Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some facts on EINE KLEINE MURDER setting

This novel is mostly set in the area around Alpha, a real town in rural Illinois, straight south of the Quad-Cities, where I grew up. My grandmother and one of my many aunts lived in Alpha and we visited often. It was a thirty to forty minute drive on Highway 150, a two-lane road with ample shoulders, except when you were crossing the Edwards River bridge. I believe it’s widened now, but it used to feel like you needed to tuck in your elbows when you drove across it.

Alpha was laid out on June 1, 1872, by Anson Calkins. It was a railroad town that replaced Oxford, which was located about three miles west of current day Alpha. Calkins called the village was named Alpha (the first letter of the Greek alphabet), because he believed it to be the beginning of a great city.

Interesting irrelevant facts:  1) In the early 1980s, director Barry Levinson looked at Alpha's railroad car diner as a possible location for filming scenes for his movie Diner. 2) Alpha's zip code (61413) is Pi in reverse (3.1416).

The diner was still there when I was a child. I ate in it several times. The diner is gone, but the bowling alley and attached restaurant are still there. So is the pretty Lutheran church on the corner. The village contains many no-nonsense, but old, houses built at the turn of the century or before. The Alwood pharmacy also still stands. It’s named for Alpha and the nearby town of Woodhull, as is the local school district.

My grandfather owned a gas station on the main road, the hard top. It was a feed store once and the owner was eager to show me the small part of it that had been the gas station office. I’m not sure if the feed store is still there or not.

My mother had a membership at Crecent Lake Club as an adult and we spent many happy summer days swimming and fishing there. In fact, the cabin that Cressa Carraway’s Gram owns is very closely modeled after my mother’s.

I hope you had fun visiting this tiny village. I had fun setting my novel there. If you haven't read it and would like to, please visit either the publisher's site, Barking Rain Press or any of the other book sellers listed on my web page.

some information from,_Illinois


  1. I like your comments about Alpha. Those places we visited as a child still stand out so sharply in our memories. I remember reading comic books at the Piggly Wiggly in Tyler, Texas when I was eight years old and the Carnegie library where I rode my bike to check out books. Those places are still alive.

  2. Yes, the Alpha I grew up with is lots more vivid than the real, present-day one.

  3. The Alpha as you remember it sounds like the perfect small town for a mystery series. Will we be visiting there for any future novels in the series? My hometown, Columbia, LA, is a shadow of its former self. It's kind of sad to think about. I haven't visited it since my mother died. It's just too painful. But I am resurrecting it and transplanting it to south Louisiana for the cozy I'm working on. That's kind of fun, actually.

  4. Since I already write a small town series (Imogene Duckworthy), I thought to spread out a bit for this series. When Cressa becomes a conductor in the second book, her conducting jobs take her around a bit.

    The Fat Cat series will also take place mostly in the same part of Minneapolis, Dinkytown.

  5. Sounds like a perfect town for a mystery!

  6. It worked for me, Diane. Thanks for stopping by!