Writing the Historical Mystery

M. E. Kemp was born in Oxford, MA in 1713 — ooops, that’s when her family settled in Oxford, the first English settlement of the town after a try by the Huguenots (French Protestants fleeing from executions by the French King.)   Kemp’s family still live in the town, where her roots run deep.  The first baby on her great-grandfather’s side was born in Salem in 1636.   Kemp writes historical mysteries about two nosy Puritans.  She lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with hubby Jack and two kitties, Boris and Natasha.

I write historical mysteries, but historical mysteries set in colonial America.  This is partially a reaction from the tons and tons of medieval mysteries written today.  I do enjoy reading them, but I also believe that American history is just as bloody and colorful as medieval England.  My book plots are taken from old American history books — I have a collection found on our many trips to Boston, and all I have to do is open one of them (Samuel Sewall’s Diary or The Memorial History of Boston – 1880,)  to any page, and there’s a plot!  For instance, I noticed that four ministers died within a short period of time and that became the impetus for my first book, MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM.  I happened to pick up a biography of NYS’s Founding Father, Robert Livingstone, and read that he committed land fraud on a grand scale.  That brought my nosy Puritans to Albany for my second book, DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE.   Since I was writing a series by time, when I came to the  year 1692 I could not ignore the most famous incident in that year, the Salem Witch Trials.  So I have Hetty accused of being  a witch and going into hiding — if you were smart you did just that in 1692.  So begins DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE.    The new book, DEATH OF A FENCING MASTER, is based upon an incident where the magistrates and ministers harassed a dancing master so that he left Boston.  (I thought to myself, what if he was found dead?  There’d be lots of suspects!)

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