Posts Tagged ‘The Heirloom Murders’

The Heirloom Murders Giveaway Winners!

March 1, 2018

The lucky winners of my second monthly Chloe Ellefson Mysteries Giveaway are Agnes “FRUSA,” Elaine Klingbell, and John Nondorf.   Congratulations!

Each will receive a signed and personalized trade paperback of The Heirloom Murders, the second book in the series. Winners have been contacted by email.

Stay tuned for a giveaway of the third book, The Lightkeeper’s Legacy, in late March!

The Heirloom Murders Giveaway

February 27, 2018

This year from January through August I’m holding monthly giveaways of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. February’s featured book is the second in the series, The Heirloom Murders.

To enter this month’s The Heirloom Murders giveaway, just leave a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time) on Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

Only one entry per person, please.

Three winners will be chosen at random from entries here and on my Facebook Author Page, and announced Thursday. Good luck everyone!

Researching The Heirloom Murders

February 20, 2018

 

Color postcard of Sasso's Bar in the Village of Eagle, Wisconsin, circa 1982.

 

Front cover of the Chloe Ellefson Mystery #2, The Heirloom Murders, by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst, published by Midnight Ink Books.

Mr. Ernst here. This month the focus is on things interesting and indicative that turned up while researching The Heirloom Murders, the second book in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series.

Some of the following made it into the book. Other things influenced the story. And some things below are included merely to reflect the times.

Kathleen and I hope you find them interesting too.

THM takes place at Old World Wisconsin (an actual outdoor history museum in the Southeast corner of the state), the nearby Village of Eagle, and the Village of New Glarus in Green County, WI.

A Modern Mystery with Historical Roots

THM is the first book in the Chloe series to feature an historical thread, which in this case centers on the actual 1876 discovery in Eagle of an extremely rare glacial diamond. Kathleen also chose to weave the modern mystery of this gemstone into the story’s 1982 timeline.

EagleDiamond16CaratStolen500w
The Eagle Diamond changed hands many times over the decades between being unearthed and its donation to the American Museum of Natural History. It was one of a number of precious gems (including the legendary “Star of India”) stolen from there by a 3-man crew led by a jewel thief playboy named Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy.

Black and white photo of Jack Murphy and his girlfriend Bonnie Lou Sutera taken in 1964.

Jack Murphy and his then girlfriend Bonnie Lou Sutera, 1964.

Murph made the fateful mistake of bragging about the heist and was quickly arrested. He served 21 months; Bonnie Lou committed suicide. All the jewels were recovered — except for the Eagle Diamond.

The history and mystery of this rare gemstone is fascinating. Read Wood V. Boynton and the Incredible Journey of the Eagle Diamond by Mara Kent (Wisconsin Magazine of History, Volume 97, number 2, Winter 2013-2014).

Anatomy of a Scene

Kathleen often builds individual scenes around historical events uncovered while doing research. One was inspired by this article.

newspaper clipping about film schedule for 1982 Summer Movie program in the Village of Eagle, Wisconsin, 1982.

Palmyra Enterprise newspaper, June 10, 1982.

This series of free public movies was proposed by the Chief of the Village of Eagle Police Department (EPD) as a way to deter crime. His thinking was that if local teens were at a police-sponsored, police-chaperoned film, they couldn’t get into too much trouble.

Wielding some artistic license, Kathleen put EPD Officer Roelke McKenna in charge of organizing and running the July 10th showing of MacKenna’s Gold, which she has his co-worker, Officer Skeet Deardorff, select (sight unseen) as a humorous play on Roelke’s name.

Color movie poster for MacKenna's Gold.

Copyright 1969 Columbia Pictures. This Western had an all-star cast, including Gregory Peck, Egyptian actor Omar Sharif as a Mexican bandit, and Julie Newmar playing an Apache Indian who goes swimming in the nude. The film was a financial failure, costing $7M ($47M in 2018 dollars) while earning just $3.1M ($21M now), despite becoming a long-running hit in the Soviet Union.

Next Kathleen introduced a series of challenges resulting in Roelke being the sole officer present that evening, and added an angry teen couple whose loud argument disturbs the movie and forces Roelke to intervene.

Note from Kathleen:  I wanted readers to learn more about Roelke’s approach to policing. When Mr. Ernst turned up the notice about Movie Night, I knew I could make that work. Roelke is a good cop. Sure, he wants to catch bad guys, but he also wants to be proactive about keeping kids out of trouble. And dealing with TJ and his pregnant girlfriend shows Roelke’s ability to de-escalate a problem, not simply chase after lawbreakers.

Say What?

Kathleen uses the popular-in-Wisconsin term “soda” in the scene above. For those who are not familiar with it, there’s the wonderful Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE).  The article below describes the then 17-year old University of Wisconsin project to gather and publish it, including explanations of three popular Wisconsin-isms.

Regional dictionary is place for 'bubbler' headline.

July 29, 1982 – Waukesha Freeman newspaper.

“When you’re frying out and forget your soda, you can always look for a bubbler… Fry out is an expression meaning grill out or barbecue. It’s unique to to Calumet, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac Counties. …The heavily Germanic population took it from the practice of frying sausage. Soda describes soft drinks in the area of Wisconsin along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Elsewhere, pop or soda pop is preferred.

Bubblers are drinking fountains. …Researchers traced the word back to a 1914 publication of the Kohler Co. in Sheboygan, which mentioned a “bubbling valve” on a fountain. In 1915, company literature began talking about a “continuous flow bubbler” and the word was coined… While fountains no longer bubble continuously, the word is still used.”

Color photo of a 'bubbler' - a Wisconsin term for water fountain.

By Sulfur (Own work) GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)


Indicative of the Times

Kathleen chose not to make reference to any of the following in THM, but each tells us something about the summer of 1982, and enables a perspective on events of today.

Three States Short of Approval, ERA Dies article newspaper clipping.

June 22, 1982 – United Press International.

One wonders how things might be different today had the ERA been adopted back then.

Speaking of which…

Businesswomen 'too sexy' in pants headline.

June 25, 1982 – Waukesha Freeman newspaper.

“A survey of corporate employees shows businesswomen who wear pants to work have plenty of sex appeal but not much professional standing. In the survey of 480 firms selected from the Standard & Poor’s register 99.8 percent of the men who responded felt pants on the job were inappropriate for an executive woman.

Men and women …thought women who wore dresses to work were more confident and did not feel the need to “dress like a man to convince other people of their abilities.” That refutes the traditional advice that career women wear suits on the job.”

And then there’s this ‘man bites dog’ piece below written by Joan Beck. The article uses a Wisconsin sexual harassment case to make a series of pointed observations about the very real challenges, and double standards, that women workers were experiencing back then. The snarky headline was probably written by a man.

State sexual harassment case is something to snicker about headline.

July 27, 1982 – Chicago Tribune newspaper

“Sexual harassment on the job isn’t for snickering. It’s heavy stuff, abhorred by women, forbidden by company policies, outlawed by federal regulations, punishable by the courts, a sin in the eyes of management training manuals and feminist manifestoes alike.

So it won’t do to admit a sneaky little snicker of satisfaction about the sexual harassment story from Madison, Wis. This time, the victim was male. And the supervisor who demoted the employee for resisting sexual overtures is female.

So let’s just say it’s OK to be encouraged that at least one complaint of sexual victimization has been taken seriously enough to move a jury to give the victim $196,500 in punitive and compensatory damages.”

That’s $504,724 in 2018 dollars.

But Wait, There’s More

Hopefully this article has piqued your interest in discovering more about the ‘people, places and the past’ in the The Heirloom Murders.

There’s a whole page full of information about it on Kathleen’s website, including a discussion guide for the book, a custom Google map and a locations guide about where key scenes are set, a recipe mentioned in the book, a slide show of objects featured in the story, public radio interviews with Kathleen, additional blog posts, links to booksellers that carry THM — and more. To explore them, click HERE.

Next month I’ll post an article about researching The Light Keeper’s Legacy, the third book in the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series.

The Heirloom Murders – A Retrospective

February 13, 2018

Welcome back to the behind-the-scenes look at the Chloe Ellefson mysteries! Up today: The Heirloom Murders, second in the series.

I knew where I wanted to go after wrapping up the first book, Old World Murder—Green County, Wisconsin, famous for its Swiss heritage. My father’s parents were born and raised in Switzerland, so that was a natural draw.

 

Fondue dinners in New Glarus became “research trips.”

Me and Mr. Ernst, New Glarus Hotel.

Spotlighting Swiss heritage, and places like the Swiss Historical Village & Museum and the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, satisfied my wish to celebrate Wisconsin’s cultural heritage and museums.

It was great fun to learn more about sap sago and other aspects of Swiss cheesemaking. And the timing was good—staff and volunteers at the Cheesemaking Center in Monroe were restoring the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory on their grounds while I was writing the book.

I knew nothing about heirloom plants, and how much diversity we’ve lost, until I went to work at Old World Wisconsin in 1982. I was fascinated by the topic, and the role historic sites around the world play in preserving genetic diversity. As I considered what aspect of museum work to showcase, heirloom plants and rare-breed livestock seemed like a good fit.

Antique apples like these may not look perfect, but they have more taste than some types bred to look good over long transports.

I’d known about the legendary Eagle Diamond, and thought it would be fun to fictionalize the story of its discovery and eventual theft. This book was the first in the Chloe series to include a thread of historical fiction, braided with the more contemporary plot strands. Reader feedback was positive, and I’ve used this approach in most of the later books.

Eagle Diamond

Five views of the Eagle Diamond. (Wikipedia)

Many authors say that the second book in the series is the hardest to write. (The first was written on speculation, without a contract; suddenly, there’s a deadline imposed on #2.)  The Heirloom Murders wasn’t harder to write, but it was challenging to market. The overall plot involved a woman’s death, a stolen diamond, Swiss green cheese, and heirloom gardening. Try summing that up in a concise but appealing way! And that’s without mentioning the main characters’ personal lives.

My original title for this book was “Deadly as Diamonds.” My editor changed it because another author with the same press had a book coming out with “diamond” in the title. When I saw him a few months later at a conference I gave him a hard time for “stealing” my key title word. Turns out his original title hadn’t included the word “diamond” at all, but it was changed for a similar reason!

SPOILER ALERT – plot points are discussed below!

The first thing I do when planning a book is think about the main characters’ emotional growth. Just when Chloe was finally moving on after what happened in Switzerland, Markus shows up. Chloe and Markus have a great deal in common.  Chloe and Roelke, not so much. That provided some good conflict.

A number of readers let me know that they particularly enjoyed meeting Johann and Frieda Frietag, even though they had a small role. That was a good reminder that minor characters need just as much care and complexity as the main ones!

I imagined Frieda bustling about this kitchen when Chloe and Markus visit. Swiss Historical Village & Museum, New Glarus.

The main mystery plot about Bonnie Sabatola’s death came from a late-night talk I had with an Eagle police officer. I was doing a second-shift ridealong and when we got back to the station, the conversation somehow turned to cases that had packed an emotional wallop. While working for another police department, he’d encountered a situation similar to what I described—a murder made to look like suicide.

The questions surrounding the case gave Roelke a lot to work with, and showed his tenacity. I’d already heard from readers who wanted to see more of him.  I hope his fans enjoyed his role in bringing the killer to justice. However, this book also revealed his trouble with anger management. Roelke threatens Markus with physical harm, and kicks Simon Sabatola. As an author, that may have been a risky choice, but I wanted Roelke to be a complex character, struggling with real issues.

So, what did you think? If read books one and two in order, did you want Chloe to end up with Markus, or Roelke? Did you understand Roelke’s anger, or was that indefensible? Was justice served? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can explore relevant people, places, and the past on my webpage for The Heirloom Murders. Resources include a Google map, a Locations Guide, full Discussion Guide, a recipe for Swiss Pear Bread, and links to lots of additional background material. Happy reading!

National Historic Cheesemaking Center. Photo by Mr. Ernst.

Old World Wisconsin Locations Guide

May 13, 2015

As the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series grows, I thought it would be helpful to provide a single list of Old World Wisconsin locations that appear in the books.

(Special note:  This Sunday, May 17, I’ll be sharing a preview of the next Chloe mystery, Death on the Prairie, at Old World.  The 4 PM program is free of charge, but why not come early, buy a ticket, and tour the site? You can visit the highlighted buildings, and enjoy springtime activities throughout the outdoor museum.)

SPOILER ALERT: the notes below reveal information about the plots.

OWM – Old World Murder (#1)
THM – The Heirloom Murders (#2)
TOD – Tradition of Deceit (#5)

(Books # 3 & 4, The Light Keeper’s Legacy and Heritage of Darkness, do not include scenes set at Old World.)

Crossroads Village

St. Peter’s Church – The series begins with Chloe walking into the Village and visiting this structure. (Note: The Swiss house mentioned in OWM, is imaginary. All other buildings mentioned in the series are real.)

St. Peters Church, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

I took this photo on my first visit to the site, in 1981. It’s hard to remember the church without its fence.

Four Mile Inn – Chloe sometimes attends the morning briefing held for the interpreter in the basement, which is closed to the public.

Yankee Area

Sanford Farm – The large barn across the road from the farmhouse was the scene of a murder in THM.

As you travel from the Village to the German area, you will see a marshy kettle pond to the right. In Chloe’s time, her office building—Education House—was located out of sight on the far side of the pond. (That’s where I worked for many years.) The area is now closed and not accessible.

German Area

Schottler Farm – During the early 1980s, ski trails were maintained on the site. In TOD, Chloe takes a break from stress by skiing out to this farm, ostensibly to check the stove. (In reality she enjoys baking kuchen and making notes about trouble in Minnesota.)

Schottler Farm, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

The Schottler house, 1981. The farm looks much better now, with gardens and fences and more outbuildings!

Norwegian Area

Kvaale Farm – This farm plays a key role in OWM. Chloe visits the farm while searching for the missing ale bowl, and Roelke is called to the farm after an alarm is triggered one night. The climax scene takes place in the farmyard. Be sure to visit the stabbur, where Chloe found the bowl (the 2nd story is not open to visitors) and the barn where Chloe tries to hide from Joel. Inside the house you’ll find an ale bowl on display on a high shelf.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

Finnish Area

Ketola Farm – Chloe especially loves the sauna, which is the first small building you’ll encounter. In THM she visits to enjoy some quiet time after-hours, and gets locked inside.

* * *

Much more detailed Locations Guides for Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders are available on my website.

Old World Wisconsin is a great place to visit any time, any season. Happy wandering!

Old World Wisconsin Passes!

October 2, 2013

Gratitude Giveaway! While supplies last, I’m giving away two-for-one passes to Old World Wisconsin, the wonderful historic site near Eagle, WI where the protagonist in my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries is employed.

OldWorldWisconsinLogo403w

Here’s the scoop:

Each pass allows you to enjoy one complimentary adult admission with the purchase of a second admission of greater or equal value at the regular price. (You’ll save up to $16.) Passes are valid during normal operating hours through 12/31/13. Passes are not valid for any special events requiring advanced registration, or school or group tour programming.

I would love it, of course, if you used the  passes to visit on Saturday, October 12, when I’ll be signing books and celebrating the release of the newest Chloe mystery, Heritage of Darkness, from noon to 5 PM. Come say hello, get personalized copies of the Chloe mysteries, do some holiday shopping, and visit the site during one of the prettiest times of the year.

Heritage of Darkness 1

You can also explore the setting for the first two books in the series, Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders. Locations Guides, which are available on my website, identify the specific buildings featured in the mysteries.  (You’ll find the Guides, and lots of other resources, by clicking on the title links above.)

To request your pair of passes, simply send me your name and postal address. You can use the contact form on my website:  http://www.kathleenernst.com/contact.php

Or if you prefer, email me directly:

kathleen <at> kathleenernst.com   (use normal email formatting)

Old World Wisconsin is a magical place—I encourage those who can to get out and enjoy the site. Special thanks to our friends at Old World Wisconsin for making this giveaway possible.

Location, Location!

August 5, 2013

Creating a vivid sense of place is one of my top goals when I begin a new Chloe Ellefson mystery. Each features real places that I think are very special.

So I’m excited to announce that—thanks to my husband Scott—you have two new ways to explore The Light Keeper’s Legacy‘s setting.

Light Keeper's Legacy by Kathleen Ernst

First is a Google Map.

TLL-GoogleMapFull448w

You can zoom around, and click on map pins see pop-up photos and descriptions.

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Second is a 12-page Locations Guide with maps and even more photos and descriptions—plus some recommendations for visiting Washington and Rock Islands.

TLL-Locationis Guide-CoverPage448w

Both of these new ‘Book Goodies’ are free, and available on my website.  If you can’t visit Washington and Rock Islands, these resources will help you imagine the places described in the book.  If you are able to visit, they’ll help you plan your trip.

TLL-Locations Guide-RockIslandPage448wLocations Guides are also available for Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders.

Enjoy!

Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

April 9, 2013

If you’re a gardener—or even if you’re not—I highly recommend Gathering:  A Memoir of a Seed Saver, by Diane Ott Whealy (Seed Savers Exchange, 2011).

When considering topics and themes to explore in my second Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Heirloom Murders, I decided to highlight heirloom gardening.

I began working at Old World Wisconsin in 1982 with little knowledge of gardening, period.  I had no idea that we humans have lost a shocking percentage of genetic diversity among flowers, fruits, and vegetables in the past century or so.

Now that I have my own vegetable garden, I plant heirloom varieties every year. It’s fun. It’s interesting.  And it’s important.  Diane’s book explains why all those things are true.

Diane Ott Whealy was one of the founders of Seed Saves Exchange (SSE), the nation’s first nonprofit seed-saving organization.

Diane, her former husband Ken, and an ever-growing group of volunteers began saving heirloom seeds and the stories that came with them in the 1970s.  In 1986, SSE found a permanent home at Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa.

The book is a fascinating memoir, documenting the growth of the seed saving movement. It also reflects the challenges faced when a tiny organization must confront inevitable changes brought by success. Along the way, it highlights the urgent need to grow and save heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Essays introduce readers to a fascinating cast of characters—both people and plants. While reading, I made a long list of vegetable varieties I want to try. The book is also beautifully produced, with gorgeous color photographs and equally gorgeous illustrations.

If you’re new to heirloom gardening, this book will provide all the inspiration you need to get started.

Frieda’s Kitchen

March 14, 2012

If you’ve read the second Chloe Ellefson novel, The Heirloom Murders, you’ve met Frieda Frietag.  Frieda is an elderly woman of Swiss descent, living in an old family farmhouse in Green County, WI.  Based on reader response, Frieda and her husband have become favorite characters.

In the book, Chloe meets Frieda in her kitchen:

Martine led them through the house to the kitchen.  The room was hot enough to take Chloe’s breath away, but also welcoming in a cluttered and comfortable way.

“Gran?” Martine said.  “Here are the visitors I was telling you about.”

A tiny wren of a woman with stooped shoulders turned from an iron-and-enamel cookstove.  Markus made introductions.  Frieda beamed at him, then turned to Chloe.  “Gruetzi!”

“Hello,” Chloe said.  “I’m afraid I’m not fluent in your first language.”  She’d tried hard to scour all things Swiss from her mind, and her command of the language was rusty at best.

“No matter,” Frieda assured her.  “I’m glad you’re here.”

I like to pin my books on real places to the extent possible.  The inspiration for that kitchen came from a display at the Swiss Historical Village and Museum in New Glarus, Wisconsin.  THM takes place in 1982, so I thought this kitchen might not be too far from what a traditional woman, well advanced in years, might have.

Most people pass on without leaving diaries or reminiscences handy for curious novelists.  But sometimes, the essence of a time and place can be sensed in the objects that  people owned, used, made, cared for, and left behind.  My favorite artifacts in the kitchen?  These embroidered storage bags, which provide a hint—just a hint—of the woman who made them.  I hope she’d be pleased to know that they have a place of honor in the museum.

Giving Thanks

November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I enjoy good food; even more, I enjoy pausing to celebrate bounty. So this week I thought I’d re-post some thoughts about the simple pleasure of homemade  bread.

Bread dough raising in a coiled rye straw basket at Old World Wisconsin.

Two of German farms that have been restored at Old World Wisconsin, setting for my Chloe Ellefson mysteries, were home to immigrants from Pomerania. The 1860 Schulz Farm represents a newly-arrived family. Heavy rye bread is baked in a brick bakeoven.

That's me at the Schulz Farm...

The Koepsell Farm has been restored to its 1880 appearance—when the family was prosperous and well settled in Wisconsin. Interpreters there prepare lighter wheat bread in a cookstove. By visiting both farms, guests can see for themselves how life changed over the years.

...and at the Koepsell Farm.

I worked in the German area for most of 1982—my first year at Old World Wisconsin.  On the last day of the season I suddenly realized I should have copied all of the recipes we used.  One of my friends, Jean Hornburg, scribbled down the basic recipe for the Koepsell wheat bread on an Exhibit Building Report (kept in the houses so interpreters could notify curators of any problem.)

Thirty years later, I still treasure the recipe. The bread is good. Even better are memories of sharing meals with good people who thought that working at Old World was a special thing to do.

By the way, Jean still sometimes works at the site. I had the chance to see her when I went back to launch The Heirloom Murders in September.

One of the best things about writing the Chloe Ellefson mysteries has been reconnecting with friends!

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to have good food to eat, and family and friends to share it with. I’m also grateful to readers!  I wish you and yours a peaceful holiday.