Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mystery of Spider Mountain

by Jean Henry Mead

I thought about writing an autobiographical children’s book for years and finally sat down and wrote it. Solstice Publishing brought it out this week and I’m well into the second book of the Hamilton Kids mystery series. I've never had so much fun writing.

By autobiographical I mean that the characters grew up at the foot of a large hill in southern California, as I did with four younger brothers. Because the hill was inhabited by trap door spiders and an occasional tarantula that had arrived on a banana boat from Central America, I called it Spider Mountain.

My brothers and I were close in age and explored our "mountain" together. The apron was filled with purplish-blue lupines nearly all year round and about half way up the hill was Dead Man’s Tree. We called it that because a thick knotted rope hung from a lower limb that we swung on. At the end was a loop that prompted stories of horsethieves we imagined had been hanged there.

A dirt road encircled the hill at three levels but was so chocked with rocks and weeds that even a bicycle would have had difficult passage. We always wondered how the people who lived at the summit were able to reach their house, imagining everything from rock climbers to space ships and helicopters, although we’d never heard one in the area.

When I was twelve and old enough to babysit brothers who were nearly my own size, we climbed our mountain to spy on the mysterious house. What we found was a chain link fence enclosing four large vicious-looking dogs with mouths large enough to swallow a child whole. Or so we thought. It didn’t take us long to scramble back down the hill to our own house. And, of course, we never told our parents.

When I began to write I wondered again who those people were and how they arrived there. I wanted to write a mystery so I had to decide what kind of crime(s) the residents of the house had committed. And how the Hamilton kids would be able to capture them.

I thought of the Ouija board that had frightened us when we played with it at night. That’s when the spirit Bagnomi materialized to communicate with the kids via the board.

My four brothers had to be cut to two to make the story manageable. Even then they were as troubesome as my own brothers had been, so their widowed grandmother came to live with them—as mine had done. However, my grandmother didn’t have bright red curly hair like Ronald McDonald, and wasn’t interested in finding a husband. Even children’s books need humor and the Hamilton Kids’ grandmother provides that and more, along with an adopted Australian Sheppard with a penchant for chewing up furniture.

I enjoyed writing the book and hope that the second novel, The Ghost of Crimson Dawn, will be equally entertaining.

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