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 Memories

photo via Nick Karvounis at

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.

photo by Scott Webb at

“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.