By Pat Browning
“A profound sense of place” – that’s what novelist Beth Anderson said about my fictional town of Pearl in ABSINTHE OF MALICE.
Pearl is a combination of several little towns along old Highway 99. The highway runs the length of California’s San Joaquin Valley, with Fresno almost dead center and various towns hidden in the trees on either side of the highway.
I lived in the area for most of my adult life and, frankly, I miss it. I’m glad I set my mystery there. ABSINTHE is first in a proposed limited series. The second book got derailed along the way, but as James Garner always said in his old “Maverick” TV series, “I’m workin’ on it.”
Helping to preserve that sense of place as I slog through Book No. 2, which I’ll call METAPHOR, are some photos I took in Hanford before I moved to Oklahoma five years ago. The photos are of real streets and houses. Their place in my book is purely fictional.
Hanford’s old Irwin Street Inn is the inspiration for property now owned by my character Halcyon. She got the keys when her husband’s mysterious disappearance – oops, that would be a spoiler. In METAPHOR she’s fixing the place up and thinking of opening a tearoom.
Halcyon’s dashing nephew, Watt, lives in one of Halcyon’s suites with an outside entrance. Watt was “born” one night about 10 years ago during an online chat with a writing group. We kicked around the idea of a romantic interest for my protagonist. As long as I was inventing him I invented the perfect man – handsome, sexy, rich and aging gracefully. What’s not to love?
Hanford’s China Alley is the inspiration for my Shanghai Street. It plays an important part in METAPHOR.
This house inspired my version of a house that once belonged to one of Pearl's long dead residents who left behind a surprise or two.
And what would a setting in Central California be without winter fog? I took this photo of a Hanford street in December 2004.
A sense of place … a place I know well. It’s time I got back to it. See you in the funky little town of Pearl!