In a recent post, I discussed the move from my Endurance Mysteries to my little town called Sweet Iron, Illinois, in my upcoming book, A Death at Tippitt Pond. This is the first of three posts about recreating the past and present in the lives of characters in a small town. Part One is about memories and the past; part Two will show how the story incorporates the Vietnam War; and the third part will be about fashion.
The Time Period
Parts of this new mystery recreate memories and artifacts from the 1960s and 1970s. That was a period of my life when I was a teenager and young adult, and the same is true of some of the characters in this book. Recreating those memories and that time took a lot of memory as well as research to fill in the gaps. Can you remember that period of time? Small-town America? Cruising the strip? Parking in the shadows? Finding the shortest mini-skirt ever?
Small-town America in the Midwest for teenagers at that time included dates, dances, rock and roll, cars, diaries, hope chests, Prom, and money-raising via activities like car washes. The local root beer stand, the lovers’ lanes, the soda shop, cruising the strip, gossip, who’s dating whom, school activities, parties with loud music and illegal beer, and the latest fashions that were two years behind the fashions on the coast–these were all memories from that period of time. Incorporating some of these items and locations in a mystery was fun since I lived through this “past.”
Memory and Character Development
Point-of-view and age make a huge difference. In A Death at Tippitt Pond, one of the characters–Elisha Davis–tells Beth Russell, the protagonist, about a special memory of her friendship with another character named Melanie Tippitt. Elisha is talking as an adult looking back with great fondness on her teenage years, but she is also creating an understanding of Melanie Tippitt in Beth’s mind from Elisha’s point-of-view. It’s a nostalgic look into the past when Elisha and Melanie were much younger.
“Our sophomore year. The night she [Melanie Tippitt] became the queen of the May Dance. She wore the most beautiful pink formal with white elbow-length gloves and a glittery tiara. Afterward, we sat on the football field bleachers, our shoes kicked off, and talked about where our lives would go. She wanted to travel to the Far East–India, I think. She loved geography, travel. She told me she wanted to graduate from college and go see the world. Me, I thought I’d marry a handsome man and live happily ever after. You know, typical teenage stuff. Silly. But I believed she’d make her dream come true–she was that kind of person. She lived a charmed life … Funny how life never quite turns out the way you think it will.”
These characters and the past are due to come into our lives on June 15th, and,
as always …
a death at Tippitt Pond changed everything.
The shortest miniskirt ever to me meant rolling up the waistband of my miniskirt! Two blocks after I left home 🙂
Ah, Judy, I did that too. And lipstick in my purse. Hmmm..to be a teenager again!
I remember a mini-dress that sparkled. It was tri-color with silver threads; I got silver toned panty hose and wore chunky heeled shoes. I wore it on New Year’s Eve, in 1969 or 70. I had the tall, think figure for it then. I’m trying to remember where I bought the dress; either Frankel’s or Kellogg & Drake in Galesburg, I think. My young husband looked marvelous that New Year’s Eve. I don’t know why, but that is the dress I remember most fondly!
What a wonderful memory! I remember those chunky-heeled shoes so well. Isn’t amazing how we remember those details? I remember having a navy CPO jacket that I absolutely loved, and a gold dress with a short skirt that hung in such perfect folds. I wore a huge, ceramic pin in the shape of a sunflower on it. The 60s and 70s were quite the era for fashion, especially the excess of the 1970s. That was why I had so much fun researching it, and why you will remember a lot of the fashion that hangs in one of the closets in Tippitt House in this novel.
Of your many strengths as a writer, none is more apparent than your meticulous research. As with you, Ms. Van Kirk, the ’60’s and ’70 were when I lived as a teen and then a young adult. Yes, I recall all of those things you cited in your blog: cruising the strip, parking at Lake Storey’s “13 curves”, weekend basketball games, thinking there was no generation quite as cool as ours, and subconsciously believing I would live forever. But, then soon after entering young adulthood I was rudely awakened from my lingering juvenile fantasy: Vietnam, racism, and dishonesty from “pious” men who preached platitudes. I am very anxious to read your latest mystery–just ordered off of amazon. Thanks for the suspense.
Wow! You have such a great memory, Jim Jacobs. In some ways we were a lucky generation, not having to deal with WWII or the Depression. We didn’t know how good we had it, did we? But no generation gets off free, as you mention. Both of those possibilities–young, cool and immortal vs the reality of the adult world weave their way through “A Death at Tippitt Pond.” Thanks for ordering a copy! You always have my back.
Intriguing! I enjoyed how the snippet offered a sense of time/place, but (as you point out) the relationship between characters and foreshadowing. I’m glad my book is preordered. Looking forward to reading more.
Thanks so much, Jen.
Right now I’m loving books set in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Has anyone watched the wonderful Britush TV series, The Royal?
I haven’t watched that series, Connie, but I’ll check it out. Thanks for stopping by.