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It might have been the thrill of reading
Stephen King’s The Shining, or the
many places my husband and I have stayed during our travels, but whatever the
reason, I decided to set my Sydney Lockhart mysteries in historic hotels. In my
first novel, Murder at the Arlington,
Sydney is a travel writer on assignment at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.
I’ve spent so much time at the hotel it feels like my Hot Springs home. Sydney’s
stay, however, was not as pleasant. After the smoke cleared, she returned to
Austin with her travel article as well as a news story on the murders that took
place there during her stay. Instantly, her position at the Austin American Statesmen evolved from a
soft-news reporter to a full-blown journalist. Her second assignment put her at
the Luther Hotel on the Texas Coast, another familiar place where we have a
designated room when we travel to that part of the state. Murder at the Luther takes place on New Year’s Eve. This time
Sydney finds herself dancing with a dead man. She is arrested for his murder
and spends the next week traipsing over Matagorda Country, trying to find the
real killer while attempting to stay one step ahead of a crazy Cajun and an
insane woman who want her dead.
If you’ve ever visited Galveston, Texas, you
are aware that a string of motels and hotels line Seawall Boulevard, a ten-mile
concrete wall that has for the last 100 years kept the Gulf of Mexico in its
place (except for Hurricane Ike in 2008). On 21St Street overlooking
the water is another 100-year-old structure, the Galvez Hotel. Sydney is sent
to the hotel to report on a new development project proposed for Pelican
Island. Of course, that required me staying there several times so I could get
the feel for the place. I’m currently working on book four, Murder at the Driskill. The 125-year-old
hotel is located in Sydney’s hometown of Austin. Having lived in the state
capital myself for twenty-five years, part of that time downtown, my husband
and I used to stroll over to the hotel and enjoyed a cocktail in the bar. I
have yet to lay my head under the roof of the Romanesque-style building and
until I get much further long with the story, I’ll have to do so.
When folks learn that I set each mystery in a different
historic hotel, they often give me a name of a hotel I can use. My list is
already a long one: The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, The Crescent Hotel in Eureka
Spring, Arkansas, The Peabody in Memphis, The Island Hotel in Cedar Key,
Florida, The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas and the Excelsior Hotel in Jefferson,
Texas. Once Sydney begins to travel north, the possibilities are endless, and
no matter how you look at it, hundreds of strangers sleeping under the same
roof can lead to all sorts of trouble. And for a mystery writer, I can’t think
of a better place to stage a murder.