Sidra Smart Mystery Series
“Move over Stephanie Plum and Annie Darling because there’s a new sassy sleuth on the scene and boy is she a firecracker!” —Chick Lit Cafe blog
Sidra Smart mysteries is my first venture into writing. People often ask me why I set my books in a small corner of Texas. I didn’t know why myself until the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce me to write an article for a magazine in their relocation packet. That is when I realized, after living elsewhere for over forty years, that I’d fallen in love with my hometown all over again.
The best we can figure, the Scots-Irish Dickey clan moved to Orange, Texas, in 1917. The lot of them loaded up and moved to the area from Thorndale, Texas in Milam County. The women and children took the train, while the men loaded their belongings on wagons and trekked across the state. Dickeys have lived here ever since.
A couple years after high school, I climbed in my own “covered wagon,” a two-toned black-and-white Chevy, and headed to Fort Worth, Texas, off on my own adventure. Since then, I’ve lived in a number of towns across Texas and halfway back, with a six-year stint on the island of Trinidad, West Indies.
When I contemplated a setting for my Sidra Smart mystery series, I considered all of these locations and more, but none of them fit. Frustrated, I played with the idea of setting the series in Orange, but promptly dismissed it. After all, I argued, Orange was just home.
An ordinary town set smack in the middle of mosquito-infested swampland, a town full of ordinary people doing ordinary things. But once spurred by the idea, I felt like our old plodding horse “Molly.” Once you turned her towards home, it was Katy-bar-the-door. For the more I researched, the more I discovered the mystical and mysterious elements resident in this area.
Combine the colorful Cajun/Creole culture and superstitions with the proud, stubborn, hardworking Scots-Irish; the solid, dependable farmers and ranchers, with the late coming Northern executives, who came to establish and maintain the oil industry. Add the area’s ghosts, like that of a police chief gunned down by, of all people, the pastor of First Baptist Church; the victims of vigilante lynching strung up on the gibbet limb of “The Hanging Tree”; the innocent slaves who didn’t survive storage in shacks out at Deweyville; and even earlier still, the spirits left behind by the cannibalistic Atakapa Indians.
For texture, listen to the down-home southeast Texas accent, where verb tense is simple and seldom conjugated, where whole sentences get reduced to one or two words. (“Y’ont-to?” for “Do you want to?” or “Would you like to?”)
For spice, add a crawfish boil and fresh seafood gumbo or some of the best Southern cooking this side of paradise. For flavor, add the mysterious Adams Bayou, meandering through town past the Survivor Tree, a Pond Cypress dated at 1,200 years old — older than Christopher Columbus, Shakespeare, and even Galileo. Then add the exotic Blue Elbow Swamp, flowing between Texas and Louisiana. The result? A perfect setting for a mystery series.
Plus, when you mix all this together, the result is a friendly town with a concern for others, a sense of belonging to a place with a unique history not found in other small towns, the determination to keep on keeping on, despite depressions, wars, hurricanes, and industrial flux. In every book of the Sidra Smart series, there are examples of people who take their neighboring seriously and are concerned for others’ welfare. No wonder I fell in love with my hometown all over again.
Once called a “pretty as a fairy tale” river port city, today, a new opportunity awaits the greater Orange area. The tight, controlled grip of the past has lessened its hold. Orange stands on the edge of a bright new future. Fall in love with Orange all over again. Seek out its fascinating history and you will learn its mystery. It awaits your discovery.