Amanda Flower is an academic librarian and the Agatha Award-nominated author of Maid of Murder, the Appleseed Creek Mysteries, and the India Hayes Mysteries. She also writes the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries under the name Isabella Alan. Her latest is The Final Reveille, the first book in the Living History Museum Mystery series.
Q: Amanda, thanks for stopping by! Can you tell us what The Final Reveille is about?
A: As the director of Barton Farm, a living history museum in Ohio, Kelsey Cambridge is underpaid and underappreciated, but she loves every minute of it. Determined to keep the struggling Farm open, she plans to impress the museum’s wealthy benefactress, Cynthia Cherry, with a four-day Civil War reenactment on the Farm’s grounds, complete with North and South encampments, full-scale battles, and an Abraham Lincoln lookalike spouting the Gettysburg Address to anyone who will listen.
Unfortunately, the first shot in the battle isn’t from a period rifle but from Cynthia’s greedy nephew, Maxwell, who plans to close the Farm when he inherits his ill aunt’s wealth. On the first day of the reenactment, Cynthia and Maxwell stop by, and Kelsey and Maxwell have a public argument over the Farm’s funding. The next morning, things go from bad to worse for Kelsey when she discovers Maxwell dead in the brickmaker’s pit. Now Kelsey is the police’s number one suspect, and she must start her own investigation to save the museum . . . and herself while the War Between the States rages on around her.
Q: How does Kelsey’s job affect her sleuthing abilities? Does she have access to important information that even the police might not have?
A: Kelsey Cambridge, as the director of Barton Farm, knows the people and grounds better than anyone. She also knows the history of the area like the back of her hand, which helps her solve the crimes committed on Farm grounds.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: One summer when I was in college I worked as an historical interpreter at a living history museum much like Barton Farm. The job was so much fun and one of my favorite memories from my college years. Even back then, I wanted to be a mystery author, and I recognized that a living history museum would be the perfect setting for a cozy mystery because interesting people choose to work and visit such a place. Many of them are quirky, which I love.
Q. What kind of research did you do for this book?
A: Since I worked at museum like this, I had a lot of first person experience that I drew upon to write the book, and I set the book in NE Ohio because I love the history of the Western Reserve. The Western Reserve is the northeast corner of Ohio and is called such because it once belonged to Connecticut before the American Revolution. After the Revolution when colonies became states, Connecticut gave up its claim. Because of this, there is a definite New England feel to this part of Ohio that is much different than the rest of the state. In addition to Western Reserve history, I researched Civil War reenactors and the Civil War in general. I’m a librarian as well as an author, so I watched a lot of documentaries and read a bunch of books.
Q: Is there one character with whom you particularly identify?
A: I think it would be Kelsey, the main character. She really cares about saving the Farm and preserving the past. As a librarian, I care about history too. Also, she and I have the same sense of humor.
Q: Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?”
A: Panster 100%.
Q: For non-U.S. readers, can you explain the phenomenon of Civil War reenactments? Who participates in these, and what do they get out of it? Do the participants always follow history, or do the battles sometimes have different outcomes? Is there anything else like them elsewhere?
A: Civil War reenactment is a major and expensive hobby in the U.S. The American Civil War (1861-1865) was the costliest war for America in human life. The casualties from the war, including those who died from disease, were over 400,000. The American landscape is peppered with memorials and parks commemorating almost every battle fought. The war, which began over an argument debate of states’ rights, became an even bigger struggle when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all the slaves in the South. Ultimately, the war was about the issue of slavery. Even today, many Americans feel passionate about the Civil War and many honor it by recreating the battles. It’s their way of remembering. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the war, and I’m excited The Final Reveille came out in this year to honor such an important anniversary.
I know other countries have reenactors for battles and historical events, but I’m not sure that any of them are as big as Civil War reenacting in the U.S. I would be interested in know if there were!
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