It’s a common practice, when you write a mystery series, to give the series a name, and that name is often the name of your sleuth. Thus, my first three books, collectively, are known as the Cassie O’Malley Mysteries. But I gave serious consideration to calling the series the Pine Barrens Mysteries, because, in a very real sense, what connects each of my books is a sense of place. The first book, and the series it birthed, started not with a plot, nor with a character. The book started with a time and place. The time? The hour before sunrise. The place? A back road deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Folks are always surprised when I tell them about the Pine Barrens. After all, it’s not what people think of when they think of New Jersey. You might be surprised to find more than one million acres of pine forests and cranberry bogs less than one hundred miles from Manhattan, less than fifty miles from Philadelphia. Towns have grown up in and amongst the forest, and some are now thriving cities, but, even today, there is vast acreage in the Pine Barrens that remains virgin pine forest. A person could get lost forever in the Pine Barrens, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to put a character on a back road in the Pine Barrens in the hour before the sun comes up and see what happens. Well, what happened was that Cassie discovered a dead body, and I discovered that I was a mystery writer. But when I describe my first book, I say that it’s really about the folklore of the NJ Pine Barrens.
Lines on the Pines is an annual gathering of artists and authors, of photographers, craftsmen, musicians, folklorists and historians in and of the Pinelands. It is a celebration of small town life nestled in between two major metropolises (metropoli?). On Sunday, I’ll be signing books at Lines on the Pines. For more information about the three books that comprise the Cassie O’Malley Mysteries, follow this link to My Books. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello.