Saturday, October 1, 2016

MEET JEFF MCQUEDE, SHERIFF OF COAL COUNTY, WYOMING

Meet Jeff McQuede, the sheriff of Coal County, Wyoming, a modern-day sheriff with old-time values.  Like his family namesake, the old frontier lawman, he always looks for the right answer and never settles for the easy one.  He often follows his predecessor’s advice: When you think you’re right, it’s time to step back and take another look. 

So where did the idea for Jeff McQuede and his world come from?  As sisters, we have spent many summers wandering through the Rocky and Big Horn Mountains and the small towns of Wyoming.  We have explored in depth places like Laramie (where Vickie lived for fifteen years), Meeteetse, Thermopolis, the Old West town of Rawlins, and the beautiful mountain ranges around Jackson Hole and Dubois.  We became intrigued with local stories, such as the ghostly tales of the La Llorona legend that we used in Crying Woman Bridge.  In Whispers of the Stones we wrote an account based on what facts we could gather about the Pedro Mummy, found in the Shirley Basin, and its connection with the Native American legend of the Little People.  Our love for history prompted a concern with the idea of vigilante justice, as shown in The Executioner’s Hood.

The High Country Mystery series began in a little out-of-the way museum where we were intrigued by a class photo with the words never graduated scrawled across the face of a handsome young man.  Murder in Black and White introduces the town and setting we imagined and peopled with a list of characters very real to us, folks very similar to the ones we have met in our treks through Wyoming.  Many of these characters are had their beginning in our McQuede short story anthology, A Deal on a Handshake.

First of all in the High County Mystery Series you encounter our sheriff--everyone counts on good, loveable Jeff McQuede to be strong and dependable all of the time, yet in reality, he’s sometimes vulnerable and always human--in particular where Loris Conner, the woman he loves, is concerned.  McQuede lives in a small house in Durmont with his shaggy yellow dog, Psy, (short for Psychotic) who was abandoned at a crime scene and who demands his full-time loyalty and attention.

Reoccurring characters live in the nearby towns of Durmont and Black Mountain Pass--  the sheriff’s domineering Aunt Mattie; Nate Narcu, the Shoshone who runs the trading post; and McQuede’s good friend Barry Dawson, a professor who has a humorous knack for getting into trouble.  At the office, he relies on his deputy, Sid Carlisle, who unlike McQuede is precise and fastidious, and also his lucky paperweight filled with shifting sands that help him concentrate and find the right path.

Themes spring from the rugged Wyoming setting, like in An Icy Death, or from our examination of the gray line between right and wrong.  All of them center around the motives and actions of local people, sometimes criminals like Ruger and Sammy Ratone, who are a blend of good and bad. 

We have in most of our over fifty novels used a female lead, often an archeologist, so we never thought we’d be writing about a kindly, slightly overweight, loveable sheriff.  But it makes sense for what we want to do with this series.  Jeff McQuede is a man trying to hold to the old-fashioned Code of the West sense of honor in a world that is constantly changing.  These values are the ones we were brought up with and champion.  In our books you won’t find explicit sex scenes or violence.  What you will find are stories about genuine people trying to do the best they can, people who fall short, who at times are pushed over the edge by anger, greed, or revenge into a desperate situation. And there in the midst of all the action you’ll find Jeff McQuede, trying to make the best of it, searching for not only a legal answer but a right one.



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