo that accompanies this post (a photo taken by Kathleen, I should add), is one of my favorite “pieces of history.” The placemat, which I bought from Leadville’s Chamber of Commerce, is a reprint of an illustration from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 12, 1879. A close inspection yields a wonderful wealth of detail, including modes of transportation and boomtown fashion, as well as a prominently placed bookstore and what could be the first 24-hour coffee bar, a restaurant that offers “Lunch, French Coffee: Day & Night.”

Coming in November!

Leadville’s rich history has sustained me through three books so far: Silver Lies, Iron Ties, and Leaden Skies, with more to come. With the fourth book, Mercury’s Rise, it was time to take a break from the high country I’ve come to love. Mercury’s Rise, coming out in November, took me and my protagonist Inez on a journey to Manitou, Colorado. It’s the summer of 1880, and Inez is looking forward to re-uniting with her two-year-old son, who she has not seen in over a year, and his caretaker, Inez’s sister Harmony. In 1880, Manitou was known for its medicinal springs and such nearby natural wonders as Garden of the Gods. My research for Mercury’s Rise took me deep into the nascent tourist industry of that area as well as into the supposed “cures and causes” of consumption (tuberculosis). But all that is a story for yet another time….

——————————————————————————–
Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1. Learn more about Ann and her series at http://www.annparker.net

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win one of Ann’s Silver Rush mysteries! Winner will be announced later this week.

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30 Responses to “Meet Ann Parker”

  1. cinda-cite Says:

    historical and history-based mysteries give me that warm fuzzy feeling i like so in reading. wish we had a leadville here in rural maine…open-all-nite– in the 1800s? just finished /heirloom murders/!

  2. Ann Parker Says:

    Thanks so much for hosting me, Kathleen! Goodness knows I can rattle on forever about research and Leadville … and now, Manitou as well! :-}

  3. Alice D. Trego Says:

    I enjoyed hearing about your research, Ann, and I know what it’s like to find magical rooms within libraries.

    I loved your Inez Stannert stories from the beginning! November 1 can’t get here soon enough so I can read about Inez finally seeing her son again 🙂

    Thanks to Kathleen for hosting you here.

    Alice

  4. andidowning Says:

    Well, Ann, I wish you’d “rattled” on a little more! Fascinating stuff!
    Andi Downing

  5. Ann Parker Says:

    Hello Cinda!
    Yes, it’s always an eye-opener to me to read what businesses existed in some of these remote mining towns of yore … particularly the towns that had big booms (=lots of money floating around and a desire to attract wealthy investors from back East). Bookstores, restaurants open and operating around the clock, three/four/five competing newspapers (!), opera houses with the big names of the day touring through…
    Not quite the suburban experience of today, I’m here to say… 🙂

  6. Ann Parker Says:

    Hello Alice,
    Aw, thank you! It’s been quite a “wild ride” for Inez, and, as you know from the end of book #3 (Leaden Skies), it’s not over yet for Inez! 🙂 Goodness, what will happen if/when life settles down for her? Hmmm.

  7. Ann Parker Says:

    Hi Andi!
    Glad you enjoyed the post! I have to put myself on a “short rein” or I’d end up writing a book about all the neat things I’ve discovered in my research journeys… and I’ve got other books to write first! Maybe someday, though…

  8. Alison Dwyer Says:

    Thanks for the fascinating post. And now I have a new series that I look forward to reading!

    Alison Dwyer

  9. Denice Ryan Martin Says:

    Hello, Ann and Kathleen,
    Great interview! It’s always a delight to find a new mystery author/series. Thanks, Kathleen. It’s like striking it rich.:) When my husband and I lived in Colo. Springs in the 1980s (not far from Old Colorado City), we explored many of the little towns up in mountains. How fun, Ann, that you are shining a light on their stories!
    Best wishes.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Denise, I didn’t know you’d lived in Colorado Springs! That will add a little extra fun to the stories.

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hello Denice! I actually went to Colorado College for a year, way back in the ’70s. When I went back to do research for Mercury’s Rise, oh my gosh, how the place has changed (as all places do). Mercury’s Rise is set just down (? up?) the road from C. Springs… It was a very interesting exercise to look at old photos from 1870s/1880s and compare the area with what it is now.
      I love all the little towns in the Rockies… there are sooo many stories to explore!

  10. Carol Crigger Says:

    I’m a fan, Ann, and since I’m another western mystery writer, I always await the next installment of your Inez Stannert adventures with greedy anticipation. Having gotten my hands on an ARC of Mercury Rises, I can tell everyone this is another fascinating look at the 1880s west. Such impeccable research!

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Thank you, Carol! 🙂 I hope you find Mercury’s Rise as satisfying as the previous books. It was fun for me to turn my eye to a different locale and explore its history. Manitou is absolutely fascinating!

  11. Jeffrey Siger Says:

    This is such a small world, Ann. One of my favorite places in all of Colorado is Leadville–first went there in 1973–and my pappy was a wholesale produce commission merchant! Can’t wait to read the next one about a …

    Jeff

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hi Jeffrey! What fun to “see” you here! I love all the Leadville/Colorado connections that pop up here and there. Talk about serendipity.
      From Leadville to Mykonos… quite the travel through time for you! 🙂

  12. Ann Parker Says:

    Hello Alison!
    Ah, magic to this writers’ ears! 🙂 Thank you! Hope you find the series a fun read!

  13. Doris Says:

    As always you surpise and delight the readers of your posts.You even make the ‘educational’ part fun. Thank you for the ‘plug’ about Manitou Springs. It still is an interesting town.

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hi Doris! Thank you! And I agree… Manitou Springs remains an interesting and enchanting town, with an intriguing past. If I could, I’d love to live part of the year in Leadville, part in Manitou, and part in Boulder. Alas, I remain west of Sierras… for now. 🙂

  14. M. M. Justus (@mmjustus) Says:

    I loved Leadville when we visited there in the 70s (we were living in Denver at the time). I need to pick these books up soon.

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hello M.M.,
      They are all in tradepaper and still in print, plus many libraries have them as well (particularly in Colorado). Here’s hoping you find them a “good read.” 🙂 Leadville is still a fascinating place, with lovely scenery, great people, a super indie bookstore (The Book Mine), and a wonderful library.

  15. Julie Weston Says:

    Ann, loved this post and your research. As I grew up in a mining town–in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s, I am familiar with much of what you write about, even if it is decades later! You really reflect the chaos, the lust, the greed, the fascinating flavor of the rush for riches. Even in this later period, we had green grocers and hardgoods merchants. Love the placemat too! What material you have found to work with!

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hello Julie! Wow, sounds like you could write a story based on the town you grew up in! I’d love to hear more about it… and I’m glad the Silver Rush mysteries struck a chord with you. And you’re right, I have an embarrassment of riches and resources available to me in documents past and present and in the ever-helpful librarians and experts whom I’ve chatted with over the years. Lucky me! 🙂

  16. Linda Wommack Says:

    Congratulations on your continued series. I commend your research.

  17. Karen Kanter Says:

    The most consistent comment I get from people who have read my book is that they love the historical facts interwoven into the story. Ann Parker does this so wonderfully. You just live and breathe the atmosphere and the time period in which Inez lives. I’ve read all three books and am anxiously awaiting the new one. Thanks Ann for many hours of pleasurable reading. Karen Kanter

  18. Arletta Dawdy's Blog Says:

    Ann,
    What a great tour of your town(s) and your research! Your peppery style keeps my attention and your knack with detail adds luster to your writing. Looking forward to Mercury’s Rise…and will her son be there when she arrives in Manitou??

    Thanks Kathleen and Ann for a great blog piece.

    • Ann Parker Says:

      Hi Arletta! Glad you enjoyed the post and my books! And oh yes, Inez’s son is in Manitou, with Inez’s sister, when she arrives. You’ll need to read the book to see what happens when they are finally together after being a year apart… no spoilers here! 😉

  19. Ann Parker Says:

    Denice Ryan Martin is the lucky winner of a Silver Rush mystery of her choice! It’s packaged and ready to go, Denice.
    Thank you all for coming by and visiting Sites and Stories. There are still more free books that will be given away on this tour. See my schedule at http://silverrushmysteriesnews.blogspot.com/ .
    And thank you, Kathleen, for hosting me! 🙂

  20. Denice Ryan Martin Says:

    Thank you, Ann! Your series will be perfect reading as we prepare for our long autumn/winter nights here in Wisconsin. Wishing you and Kathleen continued success. Happy writing!

  21. Pam De Voe Says:

    Thanks for pointing out how useful and fun spending time doing research can be! And then, of course, you’re ability to turn that research into a fabulous mystery is the best part. There’s nothing like a good story (and especially a mystery !), based on fact, to bring the past to life.

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