It is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest, Charlotte Hinger, a Western Kansas historian who is using her knowledge and background to write fiction. Her first novel, Deadly Descent, was inspired by a childhood listening to the natural born liars in her small community of Lone Elm, Kansas, and the mesmerizing “rest of the stories” whispered behind closed doors when she edited over 500 family submissions for county history books.
Kansas-Colorado Connection—forever linked in history by Charlotte Hinger, Guest Blogger
I’m a native Kansan with a flaming state loyalty. I moved to Colorado after my husband died, because I have three daughters on the Front Range and my only blood kin was in Eastern Kansas. But I yearned for the endless prairies of Western Kansas. Then a friend, who is also a historian, reminded me that Colorado was once part of Kansas.
Yes! That’s all it took to settle my mind. In territorial days, the Territory of Kansas cut a wide swath through an area that now includes Denver, and an impressive chunk of the Front Range. Kansas has never been a peaceful state. Ten different men served as governor of the Kansas Territory and no one was more frustrated with the chaos of Kansas politics than James W. Denver. The city of Denver was named after this man. He wrote his wife that if he could get rid of Kansas he vowed “never to put my foot inside of their territory again.” He added “it requires all the powers conferred on me by the President to prevent them from cutting each other’s throats.”
So when people ask me where I get my ideas—in all honesty, the state bristles with stories. A famous historian once said that whatever was going to happen in America, happened first in Kansas.
The Lottie Albright mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, is set in Western Kansas. I’m also a historian and am completing an academic book about 19th century Kansas African American politicians and their effect on the settlement of the West. Lethal Lineage, the second mystery, was just released. The murderous tensions within families provides intrigue. Twin sisters, Lottie and Josie Albright (a historian and a psychologist) become allies against common enemies on the plains. Lottie’s much older husband, Keith Fiene, would love to see his wife back in the ivory tower of historical research. But Lottie is drawn into an additional career as deputy, then undersheriff of Carlton County. She is drawn into deadly confrontations with other sheriffs, ranchers, historians, stepchildren, outsiders, and thrown into a stew seasoned with murder. The past is always present, and murderous people set in a state referred to as “Bleeding Kansas” from its violent beginning with border wars before the Civil War is the perfect setting for families up to no good.
Lethal Lineage begins in the tiny Episcopal Church of St. Helena, centered exactly on the corners of four counties in Western Kansas. The location was determined with a protractor and required the diplomatic skills used to divide up territory after World War 1. The first service, confirming Lottie’s and Josie’s niece, should have been a celebratory day. This is first time Lottie has seen her friend Mary Farnsworth in vestments. Mary is obviously distraught when she comes down the aisle. But from the moment a sinister bishop shows up and devastates the congregation with a blistering sermon, the event is doomed. The day ends in murder. Lottie soon becomes ensnared by this smoldering bishop with unexpected links to a wicked family dynasty bent on destruction.
Charlotte has published a number of mystery short stories. Simon and Schuster published her historical novel, Come Spring, which won the Western Writers of America Medicine Pipe Award. Convinced that mystery writing and historical investigation go hand to hand, she applies her MA in history to academic articles and her wicked and depraved imagination to murder most foul.
Deadly Descent received a Kirkus Starred Review and was winner of the 2010 AZ Book Publishers Award for Best Mystery/Suspense.