Book Nerd Guest Post
I'm often asked why I write the Professor Bradshaw mysteries. "Why electrical engineering?" and "Why the early 20th Century?" and "Why Seattle?" Initially, I explained that Professor Bradshaw simply came to me that way, fully formed, as characters sometimes do. Like a gift from the writing gods. It was a true answer, in part. I didn't sit down and ponder and create Bradshaw and his world. He was there when I needed him. I did have to investigate him a bit, once he introduced himself, to figure out where he learned his trade, when he moved to Seattle, the year his son was born. But it felt like researching the life of a real historical figure.
I am not crazy. Well, no more crazy than any author. I do know Bradshaw is a figment of my imagination, born of all that I am and all I've experienced. So after awhile, I began a little self-examination to see what deeper reasons gave Bradshaw life. There is the undeniable fact that my husband is a lineman for a local utility, a strong but silent type, who can go out in the midst of storms, climb poles, and restore power. Surely, a bit of him is in Bradshaw.
And way back when I first attended the University of Washington, right out of high school, I had dreams of being an engineer. Not electrical, but civil. I wanted to devise an efficient and popular mass transit system. I didn't achieve that goal (and I apologize to Seattleites), partly because I got married to said lineman and moved away, and partly because it was beginning to dawn on me that I was better at dreaming up solutions than actually inventing them. I was a writer, not an engineer.
The setting being in Seattle is easy. I was born and raised in Seattle, and now live very nearby. I love Seattle, the old neighborhoods, the steep hills, the views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, the surrounding mountain ranges, the Space Needle. I love the Pacific Northwest. For a few years, my husband and I lived back East, and as lovely as the rolling hills and deciduous trees were, whenever I saw a photo of a Douglas fir, my heart ached.
And the time period? That goes even deeper. I once wrote a blog post where I compared 1901, the year Bradshaw solves his first case, to 1963, the year I was born, and I realized that the world I entered—a world of astronauts and magic—had its roots in 1901. That was the year Walt Disney was born. That year, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla and the Wright Brothers and so many others were alive and well and propelling us toward new technologies. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne were delighting imaginations and had many envisioning fantastic futures. All of this was happening a mere sixty-some years before I was born, making it possible for me, at the age of six, to sit in front of a black-and-white television and watch NASA launch a spaceship to the moon.
I could probably dig even deeper and figure out why Mrs. Prouty is Bradshaw's grumpy but loving housekeeper, why Henry is his best friend, why he is so devoted to his son, and why he loves a woman who is in many ways his opposite. But I don't want to ruin the magic of the writing process by understanding too much. I'm content to know I write the Professor Bradshaw mysteries in order to explore who I am and where I came from. And because I love good-old-fashioned whodunits.
Seattle in 1901 is a bustling blend of frontier attitude and cosmopolitan swagger. The Snoqualmie Falls Power Plant lights the city, but to most Seattleites, electricity is new-fangled and dangerous. The public wants a culprit—they want Bradshaw behind bars.
The killer wants Bradshaw dead.
His life and liberty threatened, Bradshaw discovers the thrill of investigation as he's thrust deeper into the hunt.Questions abound. How had the Electric Machine's Tesla Coil delivered a fatal shock? Was the murder personal—or connected to President McKinley's planned visit? Were students involved, or in danger? And why had Bradshaw's best friend, Henry, fled to Alaska the day of the murder?
When Henry's niece Missouri appears on Bradshaw's porch in need of a home, her unorthodox views and femininity confuse and intrigue him as he struggles to protect his own haunting secret. Danger and death lurk everywhere—disguised as accidents. Has Bradshaw come alive again only to lose all he holds dear? Before it's too late, will he discover the circuit path that led to a spark of death?