Solving Crime the Hard Way

J. R. LindermuthA retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in central Pennsylvania. Since his retirement he has served as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with research and genealogy. He is the author of 12 novels. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society.

Sooner Than Gold, the second in my Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman series, is coming in March from Wild Oaks, the Western imprint of Oak Tree Press.

Technically, it’s not a Western in terms of setting, since it takes place in Pennsylvania in 1898. Tilghman is the third of his family to hold the job of sheriff in a rural community in these novels set in the 1890s. Those of us who choose to set our crime stories in the past give ourselves the additional problem of getting the history right.

History too often gets a bad rap. Students dismiss it as boring. Politicians and others with a biased agenda abuse its factuality. But the truth is out there and available to any willing to take the time to search. Since that involves time and effort, history is either ignored or perverted.

I’m one of those weird birds who actually enjoy research. It was a necessary part of my past life as a newspaper reporter and editor. Since I still write a weekly newspaper column on local history and serve as librarian of my county historical society, it remains a part of my routine.

Fallen from GraceDelving into old newspapers lends credence to my setting. Getting the investigative part right takes a little more work than depicting the daily life of my characters, their attire, social pursuits, dining and other activity.

Police like Tilghman in the 19th century lacked the forensic advantages available to their modern counterparts.

For instance, at one point Syl remarks that though the British had developed a fingerprinting system in 1893 it hadn’t come into wide use in the states and particularly not in small towns like his. In the previous novel, Fallen From Grace, he’d lauded the telegraph as a great boon to law enforcement.

In the 1890s a police officer had to rely on his experience, instincts and knowledge of people rather than the scientific advances we tend to take for granted. Police still rely to a great extent of those earlier virtues, though the forensic elements sometimes make the job just a little easier.

15 thoughts on “Solving Crime the Hard Way

  1. John, since I’ve probably learned more about history from reading fiction than from taking courses in school, I love to read novels that include some historical facts in them. Your books sound like my cup of tea.

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  2. Research of your time period is often the fun part of writing the book! And having already read “Sooner Than Gold” I get to say John’s research has paid off with a story both accurate and entertaining. But it’s not a western, it’s a true historical.

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  3. Hey John!! Sooner Than Gold sounds intriguing. I can’t wait to read it. I too enjoy research, even though at times I wonder why?? I had to do a lot of research for my upcoming book (also through Oak Tree Press), but it was vital to ensure accuracy. Thanks for sharing.

    -C.L.Swinney

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  4. Congratulations, John, your books sounds intriguing on several levels. I can relate to your comments on history. My novel, Murder at the P&Z takes place in historic Wilton, CT. The history added much to my story. I love research as well given my background as a newspaper reporter. Getting the history right can keep me up nights.

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  5. What could be more fun than learning while you’re being entertained with a story? I enjoy research and have included little snippets of history in a few of my stories, but what you’ve done is far beyond snippets. Can’t wait to start on your books!

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  6. Definitely will be looking for this book. There’s nothing like good research in a good writer’s hand and head to make a book truly enjoyable.
    I get upset when writers write a fictional novel and change their version of history to help their political cause.

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  7. I agree with Sandi. Nothing’s worse than an author who grafts 21st century ideas/speech into a previous era. I love research too if it’s a subject or time that interests me. Your book sounds intriquing.

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  8. John, your books sound good. Thanks for telling us about them. Your community (and that includes the online Short Mystery Fiction Society) is certainly lucky to have you. I love to learn new things when I’m reading fiction. Sounds like that happens when one reads your books. Bravo!

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