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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now, Author Margaret Coel Visits
Today (Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012) is the release date for BUFFALO BILL’S DEAD NOW, the 15th book in the Wind River Mystery series by New York Times bestselling author Margaret Coel and I’m thrilled to have Margaret visiting with us to launch her new book.
Margaret’s acclaimed Wind River Mystery series is set among the Arapahos on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation. It features Jesuit priest Father John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden.
Here’s a brief synopsis of BUFFALO BILL’S DEAD NOW: After more than 120 years, the regalia worn by Arapaho Chief Black Heart in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show were supposed to be returned to his people. But the cartons containing the relics were empty when they arrived at the Arapaho museum. Rancher and Indian artifact collector Trevor Pratt had them shipped from Germany and believes thieves must have stolen them en route. Vicki and Father John suspect Trevor knows more about the theft than he’s telling—a suspicion that’s confirmed when they witness a car speeding from his home and he’s found murdered inside. To find the killer, they must first uncover the truth about a blood feud between two Arapaho families—and the original theft of Black Heart’s possessions dating back more than a century. Margaret is here to tell us ‘Why Buffalo Bill.’
Where do you get ideas? This is every authors most FAQ. An idea could have been lifted right out of the front pages, but readers still ask. When Willie Nelson was asked where he got ideas for his songs, he said that ideas exist in the universe, and from time to time one falls into his head. Seems to me, that about says it all.
So Buffalo Bill fell into my head. As a historian, I’m a little gaga over history. I like writing mysteries woven around history with eerily connected crimes in the past and in the present. And Father John O’Malley and Vicky Holden must figure out what happened in the past before they can solve the present crime. Since Arapahos once lived on the central plains—Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas—the bloody history of this area was their history. The gold rush, deluge of easterners across Indian lands, wars, massacres, destruction of the buffalo and the Indian way of life—Arapahos were there for all of it.
As was William F. Cody, known as Buffalo Bill. Scout, buffalo hunter, Indian fighter. You name it, he did it. But here’s the thing: the Plains Indians respected Buffalo Bill. He fought them, but he fought fairly. He was a warrior, and warriors respect other warriors, even enemies.
Later, with the tribes on reservations, poverty-stricken and miserable, Buffalo Bill reappeared in their lives. He had formed a spectacular extravaganza which he called the Wild West. For twenty years, this extravaganza would travel the nation and Europe. He was the greatest entertainer of his time. But he didn’t just entertain. He educated millions of spectators about the conquest of the American West. For that, he needed Indians, because without them, there could be no show about the West. In the 1889-1890 season, a hundred Arapahos joined Buffalo Bill and the Wild West. Traveled across Europe, saw sights they had never dreamed they might see, met people they could only imagine, such as the Pope.
For some time I had been mulling over the idea of writing a mystery that moved between the present on the Wind River Reservation and the time that Arapahos spent with Buffalo Bill, but I was having trouble conjuring up past and present crimes for Father John and Vicky to solve. Then I happened to read about the value of Indian artifacts from the Wild West. Most of the artifacts are in museums, but collectors pay handsome prices for the few pieces occasionally on the market.
It struck me that Arapaho artifacts would be especially valuable because of their rarity. While other tribes, such as the Sioux, spent years with Buffalo Bill, a large number of Arapahos were with the show only in 1889-1890. That gave me the idea for past and present crimes: the theft of artifacts, and the willingness of villains—past and present-- to kill for them. BUFFALO BILL’S DEAD NOWwas on its way.
Margaret, thanks for this intriguing insight into how your book came about. I like the remark from Willie too. That does say a lot.
Now here’s a bit of background on Margaret. She is a native Coloradan who hails from a pioneer Colorado family. The West — the mountains, plains, and vast spaces — are in her bones, she says. She moved out of Colorado on two occasions — to attend Marquette University and to spend a couple of years in Alaska. Both times she couldn't wait to get back.
Along with the Wind River mystery series, Margaret is the author of five non-fiction books, including the award-winning CHIEF LEFT HAND, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. This biography of an Arapaho chief and history of the Arapahos in Colorado has never gone out of print. The Colorado Historical Society has included both CHIEF LEFT HAND and Margaret's memoir-history of railroading in Colorado, GOIN’ RAILROADING (which she wrote with her father, Samuel F. Speas) among the best 100 books on Colorado history.
Her articles on the West have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Creativity! and many other publications. Speaking engagements on the people and places she loves best have taken her around the country and as far away as Australia. She visits the Wind River Reservation every year, "just to catch up with my Arapaho friends."
She writes in a small study in her home on a hillside in Boulder. The window frames a view of the Rocky Mountains and the almost-always blue sky. A herd of deer are usually grazing just outside, and one summer a couple of years ago, a mountain lion made its home close by. "Every day,” she says, "I drink in the West."
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