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Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case
by Rosalind Barden
About the Book
Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case
Young Adult Mystery
Mystery & Horror, LLC (October 9, 2018)
Paperback: 216 pages
Digital ASIN: B07H49P46T
Lots of characters have it bad, in my Bunker Hill neighborhood smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, but I’ve had it rougher than most.
There may be something to this 13th business.
That’s my birthday, and I’m learning to dread seeing it roll around. My mother died on one birthday. The cousins dumped me on my last. This year, 1932, I found a dead kid on a park bench. It’s my eleventh birthday, and the day me, Sparky, ended up on the run, wanted for murder.
If the dead girl wasn’t enough, the dirty newspapers pinned every body in LA on me, and even blamed me for the Great War. I wasn’t even born then. The price on my head got bigger by the day.
It was up to me to find out who killed the girl and why I got framed, before I ended up dangling from the hangman’s rope.
Guest Post by the Author
The Details are in the Trash
Adventures in Researching a Historical Mystery Novel
“Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case” takes place in 1930s downtown Los Angeles, in the old Bunker Hill neighborhood. I live in LA, fairly close to the novel’s location. And it’s not too far back in time. It’ll be a breeze to research! Right?
Not so fast. I discovered that even writing about the not-so-distant past in my own backyard is a matter of digging into a lot of little details, especially after it occurs to me: wait a minute, if I’m having Sparky hiding outside in trash cans, were there even trash cans back then? Was there trash pickup like nowadays? Yes, the details are in the trash.
Researching historical mysteries was new to me, starting with my short story “The Monkey’s Ghost,” which appears in the mystery anthology, “History and Mystery, Oh My!” published by Mystery and Horror LLC in 2015. This story came before “Sparky,” and inspired me to write the full-length mystery.
Since “Monkey’s Ghost” references the Hill’s once glamorous past in the late 1800s, I researched that era, and even before, when the Hill was dotted with bucolic cottages and had a natural pond. And this was all in the middle of a bustling, growing downtown. I could see the eventual attraction to the wealthy: here was a pristine Hill, high up where the air was clearer, but yet convenient to the business of the City. And don’t forget the amazing views.
As the rich wearied of Bunker Hill and moved to new, more chic neighborhoods, tourist hotels, and then apartment buildings popped up on the Hill. Many massive old Victorian mansions were converted into rooming houses, and some, sadly, were demolished. As more and more people moved onto the Hill, what in the world happened to their trash?
While idly researching for “Monkey’s Ghost,” I encountered a photo of actor Marlon Brando taking a box of trash to a backyard incinerator in Los Angeles. What was this? The year was 1955, long after the Depression, and the neighborhood was Beverly Glenn, far to the west of downtown’s Bunker Hill. But still, I had to investigate. I had no idea such incinerators ever existed in LA!
They did, and were fixtures in Los Angeles backyards, burning up the City’s trash until they were banned not long after Mr. Brando’s photo. But my story took place decades prior, so the incinerator was fair game. I used it as an important plot point in “Monkey’s Ghost.”
“Sparky” brought her own garbage challenges. Because she’s a street kid wanted for murder, she does a lot of hiding in less than savory spots. One popular hiding spot I used was a typical curbside garbage can. Made sense. Every house has them, so must have had them back then too, right?
Not in 1930s Los Angeles! After realizing I should double-check if there really were garbage cans in the Depression that garbage workers picked up once a week, I researched and discovered, no, there were no City garbage trucks and workers until Los Angeles voters okayed a tax to fund a City-run sanitation service in the late 1950s, long after Sparky’s time period. Okay, forget that. I knew about the incinerators already. But, was there anything else, trash-wise, that I could use?
Turned out there was. Slop for pigs! Yes, people would put their “edible” kitchen scraps in metal containers that would be picked up by haulers who would then take the rotting mess to pig farms, where the pigs would chow it down. Even in Sparky’s time, in 1930s Los Angeles, there were those sounding the alarm that this smelly practice caused disease. Still, it continued. I had no idea. But, the slop bins made for even more disgusting hiding spots for Sparky.
As I discovered while writing “The Monkey’s Ghost” and then “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” yes, research is time-consuming. But, in the process, I stumbled onto interesting trashy trivia, like the incinerators and the slop bins, that added another layer of history to both stories, and ultimately made them better.
About the Author
Over thirty of Rosalind Barden’s short stories have appeared in print anthologies and webzines, including the U.K.’s acclaimed Whispers of Wickedness. Mystery and Horror, LLC has included her stories in their anthologies History and Mystery, Oh My! (FAPA President’s Book Award Silver Medalist), Mardi Gras Murder, and four of the Strangely Funny series. Ellen Datlow selected her short story “Lion Friend” as a Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention after it appeared in Cern Zoo, a British Fantasy Society nominee for best anthology, part of DF Lewis’ award-winning Nemonymous anthology series. TV Monster is her print children’s book that she wrote and illustrated. Her satirical literary novel American Witch is available as an e-book. In addition, her scripts, novel manuscripts, and short fiction have placed in numerous competitions, including the Writers’ Digest Screenplay Competition and the Shriekfast Film Festival. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Discover more at RosalindBarden.com
Website – http://rosalindbarden.com/
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Rosalind-Barden/e/B001KDZ344/
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